Thursday, June 09, 2011

Electronics &

There's some heavy thinking going on about electronic music as instance and opportunity for composition, performance, and audition. Composer Nicolas Collins (aka Mr Hardware Hacker) has a smark and usefully provocative essay, Semiconducting — Making Music After the Transistor, online here as a PDF. Another useful & related recent item online is Colin Holter's note at the New Music Box, here. Casting a big shadow over both of these items, ithinks, is Richard Maxfield's classic essay on Music Electronic and Performed, in which Maxfield's ideas for presenting ostensibly fixed recorded sounds in live performance settings remain richly suggestive.

It is striking how much the topic of electronic music continues to be discussed in terms of oppositional pairs* — electronic versus acoustic, recorded versus live (in turn related to composed versus improvised), analog versus digital, hardware versus software, homemade and commercial, etc. — and ultimately, thinksmyself, the liveliness of these discussions turns on the ephemeral qualities of music, with the advent of electronic technology making these issues more explicit and acute. Again, I am astonished by the prescience of Maxfield's analysis and his ephemeralizing tactic of un-fixing recorded media as a reminder that these pairs need not be seen as strictly segregated but rather more productively as poles within a continuum, with very rich possibilities to move and position musical work in between.


* Several of the terms in these pairs are, due to their vagueness and ambiguity, very tempting to frame in scare quotes, but I assume here that we are adults and understand this, accepting the terms as the conventions they are rather than precision instruments of discrimination they are not, so no scare quotes.

1 comment:

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