Subject: Re: WHY COMPUTER MUSIC SUCKS_Bob Ostertag
From: lawrence casserley (
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 13:01:25 EDT

On 4 Oct, 2005, at 14:51, Morgan Sutherland wrote:

> Popular music is not computer music? What constitutes computer music?
> All digital? No recording?
There isn't really any such thing - or, to be more precise, the term
means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so it is
almost impossible to agree on a definition.

1) We can argue that this is a term equivalent to "Piano Music" - it
tells you practically nothing about the music - only the instrument it
was played on - it includes a Chopin etude, a Boulez Sonata, a solo by
Veryan Weston, etc.

2) A further take on this approach is that it is not the computer that
is the instrument, merely the platform on which the instrument (the
software) can be made - so this is CSound music, Max/msp music, Ableton
Live music, etc. In my case there is another layer

3) Yet another approach is to say that computer music means things that
can _only_ be made on a computer (Ikue Mori?), which is a tempting
definition, but one that is tricky to prove in many cases. Sure, new
ways of creating sounds (FM, Acoustic Modelling, etc) have been made
possible by computers, but many of these have been incorporated into
commercial products in one way or another - sampling, of course, is

4) Some people think of computer music only as music where the computer
is not only realising the sounds, but playing a role in choosing which
sounds to realise - as in algorithmic music.

There are other possible definitions too.....

I have designed a computer instrument for my live, improvised music -
does that make it computer music? I don't know (and I'm not sure I
care), but while it would at least theoretically be possible, I
suppose, to create an analogue equivalent - it would be incredibly
complex, and probably crazily expensive (and transporting it to a
gig.....yikes!!!). Eg, a three minute delay line with 37 taps that can
be moved around the temporal space under the control of a two
dimensional gesture device (graphics tablet). More importantly, the
ability to develop it gradually while in use to fit my needs better, or
to follow them as they change, even to invent completely new versions -
that is what the computer has given me - the ability to adapt the
instrument precisely to my needs, as well as to explore new
possibilities without major additional outlay. Is that computer music?

In the early days the ability to do this at all was confined to very
large institutions with lots of resources - in my case I could only do
the best I could with the available resources, bumping my head against
the ceiling all the way (sometimes the limitations produced good
results, often not!). All the time I was anticipating the possibility
of the real-time dsp machine - until it became a reality. IMV, that's
when my music really began to take off. So yes, I guess I probably am
doing things that can only really be done with computers. Does it



Lawrence Casserley -
Lawrence Electronic Operations -
Colourscape Music Festivals -

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