Wednesday, October 04, 2006

anti-noiseless music manifesto

What needs being done in computer and electronic music?

A deep and pervasive fracturing of the frozen crystal in the time-space continuum called serious, classical, or high brow music. A cataclysmic indecision must invade the musical landscape and install the new music. The king of the territory, the pop sensation and the sedate champion of outmoded forms, will challenge and resist. But the new music will follow a hidden river of inevitabilities.

The deconstruction of melody, rhythm, and other moldy archaic qualities must be done in such a manner that the audience is both unprepared and underwhelmed. "Yawn", they think as you make something whistle, click, or clang, with phase-shifted precision, bass-boosted short-circuit static, and prolific pitch-slidden singularity. "Another bug on the windshield."

But is it purely head-snap, trance-breaking, spell-canceling, auto-hypnosis ruining music? Is the dark and messy architecture of a CompuMusik noise concerto, is its primary value to be found in its disruptivity?

A melodic dirge is slogging along, minding its own business, developing highly refined nuances, when suddenly, rudely, disturbingly, a "non-congruent noise" appears, popping up like a guerilla sound soldier, emerging instantaneously clothed in part camouflage, part inevitability.

This annoying, loud, and unpleasant sound event seems to have a single goal: while being of some independent virtue in itself, massively interrupt the soothing pleasure of the otherwise melodic rhythmic aural nirvana.

Computer music which flows mindlessly, relaxingly, hypnotically, as any old classical music, or in the extreme form of the Minimalist or Easy-Chordism school of wanker trance music, often called "New Age". "World", "Ambient House", "Techno", "Chill Out", or "Dumb-Downed Subconscious Tantric Mantra" music, where the gradual chord changes are sluggish and slow and suspicious, this must stop.

STOP swaying under the persuasion of its nihilistic seduction. Wake up and smell the coffin.

Being "trained in the classical [or popular, or modern, or romantic, etc.] tradition" must be persecuted as a musical crime, a crime against the anarchy and selfless center of music, as it exists without human contamination.

We can actually train or manually induce our computer audio editing programs to generate and manipulate a variety of timbre, pitch, and other sound characteristics, in a formalized mathematics or an intuitive improvisation. Either way, structured or surprising, the new musics are born.

No longer can audiences consent to being tranquilized and turned to mental mush, by the thoroughly anti-human, dysfunctionally "correct", alien construction of noiseless music.

Music can be enticed to break its own rules, which are not "its" rules at all, but are what some soggy theoretician imposed upon those seeking one right way, which is easier to learn than a million interesting ways.

The natural condition is what we must be in harmony with, and the natural condition of "music" is: stochastic complexity.

Stochastic, as refined by Greek avant garde music composer Iannis Xenakis, is the seemingly random but mathematically patterned sound event, such as raindrops on a tin roof, or the mixture of cicadas, crickets, highway traffic, dogs barking, and neighbors talking.

In the midst of natural orchestrations of sound, there are disruptive events, a gunshot, an ambulence siren, a motorcycle, a baby crying, a clap of thunder, a squeal of tires, a knock on the door, a telephone ring, a slamming door.

In harmony with the natural context of sound, noise music persists.

Noiseless, predictable, formulaic musical mediocrity will no longer be tolerated.


(1) Iannis Xenakis, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, Balint Andras Varga (Faber & Faber, London 1996), p. 50: "Composition, action are nothing but a struggle for existence. To be. If, however, I imitate the past, I do nothing, and consequently I am not. In other words, I am sure that I exist only if I do something different. The difference is the proof of existence, of knowledge, of participation in the affairs of the world."

(2) ibid, p. 62: "Too much music is nice....I don't think music ought to be pleasant all the time. Profound music is never like that. Sometimes, perhaps, but most of the time it is fearsome. No really great music is tender."

(3) ibid, p. 64: "The aim is to make the sound itself live. There are different ways of doing that: we change the timbre, employ tremelos and accents, repeat the sound and change dynamics....In this way, the inner life of the sound is not only in the general line of the composition, of the thought, but is also within the tiniest details."

(4) ibid, p. 41,42: "In 1962 it was the first time I had done a computer program for instrumental compositions and the first concert financed by IBM....I was the first to compose absolute music with a computer, free of tradition and contemporary trends."

(5) ibid, p. "Pierre Schaeffer...invented musique concrete....He did try to influence us with his strange mystical ideas -- his behavior was often destructive. He regarded himself as a disciple of a self-styled Greek philosopher from Tashkent, Gurdjieff, like Katherine Mansfield, whose suicide may have been committed under his influence. I also met others who came under Gurdjieff's spell. It was bizarre company, advocating introspection, but in fact spreading self-destructive ideas. Schaeffer also had a damaging effect, on himself and others around, but there was a progressive aspect to his activities as well."

(6) ibid, p. 213: "I made decisions in the past because I thought at the time they were necessary....This is again something you can't control: whether something is worthwhile or not. You must nevertheless go on working. This lack of stability is in fact one of the interesting aspects of composing."

(7) ibid, p. 48: "The big splinter destroyed my cheekbone...One eye was lost...I kept falling...For years I was unable to guage distances with the one eye I had left. All that has led to the fact that I don't live in reality. It's as if I'm in a well. Because of my weakened senses, I can't immediately grasp the surrounding world. I think that's why my brain has turned more and more towards abstract thinking."


jecklin said...

Are you familiar with Ralph Lichtensteiger?

I think he may fit...regardless I find him interesting.

Provacative Manifesto. I don't think the sound event need necessarily be unpleasant, loud and annoying. Whimsical and light can be effective, too. I'm thinking of something highly structured and planned, but undercover of chance, or like bumping into a table while walking through a dark room.

I know very little about this kind of music, but to me a great deal of it seems stuck in 60's and 70's intellectualism. which was/is cool, but doing it now is boring. so you're right--unprepared and underwhelmed. this is similar to my thinking regarding stories.

steven edward streight said...

Jecklin: email me and I'll tell you how to make a URL a hot link in a blog post.

I will check out Ralph L.

My Odeo podcast transmissions of my own CompuMusik material is of very low quality, compared to the WAV format CDs, which have a massive sound dimension and impact, recorded loud.

But broadcasting, or netcasting, ones own computer or electronic music is a good idea.

I mean "unexpected" when I say "unpleasant". Not abrasive or hatefully shrill.

Techno is boring. Classical is boring. New Age is boring. Noise Music is exciting, and I never get tired of the works of Morton Subotnick, Vladimir Ussachevsky ("Film Music" CD), Pierre Henry/Pierre Schaeffer, Iannis Xenakis, Edgard Varese, Alvin Curran, Lt. Caramel, Tod Dockstader, Caroliner Rainbow, Canadian Electroacoustic Community, etc.