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Page 00000531 ]PostI~ormalism: Kenneth Fields CREATE, Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology University of California, Santa Barbara email@example.com ]Pre-T ext I~n this paper I will consider the influence of scientific paradigms (quantum mechanics, phenomenology, cybernetics, computationalism, self-organized systems) on musical epochs in the twentieth century, each with its own view of what motivates the nature (organization) of forms.The dominant musical formalisms that have resulted are exemplified in the composers Varese, Schaeffer, Stockhausen, Xenalcis and Cage. Francisco Varela describes the Western tradition as the "tendency to find our way toward the rarefied a~tmosphere of the general and the formal, the logical and the well defined, the represented and the ~foreseen." I will extend then the stated discussion to consider what Varela describes as an im~minent paradigm shift: the convic~tion that knowledge is "about situatedness" -- concrete, embodied, lived. In what way will the converging views in the literatures of phenomenology, cognitive science, and Buddhist meditative psychology affect the tradition of Organized Sound? Introduction The history of 20th century music has been one of reaction to the compelling determinism of traditional thought patterns which conflicted with perception and creativity; there was a desire for work to be independent of selfpatterns and cultural-patterns, even nature patterns. However, this psuedo-exercise of free-will might better be understood as a general paradigm shift that affected the whole of Western culture. The complex dynamics ofth the aboandonment of a dep'btentialized paradigm for one that is potentialized is a well. developed area of comment (Kuhn, Hayles), one that shares a general historical/evolutionary model with cognitive development on the level of the individual (Piaget). My thesis is premised on the fact that musicians are influenced by the same evolving "'elemental cognitive-semiotic complex" which underlies all scientific/philosophical thought, all cultural development (Marney and Schmidt in Jantsch). Marney and Schmidt in an article entitled Evolution of Scientific Method posit four "principle rational protbtypes," each a "basic modification of its predecessor," which have directed the course of Western science, religion and art. These are termed the axiomatic, the empirical, the constructural, and the normative -- "emerging in our day" (1976). The axiomatic prototype of Euclid and Aristotle "results in the intuitive apprehension of certain most general (a priori) propositions (archai, or axioms);" the empirical prototype of Kepler, Gaileo, Bacon, and Newton struck a "new balance between inductive and deductive procedures of inference;" th~e constuctural prototype which spans the century of our concern, relinquishes the quest for certainty and is probabilistic in character, the normative prototype is a systems science "reflecting the intricate connectedness of multilevelf hierarchical], multigoal organizations." Thus our contemporary paradigm combines the disparate domains of mechanistic and organismic systems, which are adaptive and "weakly coupled by transactions." This paper is anticipatory in recognizing that contemporary thought is ambitiously reconsidering the global state of a dualistic conceptual dynamics inherent in all the above stated paradigms, otherwise kn~ow as the mind/body problem or subject/object split. Although contemporary science theoretically includes the observer-in-thesystem (who observes the observer in the system), there have lately been the first tentative attempts to resolve the greatest of hurdles, some grandiose in aligning the quantum metaphor with subjective experience. However, only the phenomenological tradition offers a methodology without an intermediary representational, formalistic account. Thus it is from the discipline of cognition rather than physics, from the domain whose object of inquiry is the thing that does inquiry, whence this revisioning originates. Francisco Varela proposes a bridge between "mind in science, and mind in experience" through a dialogue between cognitive science and Buddhist meditative psychology (VTR). Buddhist philosophy examines experience in a pragmatic, empirical and disciplined manner, and demonstrates that this skill in examination can be considerably refined over time. ICMSIC Proceedings 1999 51 - 531 -
Page 00000532 End of Certainty Ilya Prigogine describes a major shift in science around the last half of the 19th century. The modernist epoch associated with certainty, intellectual dominance of nature, equilibrium and time reversibility was disturbed by L. Boltsman's evolutionary approach to physics which introduced the arrow of time. J. T. Maxwell longed for a new type of knowledge which would overcome the prejudice of determinism, and later Karl Popper wrote The Open Universe: an Argument for Indeterminism. The new approach to non-equilibrium science allowed for the investigation of dissipative structures as found in cosmology, chemistry, and biology. Moreover, in the reductive realm of thought the agency of creativity was difficult to automatize. The legacy of Varese's metaphor of Organized Sound has defined 20th century music. Progressive dissonance in music finally reached a critical point, defined in part by the fact that it occurred within a theoretical context which could support the survival of early experiments with auditory complexity. Of course, the complex inner structures of these new timbres compelled a massive and resonant cultural search for new macroscopic ordering principles. Regarding this it should be noted that Marney characterizes the period of modern physics as having "received a legacy of such proportions that tremendous effort had to be expended merely in comprehending and exploiting its potential." It has been widely noted that habitual thought patterns persist far beyond periods of discovery, so a prime motivation for artists of this century has been the derivation of composition systems as a way to both arrest intentionality and sustain new musical structures. Phenomenology Theories in science are weighted alternatively between perception and conception. The phenomenological/ perceptualist philosophy of E. Husserl, M. Merleau-Ponty and M. Heidegger was reinforced by technological innovation which artificially extended perception and memory -- phonography and photography. When recorded sounds were experimented with in musical compositions a debate occurred which considered the distinction between intrinsic and referential levels of meaning in sound corresponding to the method of phenomenological reduction -- direct analysis of perceiving (Husserl, Ferrara, Ihde). Intrinsic properties are those which have relevance to the senses; listeners respond directly without interpretation. Referential properties are those which have meaning or signify a learned pattern; listeners respond with understanding. The Musique Concrete movement utilized technology to explore the phenomenal aspects of sound by manipulating the medium of stored sound information, allowing empirical investigation into hidden structures. The new practice of music included both research and performance components. Years after Varese's proclamation, various research labs embarked on a more concerted scientific effort to organize, investigate and catalogue sounds. Pierre Schaeffer's Traite des Objects Musicaux and Esquisse d'un solfege Concrete, attempted the organization all musical objects and processes, from the collection of samples to the performance of organized sounds. His etudes creatively played with the contrasting intrinsic/referential modes of perception with the intention of bringing listeners to and from states of understanding and immediate awareness. The utopian goal of such an agenda could educate perception to an intuitive understanding of the world as opposed to a overly rational understanding. Cybernetics Cybernetics refers to an intricate and evolving field of study that in the 1950's entailed the abstraction of systems processes, but was part of a much larger philosophical discourse on the evolution of matter, the occurrence of biology, cognitive function, essential form, and intention. Along with the dualism of matter and energy then, came a third element: information - an evaluative term assigned to degree of organization. Information attained a qualitative essence which, in the mythology of representation, compression, transmission, decoding, and rendering, can "circulate unchanged between different material substrates" (Hayles) -- the principle of conservation of information. An encoded medium might hold the essential information of a human being (gene) or a musical performance (tape); the biologist and musician then share an interest in the art of information. - 532 - ICMC Proceedings 1999
Page 00000533 'An important discussion within this body of thought is control, causation and teleology. In the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen concepts of progressive evolution, process, serialization of variables along continua, played an important role in organization of musical parameters. This method was effective in deconstructing naturally embodied sound objects (sets of properties). Instead, the integrity of parameter streams gained prominence over the sound object. Total organization consisted then of postulating dualisms and serializing values along the resultant continuum; any parameter could be abstracted in this manner. Following naturally then is the treatment of the global continuum of evolution/stasis, upon which basis the exploration of a "moment" form can be pursued. Within moments reside inner temporal groupings or gestalt levels of perceptually salient states based upon the atomic unit of a brief impulse: timbre, meter, and form. Computationalism The invention of a machine that could simulate thought like processes, by scientists who "felt a calling to express the processes underlying mental phenomena in explicit mechanisms and mathematical formalisms" (VTR), itself became the formalism of mental processes -- "Science incarnates its understanding in technological artifacts. In the case of cognitive science, these artifacts are ever more sophisticated thinking/acting machines" (VTR). Cognitivism explains consciousness by metaphors of hardware and software. Sensors record raw data while other modules represent, convert, interpret and further manipulate information with transformative algorithms. The protocol of symbol manipulation by dynamic programs embodied within a machine took on a life of it's own; the science of artificial intelligence grew into the more general paradigm of artificial sciences. Accordingly, physical laws, human life and consciousness are a narrow subset of an infinitude of natures, all of which can be modeled by the manipulation of symbols by rules of logic. This might be the extreme postulate of an ontology based upon information. Though lannis Xenakis exalted intuition, he also idealized the computer as a mechanism by which to attain freedom from the "rooted but ineffectual tradition of electronic, concrete, and instrumental music" (Xenakis). The record of his philosophy Formalized Music is indeed the ultimate testament to the above stated goal of the Western tradition to "abstraction and formalization." Music was ultimately reducible to auralized mathematics, and as such the perfect method to realize the defeat of human intentionality, of all contingency. As simply organized quantity, the efficacy of music could finally be objectively counted and rated as to content of intelligence. While Schaeffer manually qualified sound according to phenomenological criteria; Xenakis quantified sounds within mathematically objective categories such as "autosimilitudes, symmetries, deterministic chaos, or stochastics within a dynamic evolution." Self-Organized Systems Clearly humans are still adjusting to their cognitive abilities and continue to evolve techniques of conceptualizing (reason or analogy making) to optimize their understanding of self and nature. These techniques are intrinsically related to historical postulations of nature functioning. Contemporary theory views nature as a self-organized system which includes classical aspects "where fluctuations play a minor role" (Prigogine in Jantsch) and systems in further from equilibrium states where fluctuations and feedback "force the system to leave a given macroscopic state and lead it on to a new state." This would include the emergence of biological aggregation and its embodied agency of consciousness -- self-knowing and self-motivating (autopoiesis). Given this conception of a universal system dynamics, the research question of cognitive know-how (vs. know-what) is getting some attention. Modernism (include post) assumes a necessary dissociation of a phenomenal world and a real world as postulated by Cartesian and Kantian thought. Within the confines of the phenomenal world, a representation is formed from raw evidence of an unknowable external world. By contrast, a middle way known as Madyamika in Buddhist psychology poses a field structure consisting of all codependent polarity terms. This strict non-dualistic approach couples the conscious agent with its environment, without a representational medium. Following from this are contemporary works of cognitive and ecological science, postulating a strict interactionist or enactionist approach in which "living beings and their environments stand in relation to each other through mutual specification or codetermination... environmental regularities are not external features that have been internalized, as representationism and adaptionism both assume... they are the result of a conjoint history" (VTR). In Varela's more specific terminology: "the world is not something that is given [external] to us but something we engage in by ICMC Proceedings 1999 -533 -
Page 00000534 moving, touching, breathing... living consists of already constituted microworlds [ensembles of transiently coordinated neurons]... It is the hinges [chaotic transitional states between] that articulate microworlds that are the source of the autonomous and creative side of living cognition." It is when John Cage develops a system for the performance of nonintentionality that a historical transformation is articulated. Today Modernism rolls on in the progressive iteration of ideas oblivious to the music of changes. Cage conceived of the organization ofsounds in the context of a larger discourse -- considered by some outside the scope of music. This discourse involves musicians directly in fundamental inquiry into the dynamics of human consciousness -- considered by others an essentially musical endeavor; in fact a restorative or conservative aspect of musical work. To understand this shift, one should reframe Cage's music outside of the Organized Sound paradigm: in the words of David Bohm, "it is less important to learn of a particular new way of conceiving structure abstractly, than it is to understand how the consideration of such new ideas can liberate one's thought from a vast network of preconceptions absorbed largely unconsciously with education and training and form the general background." We can understand better in this context how silence was to Cage "an extremely full metaphor of lack not of material sound but of intention/mind/discourse/culture/meaning..." (Dyson in Kahn). Post-Text In terms of the surveyed paradigms, it would be a matter of routine to re-situate or realign knowledge structures according to the contemporary metaphor of coadaptive agencies whose processes and artifacts comprise the environment in which they evolve; in fact this is done (Jantsch in Jantsch). However, it has been my intention to question these conceptual dynamics; the very point of a postformalism is to resist the compulsion to formulation or modeling. Instead, as Polanyi suggests, look for a correspondence between comprehension and that which it comprehends; in Cage's words: sounds are themselves. Techniques of Phenomenology and Buddhism have combined to create a radical interruption. "Such a severance... [signals] the passing from an exploratory stage to a full-fledged research program" (VTR). Those musicians who consider their role in this fundamental discourse must realize that theirs is an essential contribution and ambitiously consider what this research program will look like. I will tempt the unfamiliar reader with the introduction at this late point of the philosopher Don Ihde to suggest that this writer has something essential to add to this project. Ihde points out that vision is the objective sense tied to a metaphysics of object: "Vision becomes the root metaphor for thought, the paradigm which dominates our understanding of thinking in reduction to vision." Thus the new research program would implement a broadly interdisciplinary plan which will explore the auditory dimension as a deliberate decentering of the dominant tradition, the threshing out of a new mode of understanding not for the purpose of supplanting the vision based paradigm but for emerging a world view which reflects an Empedoclean democracy of the senses. References: Bohm, David. On Creativity. Nichol, Ed. Routledge, London. 1998. Ferrara, Lawrence. Philosophy and the Analysis of Music. Greenwood Pr. 1991. Hayles, Katherine N. How We Became Posthuman. U. of Chicago Pr. Chicago. 1999. Husserl, Edmund. Ideas: General Introduction to Phenomenology. W.R. Boyce Gibson. 1931. Ihde, Don. Listening and Voice: A Phenomenology of Sound. Ohio U. Pr. 1976. Jantsch and Waddington, eds. Evolution and Consciousness. Addison-Wesley. 1976. Kahn and Whitehead, eds. Wireless Imagination. MIT Press. 1992. Kuhn, Thomas. Structure of Scientific Revolutions. U. of Chicago Pr. 1962. Oyama, Susan. The Ontogeny of Information. Cambridge U. Pr. 1985. Piaget, Jean. The Construction of Reality in the Child. Basic Books. 1954. Polanyi, Michael. The Tacit Dimension. Anchor Books. 1966. Prigogine, Ilya. End of Certainty. Free Press. 1996. (VTR) Varela, Thompson, Rosch. The Embodied Mind. MIT Press. 1991. Varela, Francisco. Ethical Know-How. Stanford University Pr. 1999. Xenakis, lannis. Formalized Music. Pendragon Pr. 1992. - 534 - ICMC Proceedings 1999