In this article I explore the relationship between composing and listening. I begin with a problematic story, draw some general conclusions, introduce relevant concepts from Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) and related work, propose some cognitive constraints on compositional systems, discuss “pitch space”, and explain why serial (or 12-tone) organizations are cognitively opaque. Most of these topics deserve fuller treatment than is given in these pages. My concern here is just to lay out a basic, if wide-ranging, argument.
I am not interested in passing judgement on the composers and compositions that are mentioned, particularly not on the remarkable work by Boulez that I use as a representative example. The thrust of my argument is psychological rather than aesthetic. But since aesthetic issues inevitably impinge on the discussion, I treat them briefly at the end.
An assessment of the current state of music technology is made. The problems that face composers using this technology are analysed. Future developments are predicted, and a vision of computer music in the 21st century is described. It is envisaged that technology will soon cross a threshold as far as music is concerned, and that as a result of this many of the current difficulties will be resolved. Out of this technology new aesthetic possibilities will develop.
In this article, I discuss my opinions of Helmut Lachenmann's own theories on perception and the functionality of music. I also allude to the numerous ways in which his music could be approached by new or experienced listeners and how Helmut's musical thought has evolved during the past few decades.
This article examines the genealogy of György Kurtág's Op. 30a and b, and their textual source, Samuel Beckett's What is the Word . Beckett's attempt at a complete withdrawal from speech and at writing the absence of the subject is paralleled in Kurtág's own struggle with musical language and identity. Beckett's withdrawal behind a literary predecessor (Joyce) similarly has echoes in Kurtág's use of material from Bartók, but while Beckett's exploration of the endpoint of language is primarily an artistic exercise, Kurtág's attempts to simulate the real experience of legesthenia through the use of the (remembered) stuttering of the actress Ildikó Monyók as reciter. Op. 30b creates a larger scale piece, but maintains the stuttering formal gesture of the earlier piece, and instead of a large-scale form, uses musical palindrome to evoke the paradox of the need to speak combined with the impossibility of speech at the vanishing point of language.
A consistent deficiency in past modelling of musical cognition has been the failure to take account of the flexibility and adaptability of musicians' behaviour. This flexibility, most evident when dealing with music of a `transitional' nature, as illustrated in discussion of a piece by Skryabin, suggests that, while existing music-theoretic concepts continue to provide a basis, models must break down the monoliths of music theory into a pluralistic interaction. Similar concerns have exercised researchers in other cognitive domains, leading to proposals for novel modelling frameworks. The potential of one of these `constraint systems', is explored through a preliminary model of the recognition of harmonies and the interpretation of dissonant notes.
The origin of this work in progress lies in the traditional celebrations of Holy Week and Easter as practised in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais from the 18th century until the present day. Formal aspects of the work are derived from the structure of the Offices for Holy Week of the Roman Catholic Church as celebrated in Brazil; these and other details of the work's genesis are here presented and discussed.
Our research work is based on an aesthesic-cognitive approach to the description of sound events in contemporary music analysis. It starts with the definition of a phonematic paradigm and goes on with the individuation of analytical-computational strategies. After the formalization of a paradigm of distinctive features, we have made a series of tables based on the phonological method “present feature/absent feature” that permits a descriptive and comparative study of specific sound objects included in the piece. Such a process, together with a segmentation procedure based on perceptual criteria, can help the analyst to verify the direct or transversal composer's strategies during his organization of sound events.
This article is an exploration of the similarities between the music of Gustav Mahler and Helmut Lachenmann, with an emphasis on the latter's theatre piece Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, despite the vast sonic differences between the two. Also often mentioned is Lachenmann's most important teacher, Luigi Nono, and comparisons are made between the works of all three composers.
This article is a pastiche of brief thoughts that I hold on six important works by Helmut Lachenmann: Guero and Serynade for piano, his first string quartet, Gran Torso, a duo for guitars called Salut für Caudwell, his opera Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, and his double concerto NUN. As a pianist, the thoughts on the techniques used in the two piano works are hopefully insightful to new pianists looking to broaden their repertoires. The other two works are discussed briefly and again mention some technical elements and my general reactions to them, this time from a listener's viewpoint. These sections come from a longer article with the same title.
This article begins with an attempt at analysing Helmut Lachenmann's Mouvement (--vor der Erstarrung). A brief look at two other analyses of this work is then followed by a short discussion of the serial 'form from below' in general and its consequences for analysing such music. Given the necessary brevity within the scope of this article, this discussion could regrettably only ever scratch the surface of the analytical history of serial music. But by providing this context, the problems of analysing Mouvement may be recognised as being of a more general nature.
Visualized emotion can be transmitted through minimal physical gestures in a musical performance; this process can be described as `sentic', a term originally coined by Manfred Clynes in the 1970s during research into the effects of space travel. The development of alternate musical instruments from the 1960s up to the present day breaks the traditional musical paradigm of effort in performance. This development also shadows concepts of space exploration technology such as teleoperation. Musical instruments can be evaluated in terms of a new musical effort paradigm; a young generation seems content to accept that there may be no apparent correlation between input effort and sound output. This article explores what a contemporary notion of effort might be, inspired by a reading of Walt Whitman's poem `I Sing the Body Electric'.
This is a translation of Helmut Lachenmann's analysis of his second string quartet, Reigen seliger Geister. He describes the background of the piece, discusses some of the effects used in the score and shows how it connects to other works in his oeuvre. Although intentionally vague at times, it is nonetheless highly insightful. This article, written in 1994 - 1995, appears in German in MaeE.
Excerpted from a transcript of interviews with Ralph Shapey, this article reveals aspects of Shapey's strong personality and of his complex relationship with his teacher Stefan Wolpe. The article touches on Shapey's principal ideas as a composer: those derived from Wolpe and the ideas of Wolpe he rejected; and his concept of the 'graven image', derived from his perception of what was most effective in 'all the old masters—Bach, Beethoven, Brahms'. More precise notation was developed to handle the rhythmic concepts that developed in the music of the 1950s. The centrality of Shapey's role as conductor of contemporary music in New York City during the late 1950s and early 1960s is made clear. Shapey also describes his approach to teaching composition, which emphasizes the integrity of abstract musical ideas.
Taking the case presented by the acousmatic situation (radio, records, and especially works of organized sound designed for concerts), the central question discussed is that of conditions or criteria of the listenability of organized sounds projected into a listening space by electroacoustic means. Based on their morphological “appearance” — raw material, transformation stages, composed sequences — effects of salience and pregnance, as well as distinguishing features of reference and coherence, will be assessed. A recognition model for perceptual forms in the musical dimension is drawn from compositional experience for the acousmatic stage. A function-flowchart is proposed as a “bridge” between the physical and the symbolic, between hearing sound and comprehending its meaning, between listening and understanding.
There are strong musical motivations for current efforts to transfer the human concepts underlying musicianship to computer programs. Particularly for interactive music systems, those meant to perform with human players onstage in contexts that may include improvisation, such concepts are essential. Four research areas are reviewed that promise incremental improvement to interactive music systems as work toward machine musicianship proceeds. These areas are: (1) timbre analysis, (2) pattern processing, (3) machine learning, and (4) musical schemata. As each area is discussed, the musical implications motivating its consideration are reviewed together with some relevant contemporary research projects.
The music of Yes doesn't portray a specific, coherent spiritual philosophy; but particular musical features common to an output extending through twenty years can be interpreted as signifying “the spiritual”. These are largely tied to explicit references in the lyrics, and operate across different domains: texture, timbre, production techniques, harmony and rhythm.
Like the preceding article on Lachenmann's NUN, mine is a recounting of my involvement in this long-term project, as well as my history with the composer. It gives some insights into the technical demands and scope of this very large work.
This paper bears on Agostino Di Scipio's work from the years 1987–2000. Early computer-generated pieces like Punti di tempo (1987) and Estensioni (1988) seem to reflect a kind of double artistic individuality. In the first piece, the musical structure is fragmented and the sound micro-structure is split in random particles. In the second (the only piece Di Scipio made with digital additive synthesis methods) both sound and the overall musical structure are worked out in a deeply deterministic way. This dualism returns frequently in Di Scipio's early career: the qualitative exploration of infinitesimal sonic units with related concepts of ‘granular’ sound, and a formalized approach to the musical macrostructure (algorithmic composition) seem to complement each other. In the winter of 1994–1995, Di Scipio started working with real-time signal processing and live electronics. He started investigating space-related phenomena, and to address himself to composing the instruments (i.e. designing the overall performance infrastructure) as a task different from composing for existing instruments, whether these are usual musical instruments or computational tools. In the new orientation, a more comprehensive view of the ‘performance ecosystem’ turned out to be crucial, and it led to important later developments (the Audible Ecosystemics series of live-electronics works). The present paper investigates these early stages in Di Scipio's career. It builds on a variety of sources and archival documents, and emphasizes that the composer's early efforts did not follow a linear path but rather raised issues and implications spreading out fanwise from one specific conceptual knot: the one concerning ‘emergence’ (‘sonological’ and ‘formal’ emergence).
Agostino Di Scipio refers often to system theory and transfers some of its models into his concert pieces, as well as into his installations and, recently, sounding objects. Some of these references are discussed in this paper, along with their musical implementations. In Di Scipio's Audible Ecosystemics series (2002–2005), the concept of emergence is central, meaning the unforeseen arising of higher level properties of a system from lower level processes. In the interactions between the system parts, however, sometimes lack of control creates emergency situations: to cope with the latter, Di Scipio includes self-regulating protection mechanisms in the compositional processes he designs.
This paper offers a survey of my musical collaboration (2010–2013) with Italian composer Agostino Di Scipio on Modes of Interference n.2 (2006), for audio feedback system with saxophone and live-electronics, and builds on my PhD research on participative musical performance on mixed music for saxophones. Di Scipio composes a network of interactions: he does not compose the sounding structure itself of the piece, but rather a set of possibilities for a performer to experiment in sound. All the elements of the piece (such as the live-electronics equipment, the saxophone, and the environment) are mutually connected and influence each other. They constitute a dynamical system, as implemented by the composer. The saxophone is not expected only to produce a variety of noise materials, but also to act both as a control device and as a filter inside an audio feedback loop. This systemic approach requires from the player a new attitude towards the instrument, as well as new manners of listening to and reacting to the sound events emerging in the performance.
This paper discusses the possibility of analysing (in the musical sense of the word) Agostino Di Scipio's ‘audible ecosystems’. The first part is focused on the notion of the audible ecosystem and its theoretical counterpart, the idea of emergent sound structures. With this last idea, higher levels of a musical work (for instance, the macroform itself) appear as an emergence from lower levels. As for the notion of the audible ecosystem—analyzed here through the live electronics solos named Audible Ecosystemics—this is achieved through interaction between the performer, the electronics and the environment. In its second part, the paper tries to define an analytic image of the resultant sounds of the audible ecosystems. To do so, we use the concept of imprint (empreinte in French) as it is analyzed by Georges Didi-Huberman. Then, we go back to musical analysis and argue that a musical analysis of Agostino Di Scipio's audible ecosystems involves an analysis of the relationships between what we have listened to, what we can only imagine and the compositional techniques themselves. Before concluding, the article shows an example of this way of analyzing by taking a sample at random from the piece Audible Ecosystemics 3b.
By exploring Di Scipio's Audible Ecosystemics through the optic of a succession of practical student projects we see that the processes and forces involved in the making can in turn be viewed as an ecosystem. Some key aspects of this revolve around the ways in which technical and social matters interweave in practice—such as negotiating transitions between coding and practising—and how musical identities and design choices can interact. I draw from this the thought that the dynamics of the negotiation between the technical and social are a key aspect of electronic musical craft, but that this topic remains sparsely accounted for in our discourse. I suggest that devising better means of articulating about such negotiations—and about practice more generally—is a way in which practice-led research in this area can contribute usefully to the wider endeavour of musical research.
This article deals with the idea of an emergent self, constituted through a process of self-reference or self-reflexion, in Agostino Di Scipio's series of works entitled Audible Ecosystemics. This paper is not an attempt to reconstruct the composer's intentions, but to formulate an idea of the emergence of subjectivity, and its connection to sound on the basis of the series of works in question. In doing so, the paper heavily relies on G. W. F. Hegel's concept of sound as developed in his Philosophy of nature (1970. London: George Allen and Unwin), which it tries to re-actualise as a resource for thinking contemporary music. Furthermore, the paper points towards the conceptual proximity of Hegel's concept of organic life and contemporary biological concepts of autopoiesis and emergence developed by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, which Di Scipio himself draws upon.
There are some quite remarkable parallels between the structure of the western calendar and the organisation of tonal music. Both are functions of attempts to order the cosmos which demonstrate the heavenly symbolism intrinsic to the most fundamental aspects of earthly existence, so often ignored by contemporary rational and materialist minds.
Whether musical precepts affect our perceptions and priorities in interpreting the heavens, or the other way round, we should learn to acknowledge and cherish this relationship, which is recognised as quite acceptable in the equivalent contexts of non-western cultures. Recognition of such cosmic harmony should revive an essential missing dimension in our musical perceptions, and restore the idea of symbolically recreating heaven on earth.
All music performances are generative to the extent that the actions of performers produce musical sounds, but in this article we focus on performative interaction with generative music in a more compositional sense. In particular we discuss how live coding of music involve the building and management of generative processes. We suggest that the human interaction with generative processes that occurs in live coding provides a unique perspective on the generative music landscape, especially significant is the way in which generative algorithms are represented in code to best afford interaction and modification during performance. We also discuss the features of generative processes that make them more or less suitable for live coding performances. We situate live coding practice within historical and theoretical contexts and ground the discussion with regular reference to our experiences performing in the live coding duo aa-cell.
This author outlines the approach taken in a series of live-electronics works whose title is Modes of Interference, and describes more particularly the third work in the series, a sound installation using three or more electric guitars, amplifiers and computer. This installation implements a feedback network of sonic interactions structurally coupled with the surrounding environment, developing a kind of autonomous (i.e. self-regulating) and dynamical sound-generating system. However, it also bears on the electric guitar as a cultural object of strong iconic status, and more particularly on the electric guitar sonorities and their role in the rhetorics of rock music. The work is thus described as bending a ‘constructivist’ perspective to a more conceptual task of ‘deconstruction’. The author elaborates on the idea that, as a medium of situated embodied cognition, sound allows us to experience the power relationships that lie behind its coming into existence and its articulation in time.
The Flood is a music-theatre work produced by the Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA) (Balodis, J. & Hannan, M. (20042.
Balodis , J. and
Hannan , M. 2004. The flood Unpublished manuscript View all references). The flood. Unpublished manuscript. It combines traditional theatrical elements (in the form of a play script and songs) with experimental elements (soundscapes, experimental instruments, layered image projections, and installations). There is a moving stage that processes through the streets of Lismore (an Australian regional city famous for its floods) and five sites of performance and installation activities along the way. This article examines the collaborative process of creating The Flood. The genesis of the work is discussed and a number of the sonic intermedia segments of the work are analysed and theorised. The Flood involved an intensely interdisciplinary developmental period particularly amongst the core creative team of writer, composer and director. Other collaborative aspects of the projects with a strong interdisciplinary focus were the creation of the soundscapes, the mixing of experimental musical instruments with conventional ones and the creation of intermedia installations.
This article considers adaptations of existing works in contemporary opera. The author considers the role of the libretto in operatic productions, notes the number of film sources for modern operas, and applies adaptation theories from television and film studies to operas such as Owen Wingrave. He considers critical responses to collaborations between composer Harrison Birtwistle and writer David Harsent, discusses Robin Holloway’sadaptation of Richardson’s Clarissa, and focuses on the reworking of The Tempest by composer Thomas Adès and librettist Meredith Oakes. Published (author's copy) Peer Reviewed
In the literature of musicology, computer music research and the psychology of music, timing or tempo measurements are mostly presented in the form of continuous curves. The notion of these tempo curves is dangerous, despite its widespread use, because it lulls its users into the false impression that a continuous concept of temporal flow has an independent existence, a musical or psychological reality, and that time can be perceived independent of events carrying it. But if one bases a transformation or manipulation of timing on the implied characteristics of such a notion, one is doomed to fail.
This paper examines Hans Georg Gadamer's theory of play (as it is presented in Truth and Method) and adapts it to the context of interactive music software. I aim to show that interactive technological environments afford play in ways which, because they relate to truth and selfhood, are cognitively and philosophically significant and are not 'merely' playful.
An issue on generative music in Contemporary Music Review allows space to explore many of these controversies, and to explore the rich algorithmic scene in contemporary practice, as well as the diverse origins and manifestations of such a culture. A roster of interesting exponents from both academic and arts practice backgrounds are involved, matching the broad spectrum of current work. Contributed articles range from generative algorithms in live systems, from live coding to interactive music systems to computer games, through algorithmic modelling of longer-term form, evolutionary algorithms, to interfaces between modalities and mediums, in algorithmic choreography. A retrospective on the intensive experimentation into algorithmic music and sound synthesis at the Institute of Sonology in the 1960s and 70s creates a complementary strand, as well as an open paper on the issues raised by open source, as opposed to proprietary, software and operating systems, with consequences in the creation and archiving of algorithmic work.
Much of Kurtág's mature work reveals a preoccupation with the Word, either as bearer of meaning or as a self-contained unit of sonority. The interest in language is connected with lapidary forms, whose source appears to lie in a spiritual and creative crisis Kurtág underwent in Paris in 1956, hence their frequent connection in his mind with squalor, degradation and self-mortification. The Russian language works appear to feed on this connection in a specifically passionate, theatrical why which yields a greater expressive range than in much of Kurtág's work, while essentially basing themselves on similar ideas and gestures to those of other works of the time.
This paper examines the range of intonation practices on the violin over the last two centuries. There are four types of expressive tuning: harmonic, melodic, corrective and colouristic. The development of musical language has created tension between the concepts of pitch and intonation, and necessitated a reassessment of the value of expressive tuning. The tension between pitch and intonation can be creatively exploited in performance, and examples of performative microtones demonstrate the extent to which musicians have been familiar with microtonality throughout the history. Expressive tuning is also seen as an integral part of violin playing because of its link with the practice of tone production. The tension between pitch and intonation is further investigated in relation to the concept of musical timbre. The consideration of the totality of musical sound leads to an intonational understanding of pitch, followed by an example showing its continuing relevance in the performance practice of new music.
Bernd Wefelmeyer, born in 1940, is a composer, arranger and conductor. He studied composition at the Hanns Eisler College of Music in Berlin with Ruth Zechlin, Wolfram Heicking and Rudolf Wagner-Régeny and worked as a jazz pianist (with Wolf Biermann, Manfred Krug and others). From 1966 to 1972, he was a sound engineer for Berlin Radio. After being dismissed from his radio position, he worked as a freelance composer, conductor and arranger—mainly for stage, film and chorus music, in addition to works for other media. Starting in 1991, Wefelmeyer worked as a professor, first at the Hanns Eisler College of Music and later also at the College of Film in Potsdam-Babelsberg.
Eckard Rödger worked for the radio in Leipzig following his training as a sound engineer. He then worked as sound engineer for the theatre at the Palast der Republik 1 (TiP) in Berlin, where he developed and oversaw concert series of electroacoustic music and was responsible for the production of numerous electroacoustic works. After the fall of the Berlin wall, he received a tenured professorship in sound technology at the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy College for music and theatre in Leipzig. Rödger worked with renowned musicians from both serious and pop music.
This text is a thorough examination of the different approaches to the string quartet in Italy after World War II. Starting from the perspective of the single pieces, the article discusses the features of each author in a more general way. Philosophical and stylistic aspect are considered, with the aim to make clear the main features of the compositional thought.
In this article, we survey the achievement of selected American composers in the genre of the string quartet from 1950 onward. We propose a qualitative assessment of this ‘visible’ repertory from the point of view of neutral yet passionate observers, positioned comfortably ‘outside looking in’. Then, in the closing section of the study, we focus our attention on the lesser-known, ‘hidden’ body of American quartets nonetheless of value.
The author proposes a method of gradually constructing pitch 'crystals' in harmonic space through a simple algorithm where each new pitch is as close as possible to all the pitches already present. Interestingly, the algorithmic growth of these crystals seems to mirror the historical development of pitch resources, including the shift from Pythagorean to just intonation in the sixteenth century. As the crystals continue to grow, they imply the emergence of pitch structures in 'extended just intonation'. [Editor]
Michael von Hintzenstern, born in 1956, took his first class in composition at the age of 14 at the Hochschule für Musik ‘Franz Liszt’ in Weimar. From 1975 to 1984, he studied choral conducting and the organ at the Thüringer Kirchenmusikschule in Eisenach and took additional classes in musicology at the Martin-Luther-Universität in Halle/Saale. Von Hintzenstern received an award at the International Composition Competition in Boswil (Switzerland) in 1976 and thus worked at the Künstlerhaus Boswil from December 1976 to March 1977. In 1980/81, von Hintzenstern established the ‘Ensembles für Intuitive Musik Weimar’, which focused on works by Karlheinz Stockhausen (contact starting in 1970, collaborative practice sessions in 1991 and 2005, CD production Für Kommende Zeiten, sound direction: Karlheinz Stockhausen, 2005). Von Hintzenstern initiated the first ‘Tage Neuer Musik’ in Weimar, which has since been held annually, and established the ‘Unabhängige Vereinigung für Musik der Gegenwart “Klang Projekte Weimar e.V.”’, which organized the Tage Neuer Musik and the concert series ‘Neue Wege Zur Musik—Wege zur Neuen Musik’.
Measured in terms of number of performances, Siegfried Matthus is one of the most successful contemporary German composers and, along with that, one of the few GDR composers who have also made a name for themselves on the other side of the Iron Curtain. This is especially true of his operas. This musician, born in 1934, studied composition with Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, and was later master scholar under Hanns Eisler, at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Starting in 1964, Matthus worked as a dramatic advisor for the Komische Oper Berlin. A member since 1969, he then went on to teach a master class at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, starting in 1972. Matthus has received numerous awards and distinctions. His works cover all music genres and include ‘Galilei’, which was composed for a vocalist, five instruments and electronic sounds and produced in the studio in Berlin-Adlershof, as well as two ballets based, in a broad sense, on electroacoustic music. In the interview, Matthus speaks of these early experiences with electronic music in the GDR.
Lothar Voigtländer, born in 1943, completed conductor and composer studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig following preliminary musical training at the Dresdner Kreuzchor. He completed his master studies under Günter Kochan at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and has established diverse festivals and concert series. In 1984, he was the co-founder of the Gesellschaft für elektro-akustische Musik (Association for Electro-acoustic Music) in the GDR. Since 2001, Voigtländer has worked as a professor for electroacoustic composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Dresden. In 2002/03 he was the manager of the electronic studio there. Voigtländer has completed works in all genres and received numerous awards and distinctions.
Gerhard Steinke, born in 1927, already worked as a sound engineer at the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, 1 beginning in 1947, prior to studying electroacoustics at the TU (Technical University), Dresden (1949–1953). From 1953 to 1990, he worked in various positions for the RFZ 2 of the German post office, in Berlin Adlershof. From 1956 until its close in the mid-1970s, Steinke managed the newly established research lab for inter-disciplinary problems in musical acoustics, 3 in which, if nothing else, the Subharchord, an electronic musical instrument, was developed. Steinke was a member of various international committees in the area of audiotechnology.
Eberhard Kneipel, born in 1939, worked as a musicologist at the University of Jena with a specialization in contemporary music after completing his studies in music education. In 1974, he established the Ferienkurse für zeitgenössische Musik Gera (summer courses for contemporary music). He also worked at the theatre there as head dramatic advisor starting in 1979, and later as theatre manager.