Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap

Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap
From: Richard Wentk (
Date: Wed Jul 21 2004 - 18:13:11 EDT

At 07:53 19/07/2004 -0400, you wrote:

>At 10:46 +0100 2004/07/19, Richard Wentk wrote:
>>Film and video are terms that are widely understood and accepted by
>>anyone who's familiar with them.
>Are film and cinema synonyms? Video and television?

Okay then - film, video, cinema and TV are all terms that are widely
accepted and understood.

>>Otherwise it's like claiming that all film is really TV just because most
>>people watch it at home.
>I try not to make claims about "reality".

Just about loudspeakers. Okay. :-)

>>It's the means of *production* - the focus of creative effort - that
>>defines a medium. Distribution and reproduction are comparatively unimportant.
>The importance of the printing press, the (telegraph) / telephone /
>television have had profound impact on the focus of creative production.
>The loudspeaker has (also) allowed for 'on-demand' narrowcasting of
>auditory information -- in the twentieth century, this altered the way
>sound could be handled in time.

Actually you've just made my point for me. The printing press is a
distribution technology. It's the written word that's the medium. The press
had an influence on distribution, but very little on literary styles.
People who started off writing polemics, plays, poetry and novels continued
writing them, but they reached a wider audience.

Social and political fashions and interests had far more influence on what
people wrote, and wanted to write, than any magical new ability to be
distributed quickly. Aside from newspapers - which hardly count as a
creative form, and existed in a crude form back in Rome well before anyone
thought of the press - the rest of writing actually changed very little.
There was just a lot more of it, with a much faster turn around, and there
were some stylistic changes as a result of faster creative
cross-fertilisation. But there was nothing written explicitly for the
printing press, as a medium in itself.

So - distribution and reproduction are relatively unimportant because
they're always subservient to political and social structures. The press
could easily have remained a state/Church/royal monopoly. (For a long time
it almost did.) The fact that eventually it didn't was a cultural
phenomenon, not a technological one.

Likewise photography wasn't developed as a distribution medium. It was
initially a creative one. It's still not really a distribution medium, and
only becomes one when you use a printing press or some modern variant.

The telegraph just went click and clack. I don't know of any works for solo
telegraph. Maybe someone should make one. :-)

>>Even in pop the original production tradition is one based on recording
>>an acoustic performance,
>This was (part of) the original intention of photography, film and
>recording. With the introduction of the editing suite, the emphasis was
>allowed to drift from performer to producer.

Yes, but the intent was always to enhance a performance, not to create an
entirely new sonic language. The enhancement has become very stylised now.
You can argue whether or not this stylisation has caused academic EA or
been influenced by it. I'd suggest both, but it still seems like convergent
rather than divergent evolution, with differing aesthetic ends and *very*
different source traditions.

Photography has been through a similar process. But the real issue isn't
about reproduction and distribution, but the fact that computers have freed
photographers from the limitations of chemicals, airbrushes and lith masks.
You now have a completely new tool, with a developing aesthetic of its own.

A lot of people are confused about that too.

>>and any manipulation that takes place is subservient to that goal.
>Or perhaps (eg Phil Spector) integral to it.

No, because Phil Spector never said 'Let's investigate the sonic and
metaphorical properties of rain for 45 minutes.'

Even in the most abstract pop, you still have drums, you have a bass line,
you have a very obvious beat, you have some fairly simple and repetitive
melodic and/or harmonic structures, probably using some variant of jazz or
blues harmony, and you probably have someone singing about luurrve.

Any manipulations you do still serve that end, even if - as today - it's
about a stylised creation and not the literal one Elvis would have worked
with. Even after Sgt Pepper, which is still as adventurous as most pop ever

Music making depends on traditions. Classical EA is one tradition. Pop is
another tradition. The fact that they use a cross-over blend of
increasingly indistinguishable technology is a lot less important than the
roots of the traditions. That's what gives genres their starting points and
definitions - a body of practice based on certain core aesthetic
intentions. For pop, the fact that it can be and is today reproduced and
distributed electronically is far less important than where it came from.
Likewise with classical EA, which has always been a tradition with a
completely different aesthetic premise.

You could reverse engineer some EA pieces or just create them using EA
principles from scratch, and have them played on acoustic instruments. And
they would recognisably remain EA even with no speaker involved. Likewise
pop doesn't mutate into non-pop, uber-op or anti-pop just because it's
played and sung by people with real guitars in the centre of Antarctica
miles away from a loudspeaker.

Whether or not something is amplified and recorded is a side issue compared
to why the music exists in the first place.


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