Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 18

December 2008

Contents

Introduction

Articles and Notes

  • Listening to History: Some Proposals for Reclaiming the Practice of Live Music
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    The author explores the vibrant, but often hidden, unorthodox musical culture of Australia, recounting little known movements, events, dates, personalities and Aboriginal traditions. He urges the listener to investigate and value this unique and fecund musical history, and in so doing, find models that are relevant to solving the dilemmas of a declining contemporary music practice. Live music encourages direct interconnectivity among people and with the physical world upon which we rely for our existence; music can be life supporting, and in some situations, as important as life itself. While there is much to learn from the past, digital technology can be utilized as an interface establishing a tactile praxis and enabling musical expression that promotes original content, social connection and environmental context.

  • When Sound Meets Movement: Performance in Electronic Dance Music
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    This article discusses the problem of performance in electronic dance music (EDM), considering its specificity in the use of technically reproduced sound to promote a non-stop dancing experience. Instead of a schizophonic rupture between performer and audience, EDM is seen to perform a transducive mediation between machine sound and human movement.

  • The Musical Experience through the Lens of Embodiment
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    The author addresses the impression that digital media is diminishing the engagement of the body in our musical experience. Combining theories from the disciplines of philosophy and psychology, he constructs a framework for examining the experience of listening to music. A link between research in mirror neurons and the act of perception, as described by Merleau-Ponty, is used to demonstrate the role of embodiment in the listening experience. While acknowledging that hearing and viewing a musical performance do not provide the same musical experience, he aims to demonstrate how our embodied existence ensures the body's engagement in any musical experience.

  • Getting the Hands Dirty
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    “Getting the hands dirty” refers to an approach in which process and performance are inseparably bound. The “performance” begins on the workbench and is extended onto the “stage” through live bricolage. The idea of “dirt” is seen as a critical ingredient in the process of live electronic music, and the term “dirty electronics” is used to describe an increasing focus in electronic music on shared experiences face-to-face, ritual, gesture, touch, social interaction and the exploration of devised instruments. The author concludes that digital technology has merely reinforced the importance of the human body and the physical in live performance.

  • Sound Jewelry
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    The Sound Jewelry concept occurred to co-author Toru Iwatake, a composer, a few years ago. Since then, its realization has become a collaborative project with co-author Takuya Yamauchi, an interaction designer. Sound Jewelry is an evolving project, therefore the actual method of its realization may differ in one way or another with each use, but the essential concept of creating an interactive sound environment using sensing capabilities remains the same.

Artists' Statements

More Articles and Notes

  • Whale Music: Anatomy of an Interspecies Duet
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    The author played clarinet in accompaniment with a singing male humpback whale off the coast of Maui. A sound spectrogram suggests that the whale may have altered his song in response to the clarinet. This observation is consistent with the fact that humpback whales rapidly change their song during breeding season from week to week. A male humpback whale may be able to quickly match new pitched, musical sounds it has never heard before—a result different from those of most humpback whale playback experiments. This experiment suggests that interspecies music-making might be a valuable tool in helping understand the complex communication strategies of humpback whales, as well as in extending our own music making beyond the human realm.

  • Eavesdropping: Network Mediated Performance in Social Space
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    The author describes an Internet-based audio composition and diffusion system, Eavesdropping (2007–2008), designed for public spaces where several computer users are gathered, such as cafés. Compositions are created from abstract mood objects rather than musical structures. A composer uploads a set of audio files to represent the different moods in the composition. During a performance, a server-based Conductor selects audio files from this set to be played at each participant's laptop based on the composition, the number of participants in the room and the time they joined the performance. This project aims to enhance awareness of and connectedness among individual members of an audience at a generative musical performance by encouraging shared experiences.

  • Structure in the Dimension of Liveness and Mediation
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    While technological developments can replace some aspects of live performance, they have also opened a new dimension of musical structure: that of liveness and mediation, which requires live performance in order to be meaningful. Liveness itself can be used and manipulated as a distinct musical element. The author describes these concepts at work in his compositions that explore mediatization as a device of intermedial imitative counterpoint and formal structure.

  • The Hypothesis of Self-Organization for Musical Tuning Systems
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    Musical tuning systems are found in intriguing diversity in human cultures around the world and over the history of human music-making. Traditional justifications for the adoption of such musical systems consider tuning an algorithmic optimization of consonance. However, it is unclear how this can be implemented in a realistic evolutionary process, with no central entity in charge of optimization. Inspired by the methodology of artificial language evolution, the author proposes that tuning systems can emerge as the result of local musical interactions in a population. His computer simulations show that such interactional mechanisms are capable of generating coherent artificial tunings that resemble natural systems, sometimes with a diversity and complexity unaccounted for by previous theoretical justifications.

  • The Biography of the Sample: Notes on the Hidden Contexts of Acousmatic Art
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    Acousmatic sound art production has as its goal a transformation of recognizable recorded sound samples into new relations, effectively hiding the origin of the raw material so as to focus on an experience of pure sound. The author defines the “live” as the “life” from which these samples are pulled, and considers the ways in which the biography of the sample troubles acousmatic art.

  • Glenn Gould, the Vanishing Performer and the Ambivalence of the Studio
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    This article examines Canadian pianist Glenn Gould's turn from performance to the recording studio as a means to realize music's utopian potential. What emerged from these post-performance years was a deep ambivalence engendered by the studio itself: a distinctly compelling vision of the studio as a monastic retreat, a site of total control in music and a technology of self-erasure.

LMJ18 CD Companion: Why Record? Life in the Age of Digital Performance

CD Contributors' Notes

2008 Leonardo and Leonardo Music Journal Author Index

2008 Leonardo Electronic Almanac Author Index

Leonardo Network News