A somewhat vague term that generally refers to sounds drawn from common objects that are not normally considered particularly “musical.”
The term is an extension of the visual art concept of the “found object” (often expressed in French as objet trouve), which more or less came into favor in the early 1900s in works by Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. Andy Warhol found a common, “unartistic” object – a soup can – and exploited its artistic uses for years. A common argument in the art world is whether such objects are truly “found” or merely “manufactured.”
Found sounds, which can range from machines and industrial equipment to the chirp of an insect and beyond, were an important factor in the development of musique concrete, and are still a vital source of sounds for loopers and remix artists. Obviously, the era of compact portable tape recorders (followed by samplers) helped feed the demand for new sounds. Found sounds have been used in musical compositions by John Cage, and are also an element in contemporary performance groups such as the percussion/dance review Stomp, which employs tennis balls, miscellaneous pipes and iron implements, broomsticks, and the like.