Why

The sound and the shape

11 Feb , 2012  

Patterns’n’sounds from sam price on Vimeo.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly new or challenging about stating the interdependence between sound and form within music. Within the electronic realm we are able to conceptualise sound and realise musical structures with a greater degree of flexibility than was hitherto possible. We can try out an idea with a particular sound and manipulate its envelope / timbre to our heart’s content. If it’s still not happening, we can start over by running the same idea (via MIDI, OSC, Streams – whatever) through a completely different sound and hope we get closer to sonic gold. Has this power been fully exploited? Or have we largely replaced the fear of expansive possibilities with the bland comfort of cliché?
This is a somewhat simplistic thrust I grant. In the pre-electronic era, composers were required to have a thorough knowledge of the instruments they were composing for. A large bank of accumulated cultural & experiential data around the kinesthetic options for a given instrument or set of instruments would presumably free the composer to work more on the content of the piece rather than the style (to borrow the literary metaphor).
If you make music with electronics, one has the fascinating option of making the instrument before starting to create any sound with it.
In terms of learning curve, this is no trivial matter but why would anyone pass up such an opportunity?
My wife’s playing Chopin at the moment. Such an evocative sound. What it evokes for me is nostalgic and a little melancholic. Perhaps part of the sadness is acknowledging that, by creating music the way I do, I am unlikely to achieve the mastery that Chopin consistently displays in his piano literature.
However, I don’t believe enforcing sonic constraint will produce more ‘great’ composers in a way that would achieve wholesale acceptance. The combination of technological advance and the end of the modern project has brought us the music of the future. We share a collective onus to fulfill the promise of technology – there will still be songs but the sounds and forms will change.


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