Have you ever absent-mindedly tapped your spoon on the side of your mixing bowl while baking and thought, “That sounds nice”? Or noticed the percussive sound of your child knocking their stacking blocks together? These are examples of found object music, sometimes referred to as found sound or simply object music. In fact, traditional musical instruments were most likely invented from sounds found in nature rather than deliberately designed.
What is Found Object music?
The found object genre is a unique experimental form of music that involves using everyday objects as musical instruments – such as kitchen utensils, tools, or discarded materials. The resulting sounds create musical pieces that are orchestrated, performed live, or recorded. The goal of most found object music is to challenge traditional instruments and explore new sonic possibilities. Take, for example, contributor Borth Music’s inventive use of things found in a kitchen in their track “Kitchen Supplies Going Nuts” or BurgerAudio’s use of gardening tools to create a percussive tune.
Where did Found Object music originate?
In a way, the origin of non-traditional instrumental music is old as music itself. However, the modern conception of it as a style is rooted in the “musique concrete” (mixing of recorded sounds), which originated in France in the 1940s and was developed by Pierre Schaeffer, one of the pioneers of electronic music. Schaeffer’s work included experimenting with found objects, recording their sounds, manipulating them using tape machines, and incorporating them into non-traditional musical compositions. Schaeffer’s work paved the way for the development of the found object genre as we know it now.
How did this music genre get popular?
Found sound music gradually gained popularity through the efforts of several pioneering composers and musicians – like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Brian Eno – who built upon Schaeffer’s lead. It also became incorporated into various art forms, such as avant-garde theater and experimental film. In the 1960s and 1970s, the genre became more known as a growing wave of concerts, festivals, and recordings introduced the genre to a broader audience. Additionally, the development of new technologies, such as synthesizers and digital audio processing software, starting after the 1950s, provided new tools for composers and musicians to explore and expand the possibilities of found object music. For example, the track “Just My Type” (Typewriter Percussion) by Pond5 contributor TTSynth, illustrates how audio software can turn sounds into compelling music.
Where can you hear it now?
Object music continues to evolve and has a dedicated following among experimental music fans and artists. You can stream it on Spotify and Apple Music. Platforms like SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Youtube, and more host numerous experimental musicians and composers. It even became a trend on TikTok a few years ago. Experimental music ensembles and musicians often perform found object music as part of their repertoire during concerts. In mainstream pop culture, members of the nu metal band Slipknot have used baseball bats with beer kegs to create sounds, and musicals like Stomp are entirely based on objects.
Here are four tips for using found object music in your creative projects:
- Object music often emphasizes texture and atmosphere over melody and harmony. So consider how you can use the sounds to create immersive soundscapes and moods rather than as the piece’s focal point.
- Found sound music is a natural choice for storytelling by creating a setting with music. For example, a piece set in a kitchen could use Found Objects’ unique but recognizable sounds, like clanging pots and pans and whirring mixers.
- Found object music is all about pushing the boundaries of traditional musical instruments and exploring new sonic possibilities. Keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
- To find music tracks created with found objects on Pond5, try using keywords such as “kitchen supplies,” “gardening tool drums,” “appliances,” and “bucket drum.”
Would you like to use Found Object music for your next project? A Pond5 music subscription gives you access to original Found Object tracks, including music from the artists we’ve highlighted here and more of the world’s top musicians.
Visit the Pond5 Playlist to explore more niche and unexpected music. Each month will feature a different genre, and a new free track is available for your next project!