R. Murray Schaefer on drone and “lo-fi soundscape”

R. Murray Schaefer, instigator of acoustic ecology studies, is condemning of what he terms the “lo-fi soundscape”, one in which sounds compete in decibels to be heard over one another. Despite his general opposition to the type of background sound in question, his explanation of drone is useful to understanding its capacity to affect:

“The function of the drone has long been known in music. It is an anti-intellectual narcotic. It is also a point of focus for meditation, particularly in the east. Man listens differently in the presence of drones, and the importance of this change in perception is becoming evident in the West. The flat line in sound produces only one embellishment: the glissando – that is, as the revolutions increase the pitch gradually rises, and as they decrease the pitch descends. The flat lines become curved lines. But they are still without sudden surprises. When flat lines become jerky or dotted or looping lines – the machinery is falling apart.” (The Soundscape, p80)

The last sentence of the quote resonates too with the Mechanical Techno machine: one which is designed to malfunction.


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