Re: Prix Ars Digital Musics results

Subject: Re: Prix Ars Digital Musics results
From: DC Mckinnon (
Date: Sat May 29 1999 - 09:23:39 EDT

> They say scheduled revolutions never happen, but those that are hoped for,
> obviously do. It is apparent that revolutionary changes in the area of digital
> music do not take place in secret. There are several reasons why the results of
> the Prix Ars Electronica in the category "digital musics" are worthy of the
> attribute revolutionary. For the first time, the award-winning artists do

Come on. Revolutions are generally fictitious events; unfortunately people
tend to believe in fictions (even sonic fictions) and the ones who are best
at believing tend to be those that write the stories.

So instead of real disruption and provocation Prix Ars is simply
engendering a shift from one paradigm to another. From the instituion
academia to the institution dance music. A shift from an institution
which lacks both populist and avant-garde credibility to another overlaoded
with both - even if this is not yet reflected in sales figures (save for
the work of Richard D. James). These results show clearly the concern on
the part of the organisers of Prix Ars for scene and sceneius above
less quantifiable aesthetic values. In fact, even to mention the word
aesthetic is a dangerous thing as it connotes an (almost?) dead musical
past - of which EA is part - concerned with the "beautiful" (my god!) and
the 'trad sublime' (as Kodwo Eshun put it), which at a surface level, and
only at a surface level, has little in common with the pulsations of a dance
driven present. And it is the presence of pulse in music (why not be a
reductionist!) which all this hinges around.

If EA was willing to eschew its tradition of sonic immanence - getting inside
sound to see where it might take one - in favour of repetition and
redundancy (note the appearance of danc[e] in redundancy); if it was willing
to show more regard for the sound object in terms of cultural resonance -
though be warned that recording of thunder and children's voice should be
abandoned for the hipster sonorities of analog synths, 808's and 303's; if it
would forget its fascination for the "abstractions" of spectromorphological
properties and potentialities, then I have little doubt that there would
have been much more EA featured in Prix Ars' winners list.

The question is - would EA which exhibits these avant-mainstream qualities
still be EA? Personally I think not. Lattice-based music (such as contemporary
dance music) is fundamentally at odds with the continua of EA. It's not
at all a question of technique, skill, or virtuosity - Aphex Twin's music
demonstrates all of these at a compositional level - but of musical
codes. We (the EA community) speak a language which has no currency. To
speak EA is like trying to barter in your local supermarket - don't do it
- it'll get you arrested and placed in a sonotorium. But have no fear -
there are lots of wonderful things to listen to once you're inside...

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