Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap to frap

Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap to zap to frap
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Sat Aug 07 2004 - 03:42:17 EDT

John Oliver wrote:

> . I do not think that programming skills are required to create
> experimental music or any music. Experimentation can occur at the
> micro or macro level. I think those who have programming and composing
> skills may create a composition that succeeds, but I don't think that
> composition will de facto be more successful than those pieces being
> created where there is a division of labour between programming and
> composing.

q: success at which level? On one hand we ARE in midst of something like
an imperative drive to bring
a nascent new art to light. "success" here means achieving something at
more than the individual level -- creating
a new set of paradigms of practice, involvement, edge, in the intensity
that beacons forth in a new art. It seems
rather clear that getting out there WILL involve a lot of technical
wizardry and hacking.


> But Eliot, your point is not about whether computer music succeeds as
> art in the ear of the perceiver, but rather about a qualitative
> perception that is only possible by computer-produced sound, right?
> The creation of "astonishment" though, is also in the ear of the
> perceiver. A comb-filtered/granulated voice may be astonishing to a
> novice and hackneyed for the advanced.

Partly why I think we're only going to get to something interesting by
way of a genuine
culture based on public interest.

> How many spectral composers use computers to create complex music
> that then gets performed by an orchestra? Computers were used, but
> it's not computer music.

It might be, if they arrived at amazing spectral effects through the
computer. It's up to the composer
to decide whether he finds his piece and conception worthy of being
designated "computer music."
That would mean to me he feels he's taken on the imperative of pursuing
enormous implications.
And whether or not he has is something ultimately the culture should be
able to decide.

> For that, we have the term "computer-assisted composition."

a misnomer, since the computer doesn't offer assistance to matters
compositional. Supposing
we had programs like Finale that made suggestions -- let the melody go
this way, and change
this harmony to that. That would be computer-assisted composing. And I
think we're not that far
off from something potentailly interesting happening in this
direction. It does sound something
like a pejorative, however. Either do the composing yourself or let the
computer take on whatever
consciousness it will eventually come to.

> So we need more terminology it would seem.

I don't think we need any yet. Terminology tends to create stereotypes
and our
dynamic is wide open.

>> So the way in which listening
>> is constructed seems to me paramount in trying to situate computer
>> music.
> Even so, I think that "the way in which listening is constructed"
> depends on the listener's experience and culture.

It could be injected via direct neural excitation. For the moment we're
dependent on culture for such constructions
to at all be effective.

> But this definition keeps the notion of the composer's intention as an
> aspect of the definition. As long as humans are still listening and
> that humans are the intended audience.

Christian Bok, a poet, wrote an article in which he addressed the idea
that writing is more and more being directed towards the non-human
reader. Obviously this is trivially
true if you consider google as your first reader. But we can also see
this kind of thing getting much further
out and potentially developing an esthetic of, or rigourous interest in,
alterity. No music or writing will
ever surface unless allowed through the information controls implemented
by armies of machine listeners
and readers. And as composing evolves I think it will be much more about
actually constructing or evolving or breeding
such listeners, rather than constructing sound.

I don't know what you mean by "composer's intention." Best art to me
works completel;y beyond any certification
of intention. (Kafka called this "the right way to write.") This took
concrete shape in surrealism, in ideas like automatism. And as there the
was to hit at a universal mind through the unconscious I imagine that
today computational abstractions
have as their purpose the fulfillment of a common wish to reveal a new
conception of universal mind. If the
opening kyrie of the b- mass feels slightly inhuman (sublime, to an
older generation) -- driven by some force
with which it is identical -- so much more to the credit of composer.

-- eliot

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