Re: Computer music Survey

Subject: Re: Computer music Survey
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Fri Oct 01 2004 - 06:12:46 EDT

Rodrigo F. Cadiz wrote:

> 1) Has computer (digital) technology changed in any way your musical
> thought as a composer or performer? If so, why? and how?

the computer has revolutionized the way I think about music. when I did
my PhD 12 years ago, I was intrigued
by the idea that composing by computer meant composing a listening
siumulation which could
serve as the basis for a system that composed. My ideas at the time were
rather abstract,
but I susbsequently began to consider what a listener for real and
complex music might be like. This
led to a systematic investigation of ideas related to computer vision in
pursuit of a meta-descriptive
language for music that could be automatically generated. In doing this
I wound up looking
at music in an extremely detailed way as hypothesis built on hypothesis
with the current result that
my hearing has become hugely more differentiated than ever before.

At first I tried to express my ideas as music, rather than as a
listener, probably because I thought
the task was too severe. I wound up developing many seminal concepts
through composing,
because I got the idea of applying kinematic transformations to
conventional music in a way that
could be evocative of a computer animation. I wrote a system in
scheme to experiment with anc compose -- and to take me out of the fray
of coventional tools, which,
I felt, always limited me to design decisions that weren't necessarily a
part of my pursuits.
As I worked on this I began to become aware that what I was doing
was really just to exaggerate the forces that seem latent even in simple
tunes. The music
I was writing was not possible other than by computer and it was through
that I managed to reconceptualize my sense of the forces and dynamics
that underly music.
Currently I'm working on a domain specific language (I switched fropm
schenm to Ocaml) in
which to express quasi-naturalistically the entire schematic framework
of the listening system. The composing
system is presently much more tentative, as ikt depends on things
dfeveloping in the listening
system. My absorption with this has completely overtaken any remaining
drive I have to be a composer
in any other way. So all of this is because of the computer.

Another interesting
phenomenon is that by composing on the computer I would wind up hearing
what I was
working on so many times that a kind of latent absolute pitch slowly
emerged and has become
very stable. The result is that I can hear things much more
schematically, since I can remember
that eg, the tune elided a step up from c to d and I'm waiting to see
what will happen in that
potentiality, along with whatever else I notce. This is completely not
the way I used to listen, which
was mostly just subjective, based on how things "felt." I was always
dissatisfied with my
technical knowledge of music and now I see I had every reason to be.
AGain this is all
because of the computer.

There's a further aspect in teh new social universe of the interner. I
useed to feel -- bah -- why
write music if there's so much of it and no one's listening? Through
contact with the world through
the internet, I feel differently about this: someone must address the
superhuman demands this
places on whatever generates consistent attention, but this might not be
presently possible. The
result should be an implosion of the vague subjectivies that onece
masqueraded as knowledge,
in favor of an explosion of uniquely individual purposes. This plays a
strong role for me in
keeping at what I'm doing.

-- eliot

> 2a) If you are mainly a composer of electroacustic or computer music,
> why did you choose to follow this path and not the traditional
> (acoustic composition)?
> 2b) If you are mainly a composer of instrumental acoustic music, do
> you think computer technology could help you to do this task better? How?
> 2c) If you are mainly a composer of mixed works (acoustical
> instruments + computer) what attracts you to this approach?
> 2d) If you compose acoustic, mixed and pure electronic works equally,
> what do you prefer? Why?
> 2e) If you are a performer that uses technology, why do you use it?
> 2f) If you are a performer that does not use technology, do you think
> it could be of any help to you? How?
> 3) If you have experience (a little or a lot) with live electronics
> and have used any kind of sensor technology to control sound in real
> time. What have you used? Why? What kind of technology do you prefer?

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