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received from chris brown on aug 16 1995 copyright 813w

STATE OF THE ART MANIFESTO [1994]

poetry atrophies when it strays too far from music, music atrophies when it strays too far from dance

what is the social function of electronic music? what kind of socializing does it infer? where do we hear it, and what else are we doing when we're listening to it? who is it for, who listens to it?

is electronic music a style, or an instrumentation? if it is more than one style or school, how many styles does it include? do each of these styles have their own, mutually exclusive audience?

electronic music in its infancy was part of a vision of progress, realizing the dream that composers could create music directly, without performers to get in their way - this was part of the belief that science/technology would solve all of our problems without creating any new ones - now that this idea has been (at the very least) called into question, do we still believe that getting rid of performers is desirable, and if not, what are we as electronic composers doing to prevent that from happening - or will electronics and sound be a cure for the problem of music?

i have always been more interested in electronic music because it encourages instrument building more than because it liberates composers from instruments - but the instruments and the medium grow further and further away from physical interface -experimental instruments with new ways of interfacing to the body and to gestures come and go, and with the exception of the synthesizer, which extends the gestural language of the organ, none have stuck around enough to have developed a physical syntax that would make them interesting to watch while also allowing a deep enough level of control that they function well as musical instruments - one problem is that the genie is always changing shape, and is attached to an economic system that insists on constant change, so we don't have enough time to develop a physical language for it - another inherent problem is that they all seem to be based on the principal of amplifying tiny amounts of physical motion, whereas for acoustic instruments, a large part of their attraction has to do with the combination of subtle controls and the integration of larger motions of the body - we like to play the trumpet, or the flute, or the piano in part because of the physical challenge it brings, because of the way it integrates body and mind -

both of these problems for electronic music point to the nature of the medium: it is ethereal, therefore always changing shape, about controlling the flow of something we can neither see nor feel - it's a head-trip, the ultimate (so far) expression of that culturally explosive Western idea since the Renaissance of putting our faith in the head, reason, which is identified with mind - a head without a body, an immortal being, let's say a composer, whose life will be forever preserved as the data of her music on a compact disc - and thus, a life out of balance with nature

we don't need to abandon our finely developed head-life, just to work at integrating it with a body life, which we can still find in those objects and people around us that make sounds and move in space - our electronic structures can free themselves from our bodies, we won't need to strap them on, or bind ourselves to them - instead of trying to use them to allow us more and more control over the musical universe, to feed our fantasies of being god-masters, we can release them to become participants in our musical practices, free-floating abstractions that through their responsiveness what we do can transcend the artificiality of their intelligences - they can allow us to see the workings of our own minds, because they are our mirrors, but multi-dimensional ones that include the growth and decay of structures over time

to bring myself back down to earth, i'm starting to make pieces in which the interactive medium is the sound itself - my software is still very stupid about recognizing musical languages in general, but if i train it in advance to look for a few particulars that characterize specific pieces, and to use what it doesn't perceive as a signal in other interesting ways of its own, as sort of a random-number generator that actually is determined by the micro-surface of my own sounds, i am already enjoying the process - i'm also enjoying playing those acoustic instruments again that i had gotten bored with and abandoned - and i want to make a drum-machine that really does sound good, that can play with rubato, and that can groove without sounding like a loop - and both the I and the O aspects of this pursuit should keep me happily hacking well into the future


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