Sunday, May 3, 2009

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Oral Traditions and the Digital Arts

Music descended from European traditions is inherently encoded with
aesthetic and other determinants. I'll let others speak about musical
traditions in other parts of the world. At the core of European
standard practice traditions is a musical score, which includes
information only sufficient to tell you what note to play and for how
long (timbre is limited to choices from a fixed set of instruments);
MIDI hardware and software is note-based (rather than sound based)
and keyboard in its orientation - like the piano, which is a grid of
fixed pitches without anything in between them, and thus highly
quantized. More generally, much (most?) off-the-shelf music software
is constructed around design "features" which are also pretty
determinant aesthetically - loop-based software is designed to
privilege samples and loops. This is great news for opening music
making to anybody in a way that hasn't been the case for a while, but
not great news for people who wish to create on a more in depth
creative plane.

On the flip side, the history of live electronic music has largely
been one of idiosyncratic home-designed instruments, such that a
composition includes composing not only musical contents or other
guides, but also the instrument - hardware and software - for which
there are few standards. There are few traditions to inherit, since
instruments keep changing (unlike, for instance, a violin, which took
its present shape after hundreds of years of development and
performance practice). With the exception of some of the emerging
programming environments, like Max/MSP/Jitter, most of what we have
is oral in tradition and pretty individualistic in practice, with
certain theoretical models and bits of computer code that are passed

- Bob Gluck
Robert J. Gluck

Associate Professor of Music and Director, Electronic Music Studios
Affiliate Faculty, Department of Judaic Studies
Associate Director, Publications: Electronic Music Foundation

University at Albany
PAC 312
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222


"Some I know, the cawing crow and three pulsed dove that sounds a coo
nothing like a baby's. Others I cannot name: trill-like-insect
sibilant-song and a gullet-throbbing call forced out by the staccato
notes that follow. It all comes together like a symphony. the passing
cars, notes with flags. counterpoint to the birds." (Susan
Robertson, 'Morning Prayers')
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