Since 1877 and Edison's phonograph, it has become possible to archive the sounds of the outside real, which hitherto could not be objectified. A recorded sound can be considered the objective trace or document of a past event : a testimony of the empirical real.
Through a bunch of examples chosen in contemporary music and sound art (Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Luigi Nono
, Steve Reich, Luc Ferrari...), this essay studies the consequences of this mutation on the aesthetic field. What is here called “sound document” is the “foreign body” which appears in a musical composition as a sign refering to the real, the very moment of the sound capture. This element affects the musical composition in its supposedly inalienable autonomy, yet at the same time offers a wide range of expressions for a variety of practices which were hitherto unfamiliar to the musical field.