imaginary soundscape: poetry to music

First of all, why do we compose music? If we compose music because something inspired us, what is the difference between the inspiration being another piece of music, a painting or literature for instance poetry?

Let’s start with an exercise:

  1. Read all haikus below.
  2. Listen to the compositions.
  3. Try to match a haiku to a composition.

My Life;-
How much more of it remains?
The night is brief.

Nude Beach
Nothing New
Under The Sun

The Depths, Swelling Green
Leviathan Walks, Waves Break
Cold Sleet, it is here.

The wind of war
Blowing across my face
The thunder roaring loudly

Moves silently through the deep -
Five knots to nowhere.

Tremble, oh my gravemound,
in time my cries will be
only this autumn wind —

Key: kettő, kilenc, tíz, tizenhárom, tizennyolc, nyolc (in order).

What was similar in these compositions?
Are the haikus compositions?
What does it mean to compose?
What was different?
Would you have interpreted poems in similar ways into music?
Now, that you have heard an example of someone’s interpretation, is your imagination guided in a certain way?

ideas for interpreting


  • So what is an imaginary soundscape? How can we compose one? Let’s the terminology page.
  • Read the poems, choose one.
  • Close your eyes and imagine the happenings, pictures, movements. There might be animals, humans, machines, nature, synthetic sounds, abstract sounds, conversations, real environments… Hear and listen to their sounds. What is the difference between hearing and listening?
  • Capture the emotional content, rhythm, pace, form.
  • Use a pen and paper, draw a picture or a map. Imagine moving inside your new world, listen.
  • Think about the relationship of your objects, compare them to each other, find differences and similarities in the way they look, feel, sound.
  • Make sound recordings of voice, traditional instruments, synthesise sounds, use sound libraries as well as DSP (Digital Signal Processing) e.g. filtering, panning, reverb, delay… to create a palette of objects, the building blocks of your new world.
  • Analyse the waveform of a poem’s sound recording. There might be a picture in there:


  • Organise these objects into a composition so that it has a flow, where the listener can immerse in a journey inside your a1, your imaginary soundscape. In other words, create a narrative, a story.
  • Use detailed musical expressions, nuances, to guide the listener. Incorporate appropriate music theory.
  • Think about space, acoustics, the movement of the listener vs. movement of listener’s focus. What is the difference?

Any other ideas?

Hearing vs listening

To understand the difference between these, can help us get closer to a creative state of mind as well. In this video Pauline touches on some very interesting ideas:


To get into a meditative state of mind, there are many different methods, tools, techniques. Here a very simple one, inline with ideas around sound, hearing and listening.


  • Schafer, R. M., 1974. The new soundscape. England Universal. Ch.1. Yes, but is it music? Digitalised version here. // This writing should encourage you to think of all sounds as potential building blocks for your composition;