Re: Prix Ars Electronic 99 (Computer Music)...my 2 centimes...


Subject: Re: Prix Ars Electronic 99 (Computer Music)...my 2 centimes...
From: Linda A. Seltzer (lseltzer@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Date: Wed Jul 07 1999 - 14:11:38 EDT


For awhile I stopped reading this thread, because it seemed that
it was only about a stpid little prize, and such things have just
about nothing to do with music, but then an explosion of postings
on this thread arrived in my e-mail. I am really shocked that
a prize is taking on such paramount importance to so many people,
and I guess it shows where values are: power and position.

>From an ethnomusicological point view (examining the study of
music in culture), the question raised is, "what is the role of
music in a culture?" Healing, shamanism, uplifting of the
soul, accompaniment to ritual, accompaniment to dance,
entertainment, social protest (or in some socieities, the opposite,
tributes to the rulers (fanfares, etc.)). But in our current
milieu music is written to get commissions and prizes. I have
heard composers in New York talking about who was on the judging
panel for a performance, so that they could send in something
that might be agreeable stylistically. So perhaps this is the
meaning of "academic music:" notes architecturally arranged,
of constructed emotion and persona rather than of deep feeling
and abandon, to accumulate accolades and power.

Then there are associations who claim to be the "computer music
community," which is ridiculous, since any 16 year old kid in
Silicon Valley probably has a studio in one's bedroom and since
the notion of academic cliques' "ownership" of computer music
as a "field" is getting wearing to the point of being ridiculous.

I have been listening to the Princeton University radio station
run by undergraduates, and while I have not been following
the specific groups (they play long sets of music without
announcements of whose music it is), I have become interested
in the styles of electronic music listened to by young people.
I have heard music which is highly technological and quite
expensive to produce, with very rapid rhythm and a great deal
of energy - perhaps a youthful rebellion against my generation's
New Age tendencies. At first I did not relate to this music
at all, but then I wrote some lyrics for a new piece and
I realized that this genre was suitable for what I wanted to
say. I do not believe that the kind of very high tech, energetic
pop music, with all kinds of disruptive and disorienting types
of effects processing, is commercially intended in a completely
cynical manner. I believe it truly expresses the feelings of
a younger generation and perhaps of the life experience of
segments of society other than academia (because the life
experience of persons outside of academia is completely
different). I see a certain satiric quality and refusal to
accept what is on the surface in this type of music. I admire
very much the originality of many of the ideas and effects of what
I hear, even if the regular beat is somewhat boring.

Quite honestly I think it's great that a group somewhere,
in awarding prizes, thumbed its nose at the power-hungry cliques
(not just in Argentina - I know about or have experienced more
than what I write about publicly) who presumptuously and
pompously think of us academically trained musicians as "the
computer music community" (as if there were only one). This
reminds me of Goethe and the Court of the Muses in Germany,
a concept an ethnomusicologist can only sneer at.

But at the same time, I don't understand why people are
conferring so much power on the administrators and judges
of prizes, as if their opinions somehow matter more than
the opinions of people who are not jury members or prize
administrators. The prize organizations are being treated
as if their decisions have much more persuasiveness than they
really have. This does not mean I am criticizing the
compositions which have received prizes, or the composers.
It's more of a wariness of institutions and establishments.
It seems like those who consider themselves as anti-establishment
and avant garge are really forming their own "establishment,"
now in reaction to some pebbles being thrown by the younger
generation of rebels (now forming their own power cliques/juries).

Linda Seltzer



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