/ Bricoleur and Engineer in Computer Music
BRICOLEUR AND ENGINEER IN COMPUTER MUSIC Ingeborg Okkels Musicologist, BA. University of Copenhagen, Denmark ingeborgokkels@hotmail.com Anders Conrad Musicologist, MA. Copenhagen, Denmark aconrad@image.dk ABSTRACT In this paper, the terms bricoleur and engineer are used as metaphors for different aesthetic and technological approaches to computer music. Based on the musical analysis of selected works, the possibility of regarding computer music as a single cultural field is discussed. INTRODUCTION In the Calls for Participation for this conference it says, "Computer music is neither a style nor a genre" (ICMC 1999). A similar view was expressed by John R. Pierce in a 1996 CMJ article (Pierce 1996). The purpose of such a broad definition could be to avoid the exclusion of any kind of computer-facilitated music. Not excluding anybody does not, however, automatically mean that everybody is included. Music, when understood as a cultural phenomenon, usually belongs to - or is explicitly breaking out of - a particular style or genre. Leaving this perspective out of the definition raises the question of whether 'computer music' is really a cultural field and not just a particular technological emphasis on 'computers in music'. This leaves the question of whether it is meaningful to have a label called "Aesthetics of Computer Music", if computer music, as such, is not culturally defined. However, computer musics - in plural - still produce aesthetic artifacts. How then to study the aesthetics of these different musics? Although an all-encompassing definition is questionable, it leaves the possibility open that various computer musics, of different styles and genres, could share the same technological processes. This possibility was maintained in the study we want to present in this paper: how does the computer music composer's choice of technological tools and methods reflect his/her - declared or tacit - aesthetic goals (Okkels and Conrad 1999)? A MUSICOLOGICAL APPROACH We chose to base our study on a fragment of anthropological theory, namely the concepts of bricoleur and engineer as coined by Claude LeviStrauss in his 1962 monograph La pensee sauvage (The Savage Mind, Levi-Strauss 1976). He used the two terms as metaphors for different modes of human creation, based on differences in the attitude towards materials, tools, and processes. This seemed well-suited to our purpose: it allowed us to initially disregard the distinctions of genre and style and to include the discussion of technological tools and processes, while still maintaining a cultural dimension. Ultimately, L6vi-Strauss' distinctions can be interpreted as various ways to create meaning and knowledge. In our context this could be translated as: how do computer composers create musical meaning through technological means? This question certainly covers our original intentions, as musical meaning ought to reflect aesthetic goals and positions. Work analysis As musicologists, we have used work analysis as a main approach in our study, assuming that insight into the question of the relationship between aesthetics and technology can be found by studying some of the resulting works themselves. This approach is not self-evident. Evan K. Chambers, in a 1994 ICMC paper, claims that computer music is defying objectification as 'a work of art' in the traditional western sense (Chambers 1994). However, Chambers is talking about a specific genre of computer music, namely what we have called "academic computer music" which is research oriented and closely related to academic institutions such as IRCAM and CCRMA and events such as this conference. And even here, most computer musicians offer an aesthetic output in the form of works, played at concerts, which justifies our focus on the works. We chose four works of very different genre for our study repertoire: Kaija Saariaho: Stilleben (Saariaho 1989), Barry Truax: The Wings of Nike (Truax 1991), Pizzicato Five: Trailer Music (Konishi 1997), and John Oswald: Seventh (Oswald 1989). The works were chosen to represent a width of compositional and aesthetic approaches and at the same time be of musical interest to ourselves. Some of the composers are very outspoken about
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