August 12, 2003

Composition Today and The Remix as Graphical Score

I've been thinking about a new approach to my music in general that will allow me to continue to be a part of the classical world, even as I continue to primarily create within the electronic world.

Basically, I'm saying I've been screwed for the last time! Stuck in the classical music world at the mercy of performers that promise performances and then screw up the piece or don't record it. Commissioned by performers who never play the piece, odd ensembles that will never get played; 2-4 months on one piece that never gets played. It's a nightmare as we all see the classical music world imploding. I was supposed to have performances in Cyprus (and a recording) a Canadian tour, an Australian performance, an Amsterdam performance and two NYC premieres this year and only the Australian premiere has happened. Money, politics, all have caused this year to be one of the worst when it should have been one of my best!!

So, I had an idea this weekend, actually I've been working towards this idea (with the Road Trip pieces actually) and that is to begin writing pieces for 2 pianos soley. No more 3 months on a piece for nose flute, accordion and marimba that may get premiered, but not recorded or ever performed again.

Once the 2 piano version is done, I'll 'remix' these pieces with extra textures, morphings, beats and effects and create a score of that remix and suggestions of other possible scores. The piece then will exist in audible form, have a score that could be performed in a classical concert and simultaneously have an amazing JH electronic realization. If an orchestra decides to commission me, all I have to do is orchestrate one of these pieces. All the big names of the past have done this, Debussy used to always write first for 2 piano and then orchestrate.

I'm sure a lot of you have noticed how my recent electronic music is really minimal, usually devoid of much melody and that's generally because I'm not writing 'music' I'm laying down textures. I want to get back to writing real pieces, with introductions and climaxes and counterpoint and then rendering them into electronic form.

One concern I have about electronic music in general is that it is absolutely the most fragile art ever created. It's just 1's and 0's. If for some reason CD players were to cease production cuz of format changes, etc... the music will be unplayable. CD's can disappear, go off the market and bam... no record of the music.

So, by having an output that is simulatenously, a PDF score, a printed score, an electronic realization a MIDI file for others to use in 'remixing' and even large chunks of the piece to encourage remixing, I think I can develop a new approach to musical creation that will allow me to showcase my compositional talents and my electronic talents. And by notating the remix, at least informally, I can provide an electronic 'score' indicating where the glitches are to occur, etc... but allowing the remix artist to glitch that section at will.

In a sense, this is akin to the classical cadenza when composers would let performers write 3 minute sections in the middle of their pieces, using the melodic material that had already happened to show off. Mozart piano concerto cadenzas by Beethoven are amazing.

Could this type of notation might be a cool way for composers to constrain remixes? Could be a form of graphical notation, like Cage has done even... even just graphics that could be used for album covers or promo.

Posted by jeff at August 12, 2003 01:44 PM

Go for it, Jeff.

What we need now, for the real next revolution to occur, is to stop thinking about how music changes in terms of harmonic shifts.

Now we need to think it terms of shifts in meaning and shifts in context.

Posted by: Carolyn at August 13, 2003 11:09 AM

well im sick of composers screwing over performers.

cage removed the ego from composition.

the next step is to remove composers entirely.

Posted by: improviser at August 13, 2003 04:47 PM

Question and a comment:

What does 'JH' stand for in, "...and simultaneously have an amazing JH electronic realization."

You could change your vocabulary and you might achieve a change in attitude. Ephemeral, rather than fragile, makes it sound almost pleasant. As in, "Oh, what ephemeral pleasure my shiny compact discs bring me..."

On a serious note, this has been causing librarians and archivists to lose sleep. We are putting so much faith in digital mediums to document our lives in ways that are not even remotely as durable as good ol' fashioned paper. It would be interesting to see what pieces that do not have the backing of institutions and universities are still around in 75 years...

Posted by: steve at September 5, 2003 11:57 PM

JH as in Jeff Harrington, moi! The ephemeral and fragile... ;-)

Posted by: jeff at September 7, 2003 04:19 PM