ASCII-ing for Virtual Cake

ASCII-ing for Virtual Cake

Today is the 50th anniversary of computer music. What started out inside an acoustics research lab has now taken over the entire world. Even composers like myself, who still notate their music by hand—passé, I know—can’t manage a career without logging some time in front of a computer screen on a daily basis. But even if you do somehow manage a tech-free existence, there is no escaping the aesthetic impact of today’s digital culture.

Computer software has enabled composers like Ferneyhough to realize complicated algorithms within a musical idiom without all the hassle of those pesky punch cards his predecessors had to deal with back in the dark ages. Furthermore, the advent of the laptop spawned a whole new performance practice. Beyond such conveniences and paradigm shifts, the conception of “digital space” has infiltrated the multitude of ways in which we practice art.

With the ability to condense an Academy Award winning film into a rapid-fire 30-second assemblage or stretch a Beethoven symphony into a 24-hour sonic event, composers have been swayed by technology to explore any and all whimsical what-ifs simply because the effort involved isn’t prohibitively time consuming. On the flip side, some composers are wasting tons of time tweaking infinitesimal details that, in the end, are completely inaudible. Regardless of how we use or don’t use technology, notions of compression and expansion as they relate to digital archetypes will be musically explored, even if the byproduct is good old-fashioned acoustic music. Anybody out there have an action plan to escape this predicament, or should we just ride out another 50 years and see what happens next?

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2 thoughts on “ASCII-ing for Virtual Cake

  1. mryan

    If we weren’t doing the endless tweaking we feel obligated to do on our electronic works, we’d probably be spending that time (if our tech was swiped away) hand-copying orchestral parts for the local orchestra.

    Some of my works would only be wild dreams instead of established realities with the tech I use on a daily basis; Frogbot in Love for manipulated balloon samples being one of them. Even with the traditional music I write, tech helps me be faster, write more, and be more sure about what I’ve written.

    I love my computer! I hope I never have to be without one. Yet, if I did, I’d copy those parts out, one by one . . . ;-)

    All the best,
    M. Ryan Taylor

  2. GalenHBrown

    When you say that it’s the 50th Anniversary of Computer Music, I assume you’re talking about Max Mathews and Music I. I hopped over to Wikipedia to refresh my memory, and discovered that actually Australia’s CSIRAC first played music in 1950 or 51.

    Freakin’ Australians. . . think they’re so much better than we are. . . the thing was probably kangaroo powered or something. . .


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