Re: Prix Ars Digital Musics results

Subject: Re: Prix Ars Digital Musics results
From: Alexandra Hettergott (
Date: Sat May 29 1999 - 14:13:53 EDT

Reacting to DC Mckinnon... :
Actually, I am finding this position a problematic, if not untenable one.
(1) The compensation problem : pleasing everybody certainly is something nobody is
able to do, but this reconsideration of and reorientation in (formerly) academic
competing, as stated by the Ars Electronica committee in this year, IMO, is
absolutely the right impulse at the right moment : looking more like an oscillation
from the one to the other extreme, what you called the shift/exchange of paradigms,
this continual pendulum is quite necessary for (any) redefining (of) a position, for
there certainly _are_ things changing in our (daily/art) music understanding, not
least concerning the easy consumption/Internet domain (and they will shift more to
the center later again.)
(2) The minority-majority (youth) problem : well, I do always have problems with
excluding others, I confess, be it the majority... Why rhythm, dance etc. should be
necessarily bad(er) or (euphemistically circumscribed) all too "redundant", and does
the opposite suggestion implied really is true ? No redundancy ever in "orthodox" EA
? Yet given the absolute profound only ? Moreover, the 1999' results do yet not imply
the future rigorous abandonment of all "the 'abstractions' of spectromorphological
properties and potentialities" you mention, which does/will (and fortunately !) still
have its platform.
(3) The aesthetic problem : which is certainly the most difficult point in your
statement ; applying this term to the musical past only certainly is incorrect in
this respect ; our listening behavior and expectations did change a lot in the, let's
say, last fifty years, and today the notion of aesthetics is more individual as
ever... If aesthetics is (personal) "pleasure", just as a supposition, why not (also)
the very pleasure of the youth who apparently likes moving to music (ever and again).
Only no-purpose music is "real" music ?
-- No, no, I am happy about this (tentative) reorientation with regard to a new
(musical) century, and also -- any chauvinism aside -- that Austria hosts a
haut-niveau festival like this...
Alexandra Hettergott.

Alexandra Hettergott
1, avenue des Gobelins
   /boîte 23
F-75005 Paris/France
Tél/fax: +33-(0)1-43 31 41 27

... la noche,
pequeños ruidos
... sombra y espacio, tierra
y tiempo,
algo que corre y cae
y pasa ...
   (Pablo Neruda)

-----Original Message-----
From: DC Mckinnon <>
To: <>
Date: Saturday, May 29, 1999 3:27 PM
Subject: Re: Prix Ars Digital Musics results

>> 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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