Thursday, September 29, 2005
HAL: I am sorry, Dave. I am afraid.
PART ONE – IT’S ALIVE! (tip o’ the hat to Steve Layton)
Why are people so quick to dismiss electronic music as not “human?” Are acoustic instruments “human?” I listen to a lot of electronic music, and there is plenty of bad electronic music out there (especially at the Hotel Cadillac), but there is also plenty of great electronic music – music generated by humans via computers and electronic instruments. I sometimes worry that people who make proclamations about electronic music simply don’t have a wide range of experience with it. You wouldn’t base your opinion of the viola on only a few performers’ or composers’ use of it, would you? So if you’re doing that with electronic music, please stop (I'm not accusing anyone; I'm just saying...)
There is plenty of very dramatic, moving, sentimental, emotional, and heartbreaking electronic music out there, if that’s what is meant by “human.”
PART TWO – ELECTRONIC EVOLVES TO ACOUSTIC?
When composers first started using electronics, they’d utilize sounds that were completely foreign to many listeners. John Cage predicted that electronic sound-making would eventually be used primarily to replicate acoustic sounds. In some ways, it is sad that his prediction is panning out.
It goes without saying that creating sound electronically opens up possibilities that are not available with acoustic instruments. You can create new sounds from scratch. You can alter recorded acoustic sounds in thoroughly un-acoustic ways. You can adjust virtually any parameter of a sound with as high (or low) a degree of precision as you choose. I am interested in the differences between electronic and acoustic sounds. I appreciate and enjoy the inadequacy of the synthesized cello that doesn’t sound like a real cello. I hope there will always be a place for the triangle waves and oscillators and distortion generators and all of their robot cousins. I am not particularly looking forward to the electronic re-invention of acoustic instruments.