Soundscape composition in Hungary




Soundscape composition is one of the ways to reveal unheard landscapes. In Barry Truax's definition: "Soundscape composition is ... characterized by the presence of recognizable environmental sounds and contexts, the purpose being to invoke the listener's associations, memories, and imagination related to the soundscape." Truax also emphasizes, that soundscape composition is a composition on a CERTAIN soundscape, and the context of it is to be kept-expressed-exploited by the composer, rather than any particular or textual element in itself. The beginnings of soundscape composition in Hungary can be traced down to the mid-eighties. In those years the WSP idea and the “Vancouver school” of composers have already taken their wings, but the Hungarians inspired by working with field recordings were not influenced by this movement – not even Luc Ferrari's now-classic Presque Rien No. 1 - Le lever du jour au bord de la mer seems to have made its impact. The composer, whose impulse was the most important, is John Cage. The breakthrough was the  „Hungarian Soundscapes” project in 1996. It was initiated by composer János Decsényi. Decsényi (born 1927 - ) is a member of the post-war generation, who created a rather eclectic repertoire, reaching out from mainstream folk-music-based pieces to electroacoustics. Besides being a composer he had been working for decades at the Hungarian Radio as program editor, and later the leader of the electroacoustic studio. „When my idea came - to present Hungarian soundscapes in the frames of a radio series, my intention was to inspire musically designed pieces. However, in these compositions, the sounds of nature and the human environment play the same decisive role, like musical notes. The latter, due to the genre, are mostly electronic.” The call of the Hungarian Radio resulted in 6 opuses. The 1996 action was repeated a few years later, with another 5 pieces. The composers – as Decsényi emphasizes – chose landscapes, countrysides with very personal, emotional approaches. This is already present in István Márta's work The Wind Rises, released in 1987, a „sound diary”, a „makeshift temporary exhibition of its feelings and documents, mapping the relationship with nature" in the area of small villages of the highlands of Lake Balaton. One of the outstanding pieces of the Hungarian collection is László Sáry's Studies on steam engines. The main question regarding soundscape pieces is: does the composition extend the meaning of the original field recordings so that we can get deeper into any context of it? The context, in which we might get deeper, is not necessarily a narrative one. Reduced listening to field recording elements, as it is suggested by works of Francisco Lopez, Jez Riley French, and others, is also a source of the extension of reality. László Sáry's Locomotive compositions, in my interpretation, synthesize the listening concepts of John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, and Murray Schafer.


Csaba Hajnóczy Researcher, musician. Assistant professor at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest Fields: sound studies, history of music, sonic ecology, sound design. Since 2009. Higher education: Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest, Doctoral School, Doctor of Liberal arts (2020). Thesis: "Acoustic Ecology, the Soundscape, Acoustic Communication, and Ecological Sound Art. New Aspects of Thinking About Sound" https://mome.hu/hu/doktori-munkak Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest. Faculty of Musicology, MA degree. (1983) Music Main activity: Kampec Dolores group - founder, main composer, guitar player. 10 albums released by Hungarian, Dutch, British, Japanese labels. Cca. 850 concerts in 30 countries on 3 continents. Since 1984. Field recordings based compositions and collaborations, since 2015. From Sea to the River to the Sea Activity Initiator and co-founder of Central European Network for Sonic Ecology (2018) https://cense.earth Recent publications (in Hungarian) Mihály Víg as movie composer. Béla Tarr's films from the soundtrack In: "Műfajok, stílusok, szubkultúrák", ed. Adam Ignacz, 2015 Csend - zaj (Silence- noise). In: Pannonhalmi Szemle, 2019/XXXVII They heaped the woods with loudspeakers, interview about acoustic ecology, Magyar Narancs weekly, October 2019 The effects of the pandemic on the human ear - soundscape after peace). In: Magyar Narancs, July 2020