(no subject)

Subject: (no subject)
From: Peter Conegliano (Peter.Conegliano@tesco.net)
Date: Wed Nov 17 1999 - 14:30:25 EST

This letter was written as a response to a Right to Reply letter in response
to my letter about Mathew Adkins article by Coryn Smethurst in the November
UK Sonic Arts Network magazine Diffusion.

I do not like the technique of argument that 'so and so has set up an
all-embracing definition of something, by some remark he or she has made,
and if I can find one little exception to that imagined rule - ipso facto I
have demolished his/her whole world view!' It doesn't take into account that
the world is full of people who think and say apparently contradictory
ideas, and it is surely from the interaction of these contradictory ideas
that we get some inkling of the truth. Not that, if A is right, B must be
wrong! And Coryn could have referred to me as Peter instead of 'DMC'. There
are so few members of SAN, that we don't need to put up artificial formal
barriers between each other. However he has some good points to make, even
if he sometimes makes them in a rather diminishing, dry and humourless way.
Mine was after all just a single page letter to the editor, in which I could
not go into every conceivable detail, or back up every single assertion with
copious footnotes. It was merely to humbly seek clarification about Mathew's
article and maybe start a discussion, which it appears to have done.
My argument was that by and large, large scale works are more likely to be
organised, and have more work going into that organisation than small scale
ones. But this does not preclude SOME small scale works being effectively
'large scale works in miniature' and therefore ALSO high art - the best
example of this being Coryn's one of Webern. Indeed with computer music, so
many micro events can take place in 60 seconds, that even a work of less
than one minute can also conceivably be 'large scale work in miniature' in
the same way(and even SOUND far longer for this reason!) Surely this is the
real meaning behind Coryn's Feldman quotation - that you can use your chosen
form on a large or small scale, and expand or contract time - not that form
is simply REPLACED by scale the bigger the work! Overall form can get lost
to the listener in the sheer scale of a large work, but its still there!
Nor was I ever saying that ritournelle was the ONLY model of electro
acoustic composition, but was merely ONE example, of ONE form, used by ONE
composer(me), at one particular time(1975) of preventing randomness. I too
appreciate Tarkovsky's films, and appreciate Coryn's point about long
gradual change rather than rapid montage, which is of course very applicable
to much electro acoustic music since the advent of the computer.
I appreciate that Coryn finds the discipline of a short piece stimulating,
but what of the FREEDOM DENIED of ever writing large scale pieces in the
medium? Short pieces are the norm due to outside factors, such as the low
attention span of audiences, capitalist economics, and even the laudable
object of showcasing as many different composers' work in one concert as
possible. But it is the equivalent of writers not being allowed to write
novels any more, only short stories! Or film directors working only on TV
commercials and pop videos! Of course people could still do longer work, but
they'd never be published or shown! But that is exactly the situation in
electro acoustic music, as far as competitions and concerts are concerned!
There exist film directors(I have heard them) who also make a virtue of
necessity, and say what an exciting discipline it is to make a 1 minute
commercial! That having to say everything in one minute really concentrates
the mind! But what of electro acoustic music developing FURTHER AS AN ART
Which inevitably means in my view(perhaps I am in a minority of one here),
developing into more ambitious, more large scale works? After all, film
directors do clever 10 minute shorts just to get known - not for the rest of
their lives! So what is holding us back? Electro acoustic music, though
less 'user friendly' than concert hall music, is more flexible. It can be
heard on headphones via CD/internet, as sound pieces in art installations,
as unbroken film soundtrack, in the opera house, or ONE DAY in the
Boulezian-still-future dream of the 24 hour promenade multi concert space,
where the public can wander in and out at will! But in my view, electro
acoustic composers will never be free to really stretch themselves, until
they can write longer, more complex pieces like their 'classical' brothers
and sisters.
This was possible in the 70s when tape was fairly cheap. Understandably in
the 80s, small hard disks necessitated short pieces, but now cheap computer
memory means long pieces are economic to compose again. So it is ridiculous
to say that because this, that and the other reason, large scale electro
acoustic pieces are a silly idea and are off the agenda - let's get back to
our whole world revolving around short pieces only - in perpetuity! Hardly
the right attitude for a still exciting, still newish art form, at the
cutting edge of technology! What has Coryn achieved by demolishing my
arguments? He has buried any further discussion of longer electro acoustic
pieces(which has NOTHING to do with me at all, or whether I was wrong on
this, that or all points!)
I also resent the charge that the logic of my arguments leads to
I bought my first Ravi Shankar LP in 1966 and played it constantly in my
rooms at Oxford. It was a breath of fresh air - a seamless synthesis of
improvisation, composition and tradition, and showed a way out of the
sterile narrow world of classical form(As it was THEN - the ONLY way
allowed! Exactly what Coryn accuses me now of rigidly defending!) I knew it
was 'high art' the first time I heard it (but then maybe that was just
because it was 20 minutes long!) The whole 60s process in all the arts was
about boxing open our minds, especially via non-European music and
'electronic music', which boxed open the whole previously rigid concept of
what 'music' was. So don't accuse me now of the kind of Eurocentricism I
actually rebelled against! Eccentricity yes, but not ethnocentricity! But
that doesn't mean we can't still learn and borrow from European classical
form. And can't still retain some notion of where the boundaries between
high art and low art and 'no art' lie.
I do, however, heartily agree with Coryn's point about cliche and

Peter De Moncey-Conegliano

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