Sounds of America

“It all started with the idea of recording in different studios around the country, doing something to make it new.”

These are the words of Dave Grohl that hung over the teaser trailer for the HBO documentary series Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways. The documentary series and accompanying album chronicles the journey that Grohl and the Foo Fighters took around the United States last year.

The project followed the band as they traversed across eight different states, recording a song in each major city that reflects their rich and vibrant musical history. Each city also brought along with it a number of musical guests such as Joe Walsh, Dolly Parton and Zac Brown, among others. Each contributing artist was meant to reflect the city they have recorded in.

Documenting their journey across America, the accompanying album and documentary series set out to show how music can be ingrained into the physical location it is recorded in. Borrowing from the mind of Pauline Oliveros and his idea of sonic awareness — the ability for music to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound — Sonic Highways acts as a mediator for developing an appreciation for the environment music is created in and understanding the complex nature of how a physical location can determine the composition of sound.

Tapping into the atmosphere of the recording process offers a dynamic approach to how different influences can find their way into an artists mind writing music. You don’t have to look much further than the individuality of blues music across the American landscape, which saw different cities express different incarnations of what the blues meant to them.

The sounds crafted from a French horn in Louisiana to the electric guitar in Chicago are not different simply because they are divergent instruments — the geographical perspective of both those cities has produced influences exclusive to their respective corners of the country.

What this venture brings forth is the important value a space can hold for people. The history that ties in with the space for recording music holds sentimental merit that bring meaning for many.

Grohl said in the teaser trailer, “This is a music map of America,” which is something many Americans would probably agree with.

 

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