Monday, January 11, 2010


from technically proficient at making conventional music with conventional making music with raw and processed sound: the integration of both within an intentionally expressive context.

To eventually cover as many ways of producing sound as there are; to play instruments from each type, and in each way possible on that type; to finding new sounds from unconventional sources, to be used in all ways- textural, melodic and rythmic.

To be conversant with, and expressive in, as wide a range of styles as is truthful to my taste (no sellouts). From conscious pre-structure to "free form" expression.

To understand and be expressive in both electronic and acoustic methods of producing sound and music.

From boldness and even harshness to subtlety and mix these in ways still furthering both, to multiple levels.

To explore and become capable of intelligently using a range of ranges: old forms/new forms, short pieces and long pieces, quickness and slowness, spareness and lushness, forms and textures both coarse and refined. To be able to turn from one extreme to the next if desirable, and do so seamlessly; and to know how and when to use the range anywhere in between.

A harmony of elements, a rich education and hopefully a richer expression.

To extend and practice this understanding of range extremes to other art forms, and to everyday life. The abstract/diffuse to the plain/concrete; the complex to the simple. Understanding and creating the one within the other: the simple within the complex (sub-rhythms/forms; repetition/variation ala DNA) and the complex within the simple (multiple fields effected by seemingly simple or bold forms). And at the other side of this, strong expressions of only complexity or only simplicity.

To illustrate that all this is a matter of choice, and that rather than all colors blending to mud, all colors are available for every form, but that it is our responsibility to use what is available in an expressive way, to our best abilities. This gives all choice and only chosen restrictions.

To serve each piece and each project according to its needs, without recourse to systems, expectations common or uncommon, unless these are part of a piece's intrinsic nature. What needs to be said? What method/coloration/forms will best get this across?

I reject complete indeterminacy as a cop-out. In the first place, it's impossible; there is no removing the composer from the composed. So, the rejection and attempted removal of the composer's intent is fallacious. On some level, the composer has played god and handed out a set of variables. Even if, at a performance, the organization of variables reflects the player's sensibilites during the immediate experience; or it's more about the audience's sensibilities, or it's intended to be about both- the choice of variables hugely effects the whole, and so reflects the composer right into the proceedings. I can see no way out of this, nor do I see any further value in pursuing some more complete version. Tell someone to improvise for a set period of time, with no more instruction than that, and you'll have accomplished full indeterminacy. Which, to me, is a promoter's job, not a composer's.

I reject the composer's complete control over what a listener feels or thinks upon listening. Scores will be interpreted differently every time; recordings will sound different over every playback system. Lyrics have ever-changing multiple shades of meaning. Attempts at kinesthesic writing for an audience hit a dead end at the garbled bag of symbols within each listener's unconscious. The color white means something different to someone from the west than it does to someone from Cambodia or Africa. To us, it may symbolize purity, as it is often used; to a Cambodian or African, this is a color frequently associated with death and fear. Associations change meaning with geography, with time, with personal experience. In the present, in this part of the world, some are very obvious, such as minor key for sad, major key for happy, dissonance for confusion or terror. And yet in every case you can be sure of some historical, cultural instance or personal instance where the opposite is true. Generalities are the best that can be accomplished here, and as such they will be of limited range.

With both extremes of music, the music itself may be excellent. But there's wiggle room aplenty, and personality aplenty, and I see neither as bad, and in fact see those limitations as cause for excitement and celebration. It means ego can't go too far into people's business, and it can't disappear either. And why should it, in either case? Abuses of ego are no excuse for abdication or dictatorship. Ultimately you can't do either, and that to me is very good news. Instead, the artist just has to keep trying to communicate- in whatever fashion, and with whatever message. I like that. To me art is about communication, even if the message is meant to be that beauty and inspiration are everywhere, not just in the ego of the composer. In art as it is in life: too much control is the rigidity unto death, and too little control is the disintegration unto death. Each is an interesting experience, but repetition at the extremes gets old after a while, as extremes are likely to do. Combination and variation, that's the stuff.

GS, 1/9/10

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