PAE - personal observance

Subject: PAE - personal observance
From: Naut Humon (
Date: Tue Jul 20 1999 - 20:48:22 EDT

OK - just when all of you would wish this would finally
go away I finally get it together to make an installment
statement from another juror's perspective concerning my
personal viewpoint of the '99 Prix Ars Digital Musics
'swimsuit competition'. I will also attempt to answer
in future installments the criticisms leveled at the
this years change and hopefully open some closed heads
in a positive participative forum. I speak here as only
1/5 of the juries I've had the opportunity to "judge"
with and for those of you who get bored and fall asleep
at lengthy responses such as this are better served by
simply ignoring long winded answers and hit the hay in
a more productive way!

I would like to respond to the list having been a
member of the jury who was primarily responsible for this
change of the title (from "Computermusic" to "Digital Musics")
and the person who was designated by the PAE to largely
select the jury members who participated in the '99

  I am fascinated by the response this years situation
has prompted in this community that I hold very high
regard for-- especially after releasing several electro-
acoustically oriented CD's of music I felt strongly
about. I also feel that for the first time the PAE
Sound Category has had absolutely one of the most
"inclusionary" sessions yet and garnered the most
controversy. This means despite the results our meeting
achieved the attention that a forum like this has rarely
mounted before to raise the critical attention of an
entire sector of musicians, composers and other hackers
of the genres. If what they hold so precious has somehow
become destabilized and now a wider playing field
is pitching to the plate each with their different
observances. Anyway I wish this discussion to become
one of the central topics of the PAE jury panel
winners (and "losers") on Sept. 8th at the ARS
Festival itself which I will moderate at 10:00am
that morning. This is why I really could use ALL
of the cecdiscuss e-mails and discussions to bring
up accurately all these points of view that have
been expressed to once and for all let the PAE
know at their television station what concrete
proposals everyone would offer to finally solve
these question's you've all put forth.

  When we went through all 700+ entries it was an aweseome
task to be detailed and fair to each and every one.
                         We did from the very beginning
divide up every entry into 25 or more catagories of music.
The largest area by far was still electro-acoustic tapeworks
and percentage-wise took more time to justly listen to than
any other. Experimental style was immensely large as well
along with acousmatic etc. etc. The jury also included
members whose taste and experience in music utterly embraced
the above mentioned genres and many more.

As far as covering the international diversity thats out
there this jury absolutely was the best yet. No- not perfectly
balanced - (I don't know if any jury could be perceived that
way to all) but if you go through the final fifteen and
split up their specialties the representation is reasonably
there. No - the installation and acousmatic tape stuff didn't
appear as strong overall this year but we were REALLY looking
for some deeper sense of fresh excitement there. So when we
were down to the last 50 or so then we felt we actually
had to bluntly judge as objectively as possible beyond
just the 25 catagory sections but to the impact based
on the criteria for innovation and expressivity that
the Prix Ars in the past has failed to recognize in this
particular competition. Before there were really no
quality submissions from these regions and this year
we were surprised and fascinated by the vastly increased
diversity. But we can't always go by quota or trendy
musical movements so ultimately its all unfair because
there isn't room by the Prix to acknowledge properly
all those who by my estimation truly deserve it.
With our latest jury EVERY area was of significant
interest to them - unfortunately there wasn't room
to have every segment mentioned. But grand efforts
were attempted (despite the confines of the prize
breakdowns and final 15) to represent as many
sub-genres as we reasonably could handle. And
to send out a message that Digital Music's
renovation was going to be more inclusive than exclusive
of worldwide cybernetic music cultures. So
that famous folks are on equal footings
with unknowns and that both are encouraged
by the EXAMPLE of the results rather than some sort
of "cool" factor of what is perceived to be
currently hip. I don't buy into that any more
than anyone. Its not the names as much as it
is the musics that need to be evaluated in
a broader perspective. This was a jury biased
toward an enormous variety and range of expressions
and composition seemingly less narrow than past panels.
Sorry about less so-called "serious" music in the
outcome! This wasn't ever the intention. And I do
feel many of the rhythm or "dance" or noise style entries
ARE taken seriously by their creators & listeners. If one
examines the results in depth however there really is hardly
ANY club/ dance pieces that reached the final dozens.
What may perceived to be "fast food or commercial music "
to some is supreme cuisine to others when making sounds
from computers (the Prix competition definition of

   And anyway fuck fashion! It had little or nothing to do
with the jury's choices this year. And I will add that fashion
DOES influence some music-making from the Beatles on down
- with the haircuts and LSD experiments.(gee how sixties!)
                    The real question is: regardless of how
the music got there is this great music? We absolutely should
NEVER judge music on the fashionably hip background of the
composer or the current trendiness of a sound or genre. We
must strive to be as objective as possible and not lured
into believing that something is cool just because its new
or different. If it is fresh AND has the content & material
to back it up then we do recognize the talent. As stated
before 90% of ANY musical genre is usually less interesting
to experience. And noone except audio fanatics have the time
to listen to the broad spectrum. So we won't honor an
acousmatic category just because its there or has numerous
entries. (It ain't where you're from - its where you're at!)
We will listen and look for elements of distinction that
make it stand on its own despite any catagorical origins.
But historically the electro- acoustic music is BY FAR
the most covered and honored by the Prix. So whats the problem
of shifting the focus this time and balancing the
perspective. Or if the tables HAVE imbalanced this time
according to the critics toward less acousmatic recognition
-how does that feel? After 13 years of being COMPLETELY
imbalanced in the opposite manner! This jury cared very
much about the electro - acoustic styles as an individual
area and was EXTREMELY explicit in hoping for special
pieces worthy of the final fifteen. So was 2 or 3 too few
or what?
                                And as a jury we had
more fun comparing all those apple and oranges than ever
before! But a statement with style and substance and
something new for controversial dialogue is not such a
bad thing now is it? It keeps the focus on these musical
issues rather than just another regular year of commonly
expected works from similar tribes. But let it be
known the RESPECT for traditional ea/cm with this
jury was very high. Many people out there seriously
doubt this fact I'm sure (due to the results) but
there was a large perception about treating the
submissions with less group bias and allow for
the various arbitrary categories to be reasonably

              PAE hasn't "abandoned" anybody
- as evidenced by several EA selections in the final 15.
 Apparently this is perceived as "not being
 correct enough" for some in the EA
community to feel motivated to enter in the future
after dominating the category for 12 or so years.
So to to cling on to this self perceived 'importance'
a specialized EA or non-commercial catagory must be
made for acousmatic / tape music because it now has been
unfairly 'compared' to fashion oriented "club"or popular music
made by digital means (or installations or music video's,
etc. etc. etc. -- gee how many categories do we all
want anyway?) What is truly fair here? I ernestly
agree that if PAE had more money to divide up the
prize funds then these category areas would be
more motivating for people to want to try and submit
something. So you have now a $20,000 (US) pie -
how would this be justly divided up? If winners
then only take home say-$2000 (US) is this enough
to keep the motivating force of the competition
intact? I'm personally open to this type of
methodology but I feel that this more "democratic"
approach would maybe not wash so well with the
traditional ways of PAE. They might probably say
that then all of the juries would have to do this
because the interactive, computer animation, and net
stuff ALSO unfairly compares unlike entries that
should be sub- catagorized as well. This is a universal
issue of the PAE in all of the Cyber-Arts ; so who
is it who decides to wave the magic wand so EVERYBODY
who enters is suddenly happy because they are being
so politically correct with all these artistically
styled factions and is all things to all artists?
Someone's got to judge and someone's not gonna like it
because they somehow feel it doesn't represent THEM
or their supposed "classification". So my approach
was to suggest changing some of the judges
(I may be next!)- and keep getting new
blood in there that has the criteria and experience
to look at ALL kinds of so-called "Digital Music's".
No it ain't perfect but no panel ever really is but
after being on 3 juries this last one seemed the
least iconoclastic and VERY open to listening to
everything INCLUDING the most prevelent one : EA!
(But the prior jury members from '97 & '98
were also remarkable composers and performers!)

(its interesting to note how this article sort of
repeats itself in a way - its a cut and paste job
from a couple of recent messages I recently wrote)

here's a breakdown of winners & catagories:

Aphex Twin/ Chris Cunningham - Golden Nica - Music/ Video,
                                             Drum & Bass

  (This is an area NEVER previously acknowledged
 by any jury and a magnificent piece of work-
 audio and video! A unanimous choice of high impact!
 Something like this covers all the bases and
on just the audio alone encourages the world at
large to take notice that sound -driven visuals
done this well are going to be considered as an
important fresher field to be reckoned with.
Of course this is newer to the competition - NOT to
the musical world at large. Some who find it
strange that a music video actually won should note
that this has now become the exact catagory in PAE for
efforts of this type. Music driven visualistics
MUST also stand on the soundtrack alone without
the picture - which this does- but if they are
integrated in this manner then sometimes the
recombination adds to the effect. The net, computer
animation <titanic-etc> and interactive <VR,sculptures
and AV installs etc > are quite different in their
acknowledgement of sound. Yes -there is a blurred
area - particulary between the interactive category
and Digital Musics but the way its set up now for
music oriented video's <usually sound BEFORE picture-
film is generally the opposite> Digital Musics
SHOULD allow for this sector to be acknowledged)

2. Ikue Mori --Distinction -- Live improvisor with
                             digital drum machines
                             and signal processing.
                            Performance - oriented

3. Mego label (Peter Rehberg & Christian Fennesz) -
 Distinction award

  (these guys represent an idea and a refreshing
approach to digitally created computersound that
contrasts the predominant academic styles of the
last 13 years of Prix ARS submissions. It comes
from this underground aesthetic of process and
performance that illustrates the do it yourself
paradigm of a non scholastic environment. -)
This IS NOT another example of techno culture
or fashion oriented DJ's. There's tremendous
integrity at work here without all of the
typical public limelight associated with these
style labels and they're not wealthy or very
"commercial" )


Bernard Gunter - minimal almost inaudible tape music.
deals with perceptual realizations of silence & sound.
NOT part of any scene really - more of a loner who
is respected around certain non-commercial circles

Terre Thaemlitz - electronic mood JAZZ on this entry-
not entirely abstract or eccentric -just a good sonic painting
filled with atmosphere and space and tribute.

Claude Paillot - yes - another tape music piece
 thats electronic and nods more to areas that
traditionally Prix ARS has ackowledged.

Stefan Betke (POLE) -- Actual DUB style digatronics!

John Duncan, Francisco Lopez - experimental computermusic.

The User - Installation performance with dot matrix printers

Mouse ON MARS - More well known for soundscapes with rhythms
 in a very individualistic manner -clever & unpretentious

Paul De Marinis - strictly a pure installation

Karkovski/ Merzbow - a great representation of NOISE
music previously never recognized at the Prix.

Rose Dodd - a woman who does a variation on electro-acoustic
 and visual input - excellent!

Ralf Wehowsky - this was the first ever mention to
 a REMIX type project - the lineup of remixers
is incredible! All impressionistic soundfields
and computer electronics etc.

Richie Hawtin - TECHNO with a bullet. A big innovator
from that school with "Consumed" Pure Techno never
got even a mention at Ars!

Anyway I welcome this discussion and and any critical
feedback - that is the reason to do these panels.
If we all agreed on everything then these competitions
would become far less exciting to participate in.
We need to continue the provocative stance - to
constantly challenge these status quo's and
alter some perceptions. In that spirit we
push the boundaries and seek the pioneers.
Of course PAE is as flawed as the organizers
and jury members with a point of view.
Why can't we all get along? Maybe its more
interesting when we don't and still keep
communicating. Most of all we realise that yes
we are WRONG too -- will the right ones please
come and clear my cobwebbed mind? After all
if this could be an exercise in nonsense why
have we read this far?

..... soon again ............ naut humon

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