As a composer, performer, and sound artist, Diego Stocco continues to stretch the ambiguity and definition of a musical instrument. As the man who has given us music from a dry cleaner, bonsai tree, and rain, Stocco has most recently armed himself with a fresh collection of leaves and a turntable to creat "short musical phases" which he shapes, mixes, and combines into a dynamic and surprisingly rhythmic composition. Every bass, snare, and kick noise is created from the variance in leaf type, angle, and amount of pressure applied against the turntable.
My curiosity (perhaps more so than a love...) for the circles of musicians who collect their sounds or produce them in-field in novel ways began with an album that had recorded sounds "played" and made during surgical procedures. The buzzing of an eye surgery, the clicks and hums of nasal cavity cleaning tools, the moan of a rat cage played with a bow....all compiled into ethereal clouds of gentle chords and crashing cacophonies by the men of Matmos--M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel in Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure.
And yet, the idea of melding ever-evolving technology with the production of sound and music is not so nearly novel as we may imagine. In 1960, John Cage--the father of experimental music, was performing with electric mixers, radios, and rubber ducks to a laughing audience on set of the TV series "I've Got a Secret." Predating even him was discourse led by the Futurist composer Luigi Russolo in his 1913 manifesto of sound called L'arte dei Remori (The Art of Noises) in which he argues how the human ear has become accustomed to the new "sonic pallette" of the speed, energy, and noise of the the industrial environment. To adapt to the industrial landscape, he proposed that futurist musicians utilize technology and electronics to "substitute for the limited variety of timbres that the orchestra
possesses today the infinite variety of timbres in noises, reproduced
with appropriate mechanisms."
Even with absence of traditional melody, timbre, and the ambiguity of what is considered a musical instrument--whether that be a leaf, a laundromat, or the rib cage of a rat--these musicians and sound collectors work to infinitely expand our cognition of sound. The electronics do not limit and hinder our human experience in a presumptuously Modern Times-eque manner, but rather enhance our experience of the modern day soundscape.