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SEARCH EVENT III, 3 April 2001, University of California, San Diego
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Some rare persons appear to be gifted for prophecy and premonitions, but even the most exceptional ones seem to have blind spots. Indeed checking predictions after the fact is embarassing – for astrologists, and for futurology institutes as well. Certain people have premonitions, but if one checks all the predictions made, one may find that the probability of accuracy is not above the chance level of random guesses. The physicist Luis Alvarez reckoned that amazing coïncidences that seem to demonstrate the existence of supernatural phenomena are in fact likely to occur many times in every one's life.
The mathematician René Thom, who strongly contributed to the field of morphogenesis through his catastrophe theory, relates the possibility to predict the future – implied in the notion of determinism – to analytic prolongation : if a mathematical function is regular enough (analytic or holomorphic), it is so constrained that it suffices to know the function and its derivatives around one point, within an area as small as one wants, in order to be able to determine its value everywhere. When time is one of the variables of the function, the future values of the function can be predicted, granted sufficient regularity. But this condition of regularity is never met if complex domains are involved. At the turn of the 21st century, Poincaré showed that the mathematical resolution of even relatively simple mechanical problems was often unstable, in the sense that a tiny change in initial conditions would lead to completely different predictions. This conception was at that time so novel and unrelated to anything else that it went unnoticed for half a century, until the explosion of chaos theory. The notion of chaos applies to turbulent flows and to meteorogical predictions, as shown by Edward Lorentz. Even astronomical systems are chaotic at a certain time scale1.
In the first half of the 20th century, Gödel showed that complex fields suffered from logical ambiguities or inconsistencies that could only be alleviated by immersing them into more complex systems that would then reveal other problems2.
The field of music is complex enough to be chaotic. It seems to have a certain autonomy, but is by no means in a vacuum : it is immersed in society, and it bears a complex relation to the surrounding world. Life on our planet seems jeopardized by the effects of pollution and fossile energy consumption, and of course any future depends upon these issues, which are much beyond the scope of music.
The field of music and its future strongly depend upon the socio-economic context. Here I focus on art-music. Commercial music provides faster returns, but its success is in general much more ephemeral than that of art music. Commercial music reassures, pounds and brainwashes with a steady beat and a simplistic tonal harmonic structure – somewhat like military music. Techno, the music of rave parties, takes advantage of technology to achieve hypnotic effects – some even say to decerebrate listeners.
Art music does not consider musical works as primarily products for consumption : but its legitimacy is clearly questioned in a merchant society where rapid financial success is the dominant criterion for value and even for right of existence. The longing for quick reward is evidenced by the pace of video games as well as by the mania of zapping, which provides satisfaction sooner – but in a much shallower way. It has been said that Kant, Proust or Joyce could not be commercially published today because of the too slow initial rate of their sales. Attention must be strongly attracted if a listener is to be diverted from never-ceasing stimulation3.
The present controversy on copyright versus author's rights is a very critical issue. The artist should keep the patrimonial rights, but above all the moral rights, in particular the right to withdraw his works when he or she considers they are no longer up to his standards. With the current copyright system, authors completely lose control on what can be done with their work.
There is no such thing as a free lunch : why should culture be free when everything is for sale? One should be very dubious about the "philanthropy" of a merchant civilization that wants to make all art and music available for free, while it could not care less about human social difficulties. Commercial forces want to possess, control and dominate the cultural "products" to take advantage of them, and they do not wish to foster the creation of new masterpieces – in fact they prefer to control the present patrimony and to exploit it endlessly for their purposes. The market does not have in mind the welfare of humanity : its trend is to control the customer, to bind him or her to specific products. A well-known software company is taking advantage of its monopolistic position to dominate computer users, to make them prisoners : programs are upgraded and get always more complex (hence very slow and impossible to debug), so that the user has to keep buying more powerful computers.
One still longs for the concept of the "permanent machine", advocated by Max Mathews. A new model for a car helps to increase the sales : so does a new machine, a new concept, a new program – then the previous ones are discontinued so that one is forced to get the new ones. The waste of time implied by such changes is enormous. Throughout my career, I have seen too many musical works become moot, unplayable, because the technology they implied is no longer available, or only at too high a cost.
Here, a reaction from the citizens is necessary. They should force the commercial world to ensure some amount public of service. We can see this beginning to happen here and there, but it is still far from decisive. Musicians must intervene to shape the technologies supposedly intended for them.
Art music is not guaranteed to continue to exist. Without support, operas, ballet companies and symphony orchestras cannot survive – the latter are in danger of disappearing. The proportion of classical music in record sales has recently diminished. Each year, certain commercial recordings carefully chosen for their marketing potential, are promoted with considerable budgets – just like bleach – to achieve big sales : but bleach then continues to be useful, while such commercial music quickly wears out, so that one needs new products. The Internet permits merchants to gather statistics regarding an individual buyer's sales, and it is envisioned to format and even personalize music products according to the habits and supposed desires of each customer. What is left there of surprise, discovery, and creation?
As I discuss below, major technological inventions concerning sound – recording and electroacoustics – occurred around 1875. The earliest contribution of these inventions to music was the possibility of industrially reproducing and broadcasting music, creating new channels for distribution and acculturation. In the 19th century, music practitioners could acquire piano reductions of symphonies by composers within a certain range. Fifty years ago, education, radio, concerts and recordings gave wide access to Classical and Romantic music, but almost ignored Medieval or Contemporary Western music and non-Western music. One could then advocate opening listeners' ears by introducing them gradually to the historical evolution of Western musical language which followed the erosion of tonal gravitation by the chromaticism of Chopin and Wagner and the influence of non-Western music on Debussy. Now, people who want to hear music can access a wide variety from all cultures and times, so that the sense of historical development becomes fuzzy. In addition, recordings will become and remain commercially available only if they immediately attract a sufficiently large audience : this makes art more and more problematic in a commercial world that privileges big markets4.
Letting the commercial logic of immediate returns suffocate high art would in fact be killing the hen that lays the golden egg. As exemplified by Van Gogh, Mahler or Bartók, many works that eventually became popular, hence commercially valuable, did not initially meet with success. So, even if profit continues to be the driving force in our civilization, one can hope that this marketing aspect will be taken into account. Alternately, there might be a swing back from the present extreme point of a worldwide quest for maximal and fastest financial return across our planet. The latter would be likelier to ensure the planet survival.
Food, housing, education, health are essential for an acceptable life. Cell telephones may not be as indispensable, yet customers are ready to spend more money for cell telephones than for taxes, while the latter are necessary to finance education and social programs. Art and music may be considered non-essential, or at best a luxury. But what is the purpose and utility of life, if nothing is to transcend our perishable human condition?
Technology, science and the expanding palette : the electrotechnical, the electronic, and the digital age
After these social ruminations, I shall concentrate to the field of art music. Futurology does not seem to work better with art than with other fields. Thinking about the future is, however, an opportunity to try to form a perspective. The predictions we can make are coloured by our experiences, our desires and our ignorance. My reflections about the future in fact reflect – or refract – my own experience, views and speculations, my wishes and my concerns. As my heading suggests, I believe in particular that the interaction between music and science, but above all between music and technology, has far-reaching implications, so I shall give by a brief retrospective of some avenues this interaction has opened for making music.
Artists can have sharp and intense visions, but these visions do not occur "out of the blue" : it rather seems that the extreme sensitivity of artists strongly reacts to some event or encounter. In a 1917 issue of Picabia's magazine 391, Varèse wrote premonitory texts, prophesying musical research as well as electroacoustic and computer music: "Our alphabet is poor and illogical. Music, which should be alive and vibrating, needs new means of expression, and science alone can infuse it with a youthful sap ... I dream of instruments obedient to thought, that will, with the flourishing of unsuspected timbres, lend themselves to the combinations I want to impose them and obey the demands of my inner rhythm" (translated by Louise Varèse).Varèse's imagination had been set in motion when Busoni talked to him about Cahill's electrical music machine, the Dynamophone5 (cf. below).
Fig. 1 : Cahill’s Dynamophone
and from that time Varèse tried to promote the collaboration between art and science and the design and building of electric machines to produce music rather than merely to reproduce it.
A revolution in our possibilities for controlling sounds occurred around 1875. After Edison implemented recording, sounds could be reproduced in the absence of their mechanical causes; no longer could one say verba volent, scripta manent : sounds could be fixed as objects, scrutinized, worked upon. After Bell invented the telephone, acoustic vibrations could be converted into electric vibrations, so that electrical technologies could be applied to the processing of sounds.
This revolution had long-term consequences, which were not immediately foreseen. In a geological revolution, processes are very slow, almost unnoticeable in human time scales, but they are overwhelming in the long run6. Technology first facilitated the reproduction of music : only later did it provide new media for creation, and I believe that the new possibilities will continue to develop and to change the context of music.
Recording was initially mechanical, but it soon benefited from electrical technology. Here one can distinguish three ages7:
1) the electrotechnical age. Before 1900, Cahill applied for a patent using electric dynamos to produce vibrations generating musical sounds: his Dynamophone was also called the Telharmonium, because the electrical vibrations could be transmitted on the telephone network.
Fig. 2 : Cahill’s 1897 patent "Art and apparatus for generating and distributing music electrically"
Fig. 3 : Telharmonic Hall in New York City
Sound Example 1 : an excerpt of Pagliaci by Leoncavallo recorded on cylinders by Caruso, then digitally "cleaned" by Thomas Stockham and quoted by Charles Dodge in his piece Any resemblance is purely coincidental
2) the electronic age. Here the milestone invention was the triode, initially called an audion by Lee de Forest, who was attempting to make musical sound by producing electrical vibrations. De Forest indeed built the earliest electronic musical instrument, soon to be followed by Theremin and Martenot. The Theremin is a monodic instrument which can be very expressive, but it is difficult to play, just as an acoustic instrument is. Clara Rockmore, initially a very good violinist, became a great virtuoso of the Theremin : even with 1920 technology, she could achieve remarkable suppleness and musicality with electronic sounds, through skilful gestures, controlling in subtle and refined ways the phrasing and the gait of the music. This is a lesson for the future : music makes highly specific demands, and technology alone cannot work miracles to solve musical problems.
Fig. 4 : Clara Rockmore playing the Theremin
Sound Example 2 : Rachmaninoff – an excerpt of Vocalise beautifully played by Clara Rockmore on the Theremin, one of the earliest electronic instruments
Sound Example 3 : Edgard Varèse – the end of Ecuatorial, resorting to voice amplification and concluding as a manifesto on high gliding electronic tones produced by Theremins or Martenots
The electronic age permitted the development of recording, radio, and later, through the use of radio studio techniques, musique concrète and electronic music. I myself, as a student composer, had a burning interest in the control of timbre : I found that musique concrète opened the field of music to the whole world of sounds, but that these sounds could only be processed in crude ways relative to their richness. One was editing them rather than composing with them : I missed the compositional possibilities that I enjoyed when working with instruments. Electronic music, on the other hand, controlled sounds more precisely. Simplistic and dull sounds turned off the ears of demanding listeners, unless they were enriched through manipulations : but then fine control was lost.
Sound Example 4 : John Cage – an excerpt of Imaginary landscape n° 1, the first piece (1939) created "directly in Tone, not on paper" (Stokowski)
Sound Example 5 : Pierre Schaeffer – an excerpt of Etudes aux chemins de fer (1948), one of the earliest musique concrète pieces
3) the digital age. Here technology is still electronic, but the combination of digital coding of signals and the use of the computer open up precise and unlimited possibilities for analysis, synthesis, processing, representation and control.
Fig. 5-A : Max Mathews with Joan Miller in front of the off-line digital-to-analog converter in the early sixties
Fig. 5-B : Jean-Claude Risset demonstrating trumpet simulation by computer in 1965
Sound Example 6 : In Silver Scale, the first piece of computer music, realized in 1957 by Newman Guttman
Like François Bayle, I see the computer not as a tool, but rather as a workshop in which one may devise and build personal tools – intellectual as well as material. It thus was my hope when I engaged with computer music research that the precision of the computer would permit the building of sounds novel or complex enough to be of musical interest, and at the same time controlled enough to lend themselves to compositional desires. Indeed, computer synthesis permits one to produce a wide variety of sounds with extremely different morphologies, thus giving access to novel sonic results.
Fig. 6 : Spectrograms of sounds with different morphologies synthesized by computer
It also permits one to compose the sounds themselves just as one composes chords, to prolongate harmony into timbre and to use the same motivic cells to determine melody, harmony and timbre, as I did in 1969 at the beginning of my piece Mutations (Fig. 7) (Sound Example 7). It allows one to imprint the characteristics of certain sounds onto other sounds, through enveloping, cross-synthesis, pitch quantizing or filtering : I also used such processes in Sud to merge natural and artificial sounds with a priori different characteristics.
Fig. 7 : The beginning of Mutations : the harmony of the chord is prolonged in the timbre of the following gong-like sound
Sound Example 7 : Mutations
But the control of these materials raises problems requiring research, and the quest is endless : technical progress is not a goal in itself. It is inseparable from always renewed and often elusive or unpredictable musical aims. So digitally assisted music has opened new territories, but these territories are still largely to be conquered. Many more are to be explored in the future.
Novelty and complexity are harder to achieve that one would initially think, but we now have clear indications why this is so. If one considers that music is meant to be heard, as Varèse and Schaeffer liked to recall, what counts is subjective novelty and complexity as we evaluate them, in us ("en nous"8) rather than intrinsic novelty and complexity – in itself ("en soi"). Our senses are our windows onto the world, and the musical exploration of the digital sound domain has already taken us a long way in the understanding of perception.
Why do sounds sound to us as they do?
The precision of digital sound technology has helped us form a new perspective on a very deep and pervasive question, which relates to the philosophical issue of materialism versus idealism. The Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka has worded it in the following way : "do we perceive the world as we do because the world is what it is, or because we are what we are?"
Fig. 8 : A question raised by Koffka
This controversy goes back to Pythagoras and Aristoxenus. According to Pythagoras, numbers rule the world – the musical intervals as well as the motions of celestial spheres. But Aristoxenus argued that the justification of music is in the ear rather than in mathematical ratios or rationale.
In Sound Example 8 (explained in Fig. 9), the first three pairs of tones seem to justify the view of Pythagoras : a frequency of 2/3 is heard as an interval of a fifth. However, the fourth pair, with frequencies higher that 5000 Hz, also corresponds to an interval of 2/3 : yet, in this case, the listener will not recognize a fifth – in fact, he or she cannot even evaluate the musical interval, but can only judge that the second tone appears higher than the first.
Sound Example 8
This result depends upon our hearing : above 5000 Hz or so, the precision of pitch evaluation collapses, due to the fact that neural impulses can no longer be in synchrony with the periods. The only cue for pitch is the place of maximal stimulation on the basilar membrane, a cue that does not lend itself to precise comparisons in this extrene range.
Until the "electric revolution"9, the controversy between Pythagoras and Aristoxenus seemed irrelevant. The sounds were produced by mechanical vibrations, and they could be monitored by seemingly "direct" controls such as that of the length and tension of the vibrating string. In fact, we consider scores to be descriptions of the music, while they are actually sets of instructions on how to play the instruments in order to evoke the music. Digital synthesis requires a precise and complete physical description of the desired sounds, and the audible result is often surprising and far from what intuition would suggest.
The question raised by Koffka applies to artistic work as a whole as well as to its sensory elements. Does the artistic value of the work rely on its intrinsic structure, or does it depend upon perception, with its specific universals and archetypes, and also with its dependency upon culture and personal history? According to an Arab proverb, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". The answer to such questions lies beyond physics and music. I, of course, have some ideas or theories about this, but I would rather concentrate here upon the simpler yet inescapable problems of the perception of sounds and their relations. When the composer sets up a certain structure, he expects this structure to be somewhat perceived by the listener. However, there can be considerable distortion of his or her project in its incarnation as sound. I have shown, for example, that a frequency transposition upward by a factor of 2 can be heard as a semi-tone descent with certain types of tone structures (Sound Example 9), and that certain tone patterns can be heard to slow down when one doubles the speed of the tape recorder that reproduces them (Sound Example 10). The specification of an abstract physical structure can be completely misleading if one does not take in account the specifics of perception.
Sound Example 9
Sound Example 10
Ecological perception, acoustic and electric sound worlds
Our senses provide very special windows onto the world. Hearing has evolved through millenia to optimize the extraction of survival information from signals generated in a mechanical world. When sounds are heard, the listener implicitly performs inquiries : is there one source, or are there several? If there are several, can we separate them? Where and how far away are they? Through what mechanical processes were the sounds produced? The inquiring ear is quite mislead by sounds produced electrically through processes which are not mechanical. As we found to our dismay in our early exploration of computer sound synthesis, one is likely to attach stronger identity and presence to sounds which the ear could possibly interpret in term of a mechanical-acoustical process. For instance, synthetic sounds with a sharp attack and a gradual decay will be heard as percussive, even though nothing is hit in a computer calculation10.
The most educated answer to Koffka’s question has been provided by Roger Shepard11 in a sentence which gives a very concise view of the ecological-cognitive theory of perceptual systems : "The world appears the way it does because we are the way we are; but we are the way we are because we have evolved in a world that is the way it is". Our perceptual mechanisms can to a certain extent be trained : but they rely on processes that have been shaped by evolution – several centuries of phylogenesis weigh more than a few years of ontogenesis.
Fig. 10 : Shepard answers Koffka
At first view, this is bad news for those who had hoped to have immediate access to a completely different world of sound, unconnected to our old acoustic heritage. About thirty years ago, I visited an electronic music studio where the following doctrine was preached : the electronically-generated sounds should have nothing to do with the acoustic world. I heard music realized according to this doctrine : to me it sounded very flat, in the figured sense – the sounds had little identity or dynamics – but also in the literal sense : all sounds seemed to originate from the loudspeakers, there was no spatial depth or perspective.
This situation seems to favor the use of acoustic sounds, or at least the treatment of non-acoustic sounds in specific ways that call for mechanisms which make sense for acoustic sounds. It thus justifies resorting to physical models, since their parameters are aurally strong12 : they touch upon sensory areas that have strongly developed in us so as to help the scrutiny of the outside world.
This does not mean that the specifics of perception should dictate what musicians should do : but musicians should be aware of its workings in order to play with perception rather than being played by it. In particular, one may long for the ability to divert perceptual processes. Illusions, as Purkinje said, are errors of the senses but truths of perception : they reveal its inner workings, and these can be taken advantage of to produce newer effects13.
As I mentioned earlier, without special precautions, electronic sounds seem to originate from the loudspeaker, as they in fact do. The ear – the brain – requires very fine and specific cues to interpret signals emitted by a loudspeaker as coming from somewhere else. In particular, loudness is not the only cue used to estimate the distance of a sound source : auditory perspective (analogous to visual perpective, which helps preserving size constancy, as illustrated in Fig. 11) helps the listener to evaluate distance and intensity at the source. The early work of John Chowning addressed those cues – and also the simulation of the Döppler effect – to generate illusory motion of sounds.
Fig. 11 : Visual perspective illustrated. The man at right seems bigger than the man on the left, but the images of the two are identical
The precision attainable with digital synthesis and processing thus permits the rise of virtual sound worlds – sounds which have no material counterpart, which are not the audible traces of objects that can be seen and touched, yet which evoke within our inner space14 a world that can have a strong phenomenological presence and reveal unreal and ductile sonic entities devoid of mechanical constraints and limitations. In my scales which go up and down in pitch at the same time, the rises and descents do not happen in an objective frequency space, but, so to speak, within the flesh of perceptual organization. The illusory curves suggested by Chowning's Turenas with quasi-graphic precision are situated in an illusory space reconstructed by our perceptions. In the case of electric sounds, the music must resort to illusion and mirage in order to carve out its own space.
One may speculate that music implies the exaltation and jubilation of perceptual mechanisms. The emotions aroused by music should be mediated by refined cognitive processes – if they were directly produced through the evocation of physiological reactions, the listener would be in danger of being crudely manipulated, and the artist could act like a fascist. Extreme loudness makes tones lively, it can induce intoxication : but I find it very aggressive to deafen listeners with the too-loud diffusion of electronic music15. Certainly effects contribute to the expressivity of the music, but they should be composed. Immersing illusions in a context rather than presenting them in isolation – as a laboratory experiment may make them more compelling. The mind is engaged, absorbed in a complex and challenging task, and these diversions help make one unaware of the "tricks"16.
Sound Example 12 : A sequence of tones which seem to go down the scale (see Endnote 16)
I believe there are still many mechanisms to be taken advantage of in the unlimited virtual sound world opened by digital synthesis and the processing of sound. Also, we are familiar with acoustic spaces, but we are just beginning to explore virtual environments or digitally-enhanced spaces which have already proven to be powerful. In my talk, I try to evoke this through Sound Example 13, Chowning's piece Phone, and through Sound Example 14, my own piece Invisible Irene. The latter illustrates the encounter of several worlds : the soprano voice, recorded in a normal acoustic space, synthetic soprano-like tones from an illusory world, stretched versions of the recording of the soprano, which seem to unfold in a much larger space, cross-synthesis hybridizing the voice of the soprano and the howling of the wind, where the noise of the wind replaces the vocal chords of the singer. Both pieces try to evoke an unreal sonic and musical world, imagined or illusory – sounds from nowhere, yet familiar since their phenomenological reality is anchored in our perceptual mechanisms.
Sound Example 13
Sound Example 14
Music, science and technology
Through the work of Chowning, Mathews, Pierce, Wessel, Sundberg, Grey, Bregman, Shepard, Moorer, Deutsch, Moore, and many others, including myself, the exploration of the resources of computer sound have completely changed and deepened our understanding of the perceptual processes implied in hearing.
Here science has a role to play ... and a lot to learn. Many of the scientific contributions mentioned in the paragraph above originate from musicians – or musician-scientists. For instance, the explanation of the way the ear sorts out tones in unison was given by Chowning twenty years ago, when he showed that coherent modulations – common fate – help components merge together into a perceptual entity. This was a major breakthrough in the undertanding of hearing, and also in musical know-how, since this insight allows one to make figures emerge from a magma or dissolve into it, as demonstrated in Chowning's Phone.
Collaboration of science and music was also helpful in developing notions such as the representation of timbral space by Grey and Wessel, which permitted Wessel to make predictions about the perceptual and musical relations between sounds. The understanding by Plomp and others of the factors contributing to the roughness of combination tones helped musicians to control dissonance for inharmonic sounds. As hinted by John Pierce and demonstrated by Chowning in Stria, by choosing specifically a non-harmonic composition of sounds – which one can do by composing sounds digitally – one can induce consonance with intervals others than the octave or the fifth. Rarely can one merge closely science, technology and art : this symbiosis should be encouraged17.
It is clearly artificial to separate audition, vision and touch. We should understand more about synergy between the senses. The dream of a "total art" too often produces pointless combinations of images and sounds. Sound is the vehicle for rhythm – one does not dance to a moving image. Music is a dance of sound – ars bene movandi18. The rhythms of simultaneous images and sounds often conflict, and the conditions under which the encounter between different senses provokes synergy, rather than obliteration, are still largely mysterious. There is a lot of ground here for investigation – artistic and scientific : fortunately, digital synthesis and processing provides powerful tools for research as well as for creation.
Some issues for the future
The 20th century has opened music to an unlimited world of acoustic and electric sounds. The problem is how to harness this universe in musically useful ways. It is still a challenge to merge the compositional and the sonic possibilities open by the computer, to find specific formalisms or structurations for composing sounds. Formalism does not in itself warrant rigor, especially if it is masked by the specifics of perception – rather than a rationale, it can be a great help : to orient one's choices and to have faith in one's decisions. This does not mean that formalism has to be clearly detectable. Skeletons are invisible, but they are essential to shape bodies and their motions.
In the 20th century, composers have at times longed for an integral formalization of the musical language and an explicit formulation of the criteria for esthetic choices. However, this seems to be an ever-receding goal. If composing good music could be made automatic, the composer would be left out : artificial music would not concern him or her any more than a beautiful found-object, and he or she would look for other ways to exert creativity. The artist is apt at reaction, innovation and subversion. As Debussy liked to say, "works of art make rules, but rules do not make works of art".
Through research using "tools" such as the computer, we could reinforce the human, physical or biological aspects in our design and control of music, and perhaps relate it more closely and in a more subtle ways to nature. Debussy – again – said that music is intended to express the mysterious accord between nature and our imagination.
Our times are exceptional in that they seem to preserve the artifacts and habits of other cultures as well as introducing their own : but the former appear in a different perspective. One has witnessed extreme avant-gardism as well as restoration of the dialects of other centuries. This has probably stimulated two opposing trends which appeared in the second half of the 20th century : minimalism, corresponding to an extreme preoccupation with decantation and reduction to purity, as well as maximalism (exemplified by the powerful third movement of Berio's Sinfonia), which aims at merging individual experiences that may have little in common. Much of world music sounds like a tepid ensalada or soup that tastes rather blah. Art must be elaborated as was le grand oeuvre in alchemy.
I contend that artists have a responsibility to shape the future in perhaps more harmonious ways. In particular, musicians must participate in the shaping of technology supposedly intended for music. They should also suggest new ways to deal with sound in our civilization. The growing mastery of electroacoustically-enhanced spaces indicates that we now enter a new era for the control of our sensory environment.
The previous considerations have implications for education. It would seem useful to give to the musician an extended knowledge of technology. However, the utility of such knowledge is often as ephemeral as technology itself, whereas theoretical principles, scientific notions and preparation for problem solving are of more lasting value19. Nonetheless, musicians should be deeply aware of scientific issues and of certain critical case examples of technology 20. They should also, in the course of their training, get the opportunity to practice at least one specific musical grammar with strong constraints21, even though they may not want to later call upon this grammar.
People like to "create" and "participate", but spontaneity and instantaneity are rarely deeply satisfying. It takes long and careful practice to achieve musical proficiency, as demonstrated by the British psychologist John Sloboda, but the reward is then deeper22. Real time has gained new status through the remarkable Max software by Miller Puckette, a modular graphic programming environment which permits one to set up complex interactive situations – a milestone, just like the Music n synthesis programs by Max Mathews. But it should be remembered that real time is primarily for performance, and that genuine compositional activity requires freeing oneself from real time. The composer prepares a journey that should be captivating : the listener should not feel the passing of time, he should be trapped in the time of the music. Interesting travels are not improvised in real time.
Technology and musically-informed design can, however, provide the possibility to devise systems whereby the listener can also to some extent participate in the performance and even in the composition. The pioneering system Groove, implemented by Max Mathews and Dick Moore in the late sixties, demonstrated such possibilities. For instance performances could be prepared out of real time, and then be rehearsed and conducted in real
time. The research of Cadoz, Luciani, Wanderley and others on gesture and performance is very promising. The work of Daniel Arfib, my colleague researcher and composer in Marseille, now bears on an important issue : which aspects of music can one effectively control with gestures, even in works already realized as tapes?
This relates to the problem of electroacoustic music performance, but it also points toward the very appealing utopia proposed by Mathews, whereby the listener could also be to a variable degree a performer, a conductor and even play a compositional role. Needless to say, reaching this goal would require considerable ingenuity, musical understanding and engineering competence, but it would be great if one could design and build a system which would offer a continuous spectrum of possibilities, from mere passive listening to professional composing and/or performing. Taking advantage of such a still utopian system would require professional musicians to develop open "matrix" works, allow the setting up of situations permitting the "listener" to participate in various ways in the final rendering of the result.
Art has been viewed as an anti-destiny, a struggle for eternity, a resistance before the inevitable decay and floods of entropy, but also as the incandescence of signs and symbols. Creativity, a whimsical gift which can simply be an urge, has been likened to a star residing in everyone. The 20th century has evidenced considerable creativity. It has opened music to virtually all sounds. Science and technology have developed more than ever before : they strongly contribute to shaping our Weltangschaung, our vision of the world, and this should leave a strong imprint on artistic creation. The presence of art has permeated the life of people in an unprecedented way. This is threatened, however, by the growing confusion between art and entertainment, which encourages impatience and demands instant satisfaction. Art forms should develop and persist in spite of the present trend toward a consumer-oriented, "kleenex" society.
Music and art leave the most vivid and durable trace of the past, they shape the image that remains of a given time and civilization : I hope that their blooming will honor the 21st century in the eyes of the future.
Endnotes 1. Here science evidences its limits. As many, I was impressed by these concepts, which inspired my Phases for large orchestra and Attracteurs étranges for clarinet and tape. These works feature illustrations or metaphors of chaos theory – the use of turbulence in wind instruments, the route to chaos through period doubling, the concept of point, cyclic or fractal attractors, the bifurcations and unpredictability, yielding "moment form".
2. This amazing capacity to demonstrate its own limitations adds to the greatness of mathematics. As Germaine de Staël said, " ce qui fait la grandeur de l'homme, c'est le sentiment douloureux de l'incomplet de sa destinée" (what makes man great is the painful realization of the incompleteness of man's destiny).
3. The Brave New World of Aldous Huxley suppresses the interval between desire and satisfaction. Our market-oriented society is good at that : it channels our desires toward its products.
4. Non-commercial channels appear to satisfy requests corresponding to continuing interests that are either too marginal or not understood by the market. Thus looking at the site of the Electronic Music Foundation makes it much easier to locate many electroacoustic music CDs of interest. It seems – at least one hopes – that this will develop in the future, so that the curiosity of listeners can be satisfied by a wide repertory of existing works to be discovered, rather than being answered by some kind of Musak determined on the basis of polls and sale statistics.
5. Otto Luening remembered that he first heard about electroacoustic music when he was 5 : his father read him the news about the Dynamophone – that was in 1906! He had a vision of new galaxies of music to be explored, and he considered Varèse as the first "astronaut of music".
7. In the talk, I illustrated these three ages with Sound Examples. Sound Example 1 : an excerpt of Pagliaci by Leoncavallo recorded on cylinders by Caruso, then digitally "cleaned" by Thomas Stockham and quoted by Charles Dodge in his piece Any resemblance is purely coincidental; Sound Example 2 : Rachmaninoff, an excerpt of the Vocalise beautifully played by Clara Rockmore on the Theremin, one of the earliest electronic instruments; Sound 3 : Edgard Varèse, the end of Ecuatorial, resorting to voice amplification and concluding as a manifesto on high gliding electronic tones produced by Theremins or Martenots; Sound Example 4 : John Cage, an excerpt of Imaginary landscape n° 1, the first piece (1939) created "directly in Tone, not on paper" (Stokowski); Sound Example 5 : Pierre Schaeffer, an excerpt of Études aux chemins de fer (1948), one of the earliest musique concrète pieces; Sound Example 6 : In the Silver scale, the first piece of computer music, realized in 1957 by Newman Guttman. In 1959, Varèse presented in public at the Village Gate in New York the second piece synthesized by computer, Guttman’s Pitch Variations.
10. Learning is insufficient to change that insofar as the inquiry processes have developed through Darwinian evolution. I have little hope that complex music can bring us to a higher stage of accomplishment in Piaget's ontogenetic levels, as Iannis Xenakis conjectured. It is a brave idea to go top-down, to start from the complex rather than the simple, but it may be beyond the human brain capacities. Yet art strives to go against or beyond.
11. In his article "Psychophysical complementarity", a chapter of the book "Perceptual Organization", edited by M. Kubovy and J.R. Pomerantz, published in 1981 by Erlbaum, Hillsdale.
12. In my talk, I presented as Sound Example 11 the first example played and "sung" by the computer, Daisy, a bicycle built for two, synthesized in 1963 by John Kelly, Carol Lochbaum and Max Mathews. This was alluded to by Kubrik in his movie 2001, Space Odyssey: HAL, the evil computer, is lobotomized, regresses to childhood and remembers this song which he was taught as a kid. The voice was synthesized via a model of the vocal tract, and the interpolation between vocal tract shapes corresponding to successive phonemes gave much more natural results than an interpolation between spectra would have : the physical modelling works better for speech co-articulation.
13. There is a danger, however, of resorting to such effects. A pattern (such as a melody) is intrinsically characterized by the relations between its elements (its pitches) : yet changes of scale are limited by the specifics of hearing, which evidences absolute anchorings, related to the mechanics of our bodies and to the workings of our brain and mind. In particular there is often a narrow margin of sonic parameter values within which illusory or paradoxical effects can work and be compelling. Hence there is a risk of such effects being mediated through sonic figures that will soon be heard as stereotypes.
14. Henri Michaux : L'espace du dedans, Le château de notre être.
15. John Chowning remarked that it has become difficult to shock the public with art at a time where anything goes : artists may thus be tempted to resort to physical aggression, for instance, by amplifying music too loudly, or by "strobing" – chopping light about seven times per second, which can trigger epilepsy.
16. In my talk, I illustrated this with Example 12 : a sequence of tones which seem to go down the scale, but which end higher in pitch than they were when they started, and which also seemed to slow down continuously, but got eventually faster, and which gave the impression of rotating in space. I used such sequences in my pieces Mirages and Moments newtoniens.
19. Michel Decoust insists that pedagogy should prepare for future challenges, not just for present problems.
20. Gerald Bennett observes that bright young people are attracted toward science and technology, today's cutting edge, and that recruitment in the field of music should not miss such talents.
21. For instance, the rules of tonal harmony or counterpoint, or possibly rules of classical indian music, as suggested by Jon Appleton.
22. Napoleon was once asked if he could play the violin. "I do not know, I never tried". This seems ridiculous : but the faith in the capacity of technology alone to achieve musical goals, and in particular to permit spontaneaous creation, is just as naïve.