[Note: Philip Fried is a composer mentioned before on S21; I've known him forever as a long-time commenter over at NewMusicBox, and as composer-in-residence for Minnesota's Opera Bob. Phil had a bit of a brain-worm spinning around in his head, and asked if he could share this thought over here at our forum.]
Bear with me. Stockhausen created an opera, part of which requires an instrumental performance in moving helicopters. I saw this on video. John Cage creates a work where the player doesn’t ‘play’ in the traditional musical sense, but turns a page in time. (It would be easy to say that this is simply a theater piece for a musician to perform, Mr. Cage was a theater composer after all.) Recent European music plays a lot with timbral similarity and disparity. In the vocal realm an opera can have editorial that can’t be perceived from hearing the work. Sound artists create works that are site specific.
These works have a similarity; in effect they are creating new instruments. That is, the instruments are not playing music so much as the “music” creates a singular and unique instrument. Sometimes it’s a disposable, one-performance-only work. Other times it’s features are reusable. The laptop is not the instrument itself, rather it is part of a larger exploration of time, space, and event. A part of many.
A performance in a moving helicopter implies that the moving space itself is part of a site specific instrument. Is the video a useful recreation or not?
Naturally all musical ensembles and performing abilities — chamber music, grand opera, solo piano, recital — have their particular time and place to perform. Then where and in what context might beginners, advanced, students and professionals in these different styles perform? Strictly speaking these rules are no longer the case. The space can become part of the work.
An orchestra has long been considered an instrument with many performers; so too are bands and many other instrumental configurations. The creation of “super instruments” — that is, joining several similar or different acoustic/electric instruments into a single formation or unit that act as one instrument (that is mostly rhythmic or gestural unison) — is quite popular especially in Europe, combining an instrument with a voice or voices, or electronics as a single formation. Or the melody, the obbligato, and the accompaniment act as one multifarious singularity. All kinds of composers and sound artists are creating sounds and music that explore and develop these new solo and multi-player instruments.
It seems to me that post-modernism is focused on music that creates new instruments, rather than in modernism which used instruments to create new music. If that makes any sense… Thoughts?