top of page

The Hyperreal

What is the hyperreal?

Several domains of the hyperreal

  • Hyperreal numbers, an extension of the real numbers in mathematics that are used in non-standard analysis

  • Hyperreality, a term used in semiotics and postmodern philosophy

  • Hyperreality (art), a school of painting

  • Hyperrealism in music

My interest lies mostly in semiotics and post-modern philosophy, and how it may be expressed musically, or the role of sound involved in creating hyperreal.

Conceptual groundwork

Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard

"His central claim about postmodern culture (thought he claims that he himself is not a postmodernist) is quite simple - that we live in a "desert of the real," a cultural space where television, film, and computer images are more "real" to us than the non-media physical reality that surrounds us. This loss of reality isn't so hard to understand, even if it's difficult for some of us to swallow." Doug Mann.

Jean Baudrillard - Simulation and Simulacra, 1981

"... a generation by models of a real without origin or reality."

  • We only experience copies of things. This is what he calls The Precession of the Simulacra.

"The term "simulacrum" goes all the way back to Plato, who used it to describe a false copy of something. Baudrillard has built his whole post-1970s theory of media effects and culture around his own notion of the simulacrum. He argues that in a postmodern culture dominated by TV, films, news media, and the Internet, the whole idea of a true or a false copy of something has been destroyed: all we have now are simulations of reality, which aren't any more or less "real" than the reality they simulate." Mann

Baudrillard outlines 4 stages of reproduction.

1. Basic reflection of reality

2. Persversion of reality

3. Pretence of reality (where there is no model)

4. Bears no relation to any reality whatsoever.

My piece I am Sitting in a Simulacra, explores Baudrillard's notion of hyperreal by using only synthesis to simulate a field recording. Read and listen

Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco - Travels in Hyperreality, 1986

"...the Authentic (absolute) Fake."

Eco's travels to Disneyland and Disney World led him to the notion of the "the Absolute Fake,” where imitations aren’t just a reproduction of reality, but an attempt at improving on it. He says that in comparison to these hyperrealistic models, reality can be disappointing. Eco describes that hyperreality results in “the completely real” becoming “identified with the completely fake.”

  • We (as a collective society) create an improved version of reality to consume it. Think Disneyland, T.V., family sitcoms, perfect bodies, musical idols

Noah Creshevsky

Noah Creshevsky is a composer and electronic musician born in Rochester, New York in 1945. He was trained in composition by Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Luciano Berio at the Juilliard School.

Within the musical domain Noah Creshevsky has been exploring and pursuing audial concepts of the hyperreal.

Creshevsky defines hyperrealism as “an electroacoustic musical language constructed from sounds that are found in our shared environment, handled in ways that are somehow exaggerated or excessive.”

An article by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz in 2007 explains some basic tenets of hyperreal music as summary of Creshevsky's ideas:

  • Just as the acoustic palette includes the sonic results of a body of instrumental techniques, the expanded hyperreal palette incorporates the sonic results of the rest of the world. That is, it expects that the real world will be sampled and distilled into a vocabulary of sounds. These sounds may be unique to a composition or become part of a common vocabulary.

  • The expanded palette is most successful when the source material is from a shared real world—whether that means “natural” sounds (such as voices, birds, or wind), naturalized sounds (tire squeals, instruments, or footfalls), or adopted sounds (horns, cellphones, or electronic toms). Obviously, original electronic sounds are not among the shared.

  • The expansion of the palette demands sounds and abilities presently outside the normal human expressive and muscular capabilities. Hence there must arise the superperformer. The superperformer lives in the technology of the composer (although if Kurzweil is to be believed, that will change for composer, performer, and listener).

  • The expanded palette and the superperformers must be realistic. The transformation of sounds beyond the recognizable disguises the shared nature of the sound and removes the commonality out of which hyperrealism draws its strength. The expanded palette is edited but not processed.


  • Creshevsky also argues that hyperreal music has a kind of political valence. He elaborates on this concept in his 2001 article On Borrowed Time:

"The dogma that less is more (reference to music of Classical music period) is stubbornly rooted in a tradition built on shortage, hunger, deprivation, and denial (...) we are no richer for erecting a brick wall around the material with which we make music. We have saved nothing when we save a note."

"My intention is to integrate archetypal sonic elements to produce a natural and expressive musical language. This is a language whose vocabulary is an inclusive, limitless sonic compendium, free of ethnic and national particularity."

  • Creshevsky takes aim the vernacular we still use to communicate and categorise music.

"The phrase 'sound effect' should be eliminated; 'ethnic instrument' should be changed to 'instrument.' 'Sound effect' is code for sounds outside the hallowed 12 notes. 'Ethnic instrument' is code for a non-European instrument; the term is a remnant of cultural imperialism--one that no longer expresses anything other than an historical bias."

  • He seeks a Klangfarbenmelodie of unprecedented diversity

  • Klangfarbenmelodie: (German for sound-color melody) is a musical technique that involves splitting a musical line or melody between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument (or set of instruments), thereby adding color (timbre) and texture to the melodic line.


Creshevsky, Noah. 2001. “On Borrowed Time.” Contemporary Music Review 20 (4): 91–98.


So where are we at with hyperreal music?

  • My opinion of Creshevsky's hyperreal is that its narrowed to his own compositional aesthetic; that sounds should only be sampled, and should not processed or transformed for we would lose the understanding shared experience that the hyperreal relies on.

  • The expanded palette should include all sounds available.

  • Electronic music is all pervasive, and it is gestural. We have come to understand it's fake-ness and otherworldliness as being a sincere part of the fabric of music.

  • Technology has a pivotal role in music, it always has. The DAW is a tool for virtuosic exploitation.

  • The pursuit of sonic qualities such as hi-fi and lo-fi, loudness, clarity, glitch etc are examples of hyperreal approaches to sound. Mixing, post-production, mastering, editing, synthesis, VSTi's, DAW's, hardware, and more represent a collective effort to improve sound for our consumption.


Visible Cloaks

“The idea – building on ‘fourth world’ or ‘global village’ type concepts – was to create a projected language that was a fusion of many,” Doran explains. “The result was a very disorienting form of non-language that amplifies the lapses in meaning that occur with the inaccuracy of auto-translation software.” words from here

Giant Claw

Giant Claw is Keith Rankin, who owns Orange Milk Records, recently rereleased Noah Creshevksy's music. I this was coincidental discovery.

Bataille Solitaire

Just cool music! (Also, its kinda hyperreal in the sense that his style is hyper-edited, as in Creshevshy's super performer, but with software)

Thoughts on music and general notions of the hyperreal

Is there original music?

Would music be boring without digital/electronic technology?

Do we "copy" to create music?

How much are we influenced by an idea or a teaching, a melody or rhythm, an idol or performer or festival? Are there limitations?

Fun: If music is inherently abstract (the intangibility), can it ever be "real" enough to be hyperreal (which relies on real as its premise)?

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page