How

Determinance

20 Feb , 2012  

Chance from sam price on Vimeo.

Building expectation and then playing with same seems to be a large part of this music thing.
Much of the music I enjoy has an open or freewheeling character, introduced by compositional choices that aren’t employed for purely functional reasons. Such choices are particularly effective as we move away from music that explores traditional harmony with its innate tensions and releases and into the realms of rhythm and timbre (I’m referring to instrumental music here – lyrics bring language’s unceasing semantics to the party).
Whether these musical curve balls happen in an improvisation, are digitally generated or invoked by some other process is, to the listener, largely an irrelevance. Not so the producer of music, who gains access to a wealth of new material by learning how to manipulate the logic of generative systems.
Tools like SuperCollider allow a very fine degree of control over the methods for introducing something other than explicit outcomes into patterns / phrases / sounds. It’s the best reason I can think of for enduring the learning curve.
The degree to which one employs pseudo-randomness within a particular piece is a matter of aesthetic choice. As such, it falls within the realm of taste, outside of the technically rigorous means one can employ in its implementation.
In improvisatory settings, negotiating how to make music with pseudo-random generative processes can take you to some amazing places.
In a more considered, compositional process, we have the luxury of being able to edit the output of any random process that we bind to our compositional system. For me, the difficulty here is molding the output within the framework of the whole or the form but not losing that which made it interesting enough for you to use in the first place. I believe that if I have to micro-edit a pseudo-random generated pattern then I hadn’t specified the correct arguments / constraint in its initial construction (or I’m trying to combine ideas that perhaps should form separate pieces).
It has occurred to me that this last stage of consideration and editing really differentiates the usage of generated material from appropriating or sampling other’s recordings:
Edit a generated pattern and it is no longer follows the logic of its parent process and, once that pattern drives a sound, it is further removed from its abstract heritage. By contrast, cut up ‘Funky Drummer’ all you like and you’ve still nicked Clyde Stubblefield’s sound (and the mic placement / mixing chops / mastering engineer’s ears etc).
Similarly, if you’re becoming less comfortable with copy/pasting loops, you need to get into this stuff; abandon the control illusion and let Fortuna augment your practice.


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