Archive for extramusical

Bach + Mantione: Extramusical Ideas 4

Posted in Duos, Themes with tags , on September 3, 2012 by glenncbach

Bach: In projecting myself out among the audience and trying to experience the performance as an observer rather than an active participant, I aim to grasp the overall shape and tenor of the soundscape as an image in my mind. Since the soundscape has no discernible edge and is constructed out of infinitely shifting relationships between source and receiver, this process can only fail. Still, for my own curiosity, I assume the role of witness/caretaker of the soundscape with its musical, emotional, social, and psychological impact on the audience, estranged and idiosyncratic as they are.

Mantione: This idea of being a caretaker is interesting.  It assumes there is a sort of sonic being that exists on its own but needs some sort of “protection” to remain valid.  I view the soundscape as a collaborator with regards to sound art or in a more general sense, music.  Left on its own it doesn’t need me and is beautiful nonetheless. I impose my sonic presence on it…and feel some sort of responsibility that stems from a general respect and admiration of sound.

For me, this hyper awareness of the soundscape-as-entity, multi-faceted and ever shifting, is one of the extramusical threads I’m currently exploring. The other is the idea of ‘critical distance.’ When we talk about a particular sound and its reverberation in a space, the critical distance is the point at which the level of the direct sound is equal to the level of its own reverb (from the point of view of the listener). Applying (bastardizing) that idea to the live improvisation, I’m interested in the precise moment when the sounds generated by my performance approach the level of existing ambience or room tone of the space itself. Often this is very, very quiet. It’s safe to call it the threshold of audibility. This type of inquiry happens primarily in my solo work and with my most recent collaborations: qqq and SCSE. With the Qs, the three of us share an interest in very quiet and very subtle alterations of the existing ‘noise floor.’ With SCSE, the hovering at the threshold is only possible because of our individualized amplification spread out through a space.

Critical distance is all about the dominance (in the sense of intensity) of one sound over another.  To me this is an idea of balance, hovering back and forth over the line.  It’s the essence of the ensemble, as distinct voices emerge and subsequently recede into the texture.  It’s really like a conversation isn’t it?

Is my interest in finding and activating these very quiet relationships extramusical or simply a technical nuance of the performance? Am I interested in these phenomena because I notice how profoundly they impact my participation in the ongoing improvisation?

I can understand your emphasis on the quiet.  It’s like leaving headroom for the occasional scream or outburst, which would be swallowed in a more intense setting. I can imagine in a live setting this can work well.  But how does this translate to a recording situation.  What is the perceived loudness of such a recording.  Since the listener now has the capability to increase the overall level substantially, how does this affect the work?  What to do with Peak levels, RMS levels, and perceived loudness levels in the digital realm? Or does the recording even matter?

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Bach + Mantione: Extramusical 3

Posted in Duos, Themes with tags , , , , on June 24, 2012 by glenncbach

Philip Mantione wrote:

But when you “toggle back to the point of view of the audience” aren’t you really still hearing from your own perspective.  How can it be any other way?  How can you group an audience together and conceive of some consensual experience they are having?  And even if you could, how would you determine the difference between that and your own?

Yes, I will always hear from my own perspective, as we all do. And the fact that there can be no agreed upon consensual experience doesn’t mean that there isn’t an experience going on that is more than the sum of the individual parts.

In projecting myself out among the audience and trying to experience the performance as an observer rather than an active participant, I aim to grasp the overall shape and tenor of the soundscape as an image in my mind. Since the soundscape has no discernible edge and is constructed out of infinitely shifting relationships between source and receiver, this process can only fail. Still, for my own curiosity, I assume the role of witness/caretaker of the soundscape with its musical, emotional, social, and psychological impact on the audience, estranged and idiosyncratic as they are.

For me, this hyper awareness of the soundscape-as-entity, multi-faceted and ever shifting, is one of the extramusical threads I’m currently exploring. The other is the idea of ‘critical distance.’ When we talk about a particular sound and its reverberation in a space, the critical distance is the point at which the level of the direct sound is equal to the level of its own reverb (from the point of view of the listener). Applying (bastardizing) that idea to the live improvisation, I’m interested in the precise moment when the sounds generated by my performance approach the level of existing ambience or room tone of the space itself. Often this is very, very quiet. It’s safe to call it the threshold of audibility. This type of inquiry happens primarily in my solo work and with my most recent collaborations: qqq and SCSE. With the Qs, the three of us share an interest in very quiet and very subtle alterations of the existing ‘noise floor.’ With SCSE, the hovering at the threshold is only possible because of our individualized amplification spread out through a space.

Is my interest in finding and activating these very quiet relationships extramusical or simply a technical nuance of the performance? Am I interested in these phenomena because I notice how profoundly they impact my participation in the ongoing improvisation?

Maybe I’ll just call it Slow Sound and leave it at that…

 

Bach + Mantione: Extramusical 2

Posted in Duos, Themes with tags , , on May 25, 2012 by glenncbach

24 May 2012

Hi Glenn,

A few responses below:

 

I’ve been thinking about our talk, especially your reflections on extramusical ideas. I don’t know if its possible, at least for me, to avoid having extramusical connections or threads. When I say sound for sound’s sake, that’s a listening thing, and, like you said, a given. When I make music, either live or in the studio, it may not necessarily be about something, but it’s always with something.

Let me clarify what I meant about the extramusical and why I find the issue of such relevance.  I’m going to quote Seth Kim-Cohen from his book because he puts it very succinctly:

Music has always functioned according to Greenbergian precepts.  As a practice, music is positively obsessed with its media specificity.  Only music includes, as part of its discursive vocabulary, a term for the foreign matter threatening always to infect it: ‘extramusical.’ Even at the height of modernism, painters did not have a name for extrapainterly elements; filmmakers do not worry about the extracinematic. But in music as an academic, artistic, and performance discipline, there is a perceived need to identify–often to eliminate–aspects of production, reception, or discussion that are not specifically manifest in material form. (In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-cochlear Sonic Art, pp.39-40)

You’ve said you doubt the possibility of being able to avoid having extramusical connections or threads. I don’t think it is possible.  My point is that this idea of avoidance is a modernist perspective that was played out in the visual arts long ago, and yet it still seems to persist in music.  It should really be a non-issue.

I had a conversation with a young composer last weekend (by young I mean 30 something) who was adamant that music should be purely about the beauty of sound…that that’s all that is required or necessary.  My question is: is that all that’s possible and if other avenues exist why not explore them as well? Must there be this insulated environment?  Does the inclusion of ‘extramusical’ ideas make the beauty of sound less beautiful?

I find it interesting that music, one of the few social art forms, has so often chosen to ignore social issues. New music composers have no problem addressing and/or changing the listener’s sensory perceptions or their sense of time…but is that all there is?

I ask the question: Do we have any responsibility as artists beyond appealing to the senses (the listener’s and more importantly, our own)?  It’s funny that music as entertainment (Pop music for instance) is looked down on by many experimental composers as commodified drivel (which in many cases might be true), but many Pop artists have created and encouraged real social change for the better through their music.  The same cannot be said for new music composers, at least not to the same degree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to enforce my judgment on any other artist.  Nor would I want to lock myself into one way of approaching music.  I’m simply looking inward and trying to reconcile an internal conflict that has both fueled and haunted my work for several years.

 

Whenever I’m in a live moment, I always try to remind myself to toggle back to the point of view of the audience, hearing it as they hear it. In a sense I take on the responsibility of the overall soundscape, whether or not it’s mine to take, and I invest in its care and quality of life. So, there’s that goal of contributing a worthy addition to the preexisting collection of soundscapes in the world.

But when you “toggle back to the point of view of the audience” aren’t you really still hearing from your own perspective?  How can it be any other way?  How can you group an audience together and conceive of some consensual experience they are having?  And even if you could, how would you determine the difference between that and your own?

 

So, part of it for me is spelunking deep and wide into the performance to see if there is an opportunity to showcase and celebrate those intense moments of group-mind and audience connection. Is that visionary? Ecstatic? If there is such a thing as a humble and quiet ecstasy, then, yes.

I have experienced this quiet ecstasy…I know what you mean.  It’s magical and addictive, as much as it is rare. Looking forward to achieving some of these moments together, as soon as we find our third collaborator.

Phil

Bach + Mantione: Extramusical Ideas

Posted in Duos, Themes with tags , , on May 23, 2012 by glenncbach

e-mail to Phil, 22 May 2012

I’ve been thinking about our talk, especially your reflections on extramusical ideas. I don’t know if its possible, at least for me, to avoid having extramusical connections or threads. When I say sound for sound’s sake, that’s a listening thing, and, like you said, a given. Music is different. When I make music, either live or in the studio, it may not necessarily be about something, but it’s always with something.

In any case, it’s never a purely musical expression. Often it’s about space, perception, context and re-context, real and artificial. There is the idea of linear continuity we discussed earlier.

Whenever I’m in a live moment, I always try to remind myself to toggle back to the point of view of the audience, hearing the music as they hear it. In a sense I take on the responsibility of the overall soundscape, whether or not it’s mine to take, and I invest in its care and quality of life. So, there’s that goal of contributing a worthy addition to the preexisting collection of soundscapes in the world.

And, I think there will always be a small element of disbelief that I’m actually engaged in the process of making music or improvising with other musicians. Not that I think that I’m getting away with anything, but that I have an outlet for my particular method of selecting and presenting sounds and that my sensibility and vision have coincided so well with a community of like-minded musicians. So, part of it for me is spelunking deep and wide into the performance to showcase and celebrate those few intense moments of group-mind and audience connection. Is that visionary? Ecstatic? If there is such a thing as a humble and quiet ecstasy, then, yes.

G.