Wednesday, October 25, 2006

rough notes for the End of Music


[[[preliminary sketch for a treatise on the Destructive Death of Music]]]

We've had our fill of the mush called "music". The RIAA, the music industry, hard working bands that play in nightclubs, classical music stations that refuse to play avant garde composers, rock stars with filthy habits, rappers who hate women and police, the musical groups who hype themselves on MySpace, but rarely offer any free mp3s so you Can Hear What They Sound Like, all this stupidity and vanity is old fashioned, outmoded nonsense.

We'd rather hear science fiction sounds, the roar of other worlds, alien tones, remote realms of sound, than whistle while we work. Melodies, rhythms, and lyrics only distract us from our computer tasks.

It's time to move on and emancipate sonic reality from the shackles of impoverished ancient notions. Welcome to the Funeral of Music, the death of melody and rhythm, the emergence of ambient sludge, thuds, and cracklings.

From the pitch proportions of Pythagoras (515 BC) and the Pindar odes (500 BC), Aristoxenus's Harmonics and Elements (360 BC), Delphic hymns, strophic dithyrambs, through-composed monodies, tetrachords with conjunct or disjunct scale patterns, Claudius Ptolemy's treatise on Harmonics (2nd century AD), then into the Medieval modal scales, polyphony vs. heterophony vs. magadizing, into counterpoint and isorhythm and coloration (red note deviants of normal values), rhythmic palindromes, villanellas and madrigals, canzonettas and balletos, quodlibet, just intonation (pure fifths and thirds), all the way through classicism and romanticisms, to cakewalk and ragtime, tone clusters and indeterminancy, serialism, atonal/pantonal, dodecaphony...

...all this mess that culminates in the Revolution of Sound Set Free From the Tyrannical Constraints of "Musical Theory", which is based on expression of libido and mindless adherence to tradition.

The radical shift, the complete break with the past, was incited by (1) the wire recorder of Vladimir Poulsen (telagraphone) in 1898 which evolved into flat steel bands, then (2) the magnetic tape recorder of 1935.

The first non-traditional music, music made without any musical instruments, was really more "living sound" (Pierre Schaeffer) than "formalized music" (Mozart, Stravinsky, Ives, Bernstein), as discoverable in music concrete, the tape recording and looping of natural organic sounds, then manipulating, cutting, splicing, reversing, compressing, pitch shifting, speeding up, slowing down, reverberating, etc. the sound path modules existing on mag tape.

Composers trained in classical constraints suddenly blasted off into outer space.

Ring modulators, Theremins, Daphne Oram's light pattern sound generations (later to be used in film music recordings), the catgut string synthesizers of Oskar Sala (used in Hitchcock's The Birds film), Moogs, Buchla voltage-controlled systems, Fourier-synthesis, vocoders, wah wah pedals, envelope filters, analog delays, Korg workstations, and Fairlights.

The ultimate occured in the 1960s and early 70s with direct mind-to-machine electrode tone generation that translated the electronic brain waves into sonic patterns, thus leading eventually to my oneiric innovation: the Dream Record and Playback System (DRaPS).

So music is at last free to flourish as sound, as audio output, rarefied air, free from the constraints of past formulations and restrictions.

Now, with audio editors like SourceForge Audacity, we can prescribe exact atomic units of sonic material, visualize the wave forms, manicure the throbbings, shape the sine waves, filter specific contours of sound, cut and paste sonic path chunks and sequester them in any way we please, besides letting computers output sounds from precise mathematical algorithms and formulas, as in the stochastic explorations of Iannis Xenakis.

From amoebas splitting to galaxies colliding, the total universe of noise.

Music, as understood by the ancients, is now gone, dead, over.

Noise, sound, and audio, these are the new realities.

2 comments:

Jecklin said...

Yeah, but does it sound any good? ha!

Steven, I love it when you manifesto.

Mark said...

This may seem like an obscure reference, but this reminds me of an episode of "Salute Your Shorts" (old Nickelodeon show), in which Sponge, the resident nerd, informs his friends that in the future, music will be composed by and listened to by computers. To which his friend replies, "Music that we can't even listen to? That's ridiculous."

I'm not doing the script justice, but it's worth looking up, even if it does seem a bit juvenile.

My question to you would be, isn't it up to musicians to stave off all of this "technology", and create music without the aid of any sort of technological innovation, whether its standard notation, digital mixers, effects pedals, etc?

To resist the temptation of convenience, I think is the true musician's form.

Forgive my having a myspace account. I was young and stupid once.