Monday, January 25, 2010

In The Movement

A pair of sentences in a blog item by William Keckler stood out this morning:

I find it interesting that today's literary movements don't even have to be formalistically inventive. It's all done through the miracle of social networking.

With all the chatter about social networking among musicians these days, of course the first thing I did upon reading this passage was to substitute the word "musical" for "literary" and let it churn around in my brain a bit, to see if I end up with butter.  

Yes, social networking promise greater opportunities for making contacts — let's not call them "friends", buckos, as that word can still be saved for something more special — and for sharing stuff (music in some form or another, pretty pictures, tech talk, news, recipes, gossip...) and even making real public musical events happen.  But when these networks actually go into operation, all of the delights and dangers of ordinary social interaction come into play, and not all people, musicians included, like to play nice.  Familial disfunctionality, denunciations, banning, and shunning, and — ultimately — collapse of the hive tend to follow.  My impression is that this is especially the case in musical networks because (a) we have trouble being upfront about our preferences, genres or programs, our "formal inventions" and (b) we have trouble distinguishing between shop talk among musicians and our conversations with a lay audience.  We think of ourselves as open and idealistic folk, but our ideals are not always well-nourished in completely open environments; they are often fragile or not yet ripe and require some shelter in order to develop and gather some robustness.  It is quite easy to image that a social network initiated around ideas about experimental, non-amplified, scored concert music will have trouble keeping focus if the membership of the group is overwhelmed by new members with preferences increasingly tangential to these.  This is not an elitist observation.  As Ives knows, there is no significant economic or political power exercised in such a community, the creation of communities based around  alternative configurations of interests are not restricted by the existence of this one, and jeez! have table manners really declined to the point where no one learns how and when to politely and usefully join a conversation?

No, social networking is not a miracle. It is a tool and is only a useful tool when it is appropriate to the task and its proper and effective usage is understood and trained.  And, while there is a real charge to conversation and exchange with musicians with different interests — personally, I learn a lot for film composers, or band composers, or circuit-bending composers —,  the absence of a shared program of "formal invention" is not going to lead to a sustained conversation, whether about technique, aesthetics, or the everyday business of getting commissions and gigs. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Daniel!

It seems to me social networks in the realm of music create a certain "tribal" effect.

Take the example of self-proclaimed "artist" dr morpheus:

The music-generating actor, while lacking in the craft and art of composition, draws to herself, and aggregates followers, called fans (known in the classical world as audience).

The music-generating actor is not a composer per se, not even an amateur.

She is merely an operator of a loop-based "composition" machine, built around several stylistic cliches (sound complexes) as building blocks.

Thus all the pieces look very similar within the same genre.
There is no genuine formation of texture. True, combinatorially, you can have a lot of combinations, probably millions and millions, assembled from loops in, say, Sequel.

However, the number of aesthetically meaningful combinations within a given genre, is probably quite limited.


We live in an information society, plants and factories no longer play the role they used to.

Similar story in music. We are looking at the sound world through new optics.

The words "audio information", "sound information" come to mind. The MIDI format is based on this concept. Some think the format is reductionist and cliched, but I feel it has more to it.

It interfaces with the information society we now live in.

It's about something more elusive, I guess. Maybe sound information clusters or clouds.

That does not mean, of course, ethnic sound complexes, style will disappear and blend into a global village not so.

Globalization triggers nationalism, reliance on national symbols including sound complexes.

Daniel, thank you for your understanding!

Your commentary is always thought-provoking.

Moscow Russia