open space

Some years back I stumbled across The Open Space website, a creation of Perspectives of New Music stalwart Benjamin Boretz. PoNM was one of those forbidding obstacles every composition student of the 60s, 70s and 80s had to traverse and come to terms with; a journal more like a fair-sized paperback book, seemingly filled with discussions of Babbitt, Boulez, Webern, Carter, terrifyingly dense theories of pitch-class, set theory & etc. — many of us felt like we budding composers were suddenly expected to be quantum physicists rather than simply artists… Yet tucked into many issues might also be some nugget from the likes of Roger Reynolds or J.K. Randall, that read more like pure poetry; conceptual play that seemed light-years removed from the normal run of PoNM article.

Being up there on the masthead most of the journal’s life, Boretz’s name seemed to put him firmly in the “uptown theory” group. But what our young eyes couldn’t see for the forest was that his influence was one of the main reasons those other, more intuitive and free-form articles were studded amongst the hard theory. Boretz the artist has always nurtured a deep interest in a more purely “humanistic” brand of musical thinking and creation, which only became more pronounced as the years have passed.

As a more personal outlet for these interests Boretz, along with fellow composers J.K Randall and Elaine Barkin, in 1999 began The Open Space. Not only to get their own works to a wider audience, but to offer a diverse group of contributors a place and publication to run parallel or even counter to the standard PoNM fare. A glance through the contents of current and back issues of The Open Space Magazine will show a nicely bewildering variety of both contributors and subjects.

While The Open Space has had a web presence for ten years, it’s really been an afterthought to the physical magazine, CDs & etc.  But that’s changing starting now: composer Dean Rosenthal is taking over the helm of  the semi-languishing The Open Space Webmagazine, a fully online and independent branch of the larger Open Space. In Dean’s own words, the webmagazine will be “devoted to interaction and community that extends the breadth and reach of our print journal. The web magazine is a forum for actualizing content like interactive web art, experimental video, articles including audio, video, or other supplements, and related endeavors to encourage a multivalent culture that is possible only beyond print.”

The call for submissions is out; to learn more you only need to e-mail Dean ( with your idea or to receive more information.

One thought on “Meeting in the Open (web) Space”
  1. Many of us felt like we budding composers were suddenly expected to be quantum physicists rather than simply artists…

    Quantum physics? Dianetics provides the appropriate analogy here, not quantum theory.

    Quantum theory derives from experiment and bases itself on observed reality. The numerological gibberish in PNM systematically contradicts every known scientific fact about the human ear/brain system and contravenes all the massed scientific literature about human cognition published in peer-reviewed journals.

    More than 50 years of psychoacoustic and cognitive science findings published in the peer reviewed scientific literature converge on conclusions which thoroughly debunk the antimusical numerology published in PNM. Articles like “The Magic Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two: Some Limits On Our Capacity For Processing Information,” George Miller, Psychological Review, Vol. 63, No. 2, 1956, pp. 81-97, “Tonal Consonance and Critical Bandwidth,” by R. Plomp and W. J. M. Levelt, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 38, 1965, pp. 548-560, and “Perceiving the Numerosity of Rapidly Occurring Auditory Events in Metrical and Nonmetrical Contexts,” Perception and Pyschophysics, Vol. 69, No. 4,, 2007, pp. 529-543 assure us that the so-called “music theory” published in PNM consistently contradicts the observed reality of human cognition and the known properties of the human ear/brain system.

    The crowning irony?

    At the start, PNM itself began by debunking this kind of vacuous numerology. The acoustician and physicist John Backus published an essay in the inaugural issue of PNM in 1963 debunking the pseudoscience of the Darmstadt crew. Now, 45 years later, PNM has drowned in the same swamp of incoherent pseuodoscience.

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