Sunday, December 05, 2010
Sonic obsessions, revisited (5)
A distant horn. Curious how so many favorite sounds have as much to do with their embedding in space, often particular spaces. Christian Wolff said that he wrote his Groundspace specifically because he wanted to hear Gordon Mumma's horn in the distance. The association of the horn with the hunt, as in hunt to kill, I can do without, but there is something about the chase as a ritual event in a particular space, with an acoustic element, and the unique, if brutal, clarity of the relationships between the participating animals (wild, domesticated, and people) that goes deep into some part of our consciousness. The horn, the horn, the lusty horn/‘Tis not a thing to laugh to scorn. Posthorns, a form of communication ancillary to the delivery of other media; the image of the posthorn (as every reader of Pynchon knows well) still adorn the post offices of many countries. Ives remembered, beautifully, his father's horn (in his case, a cornet, descended from the smaller, 4' hunting horns (see also the Fürst-Pless-Horn); the French horn descending from the larger cor de chaisse or parforce horn) played over a lake. I suspect that modern orchestral horns reference our senses and memories of outdoors spaces in multiple ways, through their literal associations, through their marked directionality (you can always hear which way the bells are pointed) and through the way that they anchor the orchestra, if only temporarily, in a particular harmonic series, an instance of the natural in an ensemble marked as much by artifice.