Re: [WAVE_LIST@UNT.EDU] women artists and communicators [[LONG]]

Subject: Re: [WAVE_LIST@UNT.EDU] women artists and communicators [[LONG]]
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Wed Jan 19 2005 - 12:07:10 EST

Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2005 11:59:34 -0500
From: Kevin Austin <>


And continuing, I base this on my observations and years of
discussions with students.

Music is a discipline. There are Faculties of Music all over the
world, but one does not find a university "Faculty" for
subdisciplines. Music is pervasive throughout life. Serious study
begins in childhood and requires hours and hours of dedicated work to
become (even) proficient.

"Music composition" (as distinct from say 'writing songs') is a
refined activity that requires many years of work after basic
training has been completed. For reference to this, I would cite an
examination of the history of music(s) in western and non-western

In the 'music' classroom, with the exception of History courses, the
topic is not something that 'surrounds' the music, it is the "music"
itself. The analysis of something like a Brahms Symphony (no 4 eg),
or a Dvorak String Quartet (say Op 106) is not a 'casual commentary'.
It is not entered into by photographers and sculptors, it is not
chatter in the club.

The implications of a single pitch class (or more likely a single
scale degree, eg ^b6 and the use of the modal dominant in the Dvorak)
requires a rather vast knowledge of tonality / modality and 250 years
of music history. Musical analysis requires much depth of knowledge
(and extended perception) before it can be started.

In ea, there was a time when to write an algorithm that had 'depth'
was a major challenge. There was either the necessity to have
tremendous computer programing skills, or enormous in-depth knowledge
of analog synthesis. My experience in analog synthesis and derived
knowledge was built up over a period of study of about 7 years, which
largely ended with my building modules.

"In those days" to come to term with algorithmic composition required
an in-depth understanding of the basics of information theory (Markov
chains etc etc), and a couple of fundamentals about switches, logic
gates, arrays, thresholds, triggers, clocks, noise and filtering
(apart from sequencers and wave table stuff).

But technology has turned much of this into "PhotoShopMusic"
plug-ins. That's fine. I enjoy transforming images in PhotoShop and
am painfully aware of the limitations of my visual literacy.

But there are different types of needs for visual literacy. Not
proposing to exhibit my photographs, I have no concern that I take
1500 + pictures per year.

On the other side, in preparing a piece "Oceangreen of Shadow" for a
10 channel playback system, I will have micro-edited over 12 hours of
voice. A project such as this is being done in a basic audio editor
(DSP-Quattro X) and assembled in Logic. The algorithmic device is my
brain. I listen, decide and edit.

In my (now limited) teaching in ea, I focus on detail, detail, detail
and as a last area, detail. The "social meaning / impact" of the work
under examination is of interest to many students and it leads to
lively discussions in class and on lists, but I see "my" place in
this is to bring my abilities and propensities (I sort of have decent
hearing) and attempt to bring the students to their own level of
perception and understanding of sound.

Is there a genetic factor in here? I encourage my students _not_ to
generalize from the specific, nor to apply the specific from the
general. The general is statistical in nature, the specific is not.

Part of this discussion is (in my view) a problem of semantic
confusion over whether or not the 'body' being examined is
statistical in nature, or 'finite' in nature. This may have become a
more complex issue now that the english language has lost the
distinction between the two terms ... eg the usage: "What amount of
people were at the concert?" ... the word 'amount' (a general term
... the amount of salt in the container), has melded into the

When someone has the word 'amount' in a statement, 'my' lexicon
categorizes this in statistical terms ... the amount of rain that
fell last night is large or small ... to get the answer of "Twelve
millimeters" I expect the term "How many?" ...

When there are generalizations about brains, or genetics, or
hormones, or behavior, I take them as statistical in nature, which
requires the examination of a large enough body of information so
that it is not distorted by local variations.

A thermometer does not tell the temperature of the room, it provides
through continuous local sampling an idea of the 'normalized'
temperature, which is one two thermometers in one room can provide
different figures.

And statistics need to indicate the size of the population under
study, and the degree of accuracy ... this poll is correct within
plus or minus two percentage points 19 times out of 20.



>dear William and Wavelist:
>WO: How would you describe the differences between Communication
>Studies and music composition. Roughly speaking, are Communication
>Studies more focused on studying mass mediums, with possible
>applications in advertising and broadcast journalism, while
>composition is focused more on art for its own sake?
>Comm Studies where I teach includes mass media as well as alternative
>media - ie community radio, independent producers, sound art and so on.
>There is a focus on how a piece communicates, and aesthetics are
>considered to be a part of that, but not the primary area for study.
>Students in this program do sound documentary, soundtracks, popular
>music performance, writing and recording, and sound art for various
>media (installation, radio, CD). We think a lot about audience response
>as well as author intent. Communication with the audience takes place
>through abstraction as well as narrative means. My department has
>developed expertise in studying expressions of marginalised communities
>of various kinds, which makes it a productive place to do work on gender
>and technology, as well as issues of race and ethnicity.
>As far as software goes, in addition to Protools we use MAX/MSP, but
>only to a limited extent. We also use the multimedia software, Flash.
>>From the In and Out of the Studio project, we notice that in any field,
>whether film sound editing, radio, or theatre sound design, women seem
>to get further in areas that are less institutionalised and with less
>cultural capital. It is rare to find a woman re-recording mixer because
>this is the post in film sound mixing with the most prestige and control
>over the mix. The woman that we interviewed said that she knew of only
>one other woman in all of north america doing this job. Some women have
>made inroads on particular areas by starting their own company (eg Diane
>Leboeuf with sonodesign for museum sound).
>I am just really at the beginning stage of making sense of all the
>interviews that we have done, so it will take a while to really come to
>grips with the range of issues that have arisen. I ought to be able to
>comment more substantially with time.
>Dr. Andra McCartney
>Director, MA in Media Studies
>Communication Studies, Concordia University
>HB 404 7141 Sherbrooke St. W.
>Montréal, QC H4B 1R6

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