Deconstructing Pop Culture

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Class Proposal – Electronic and Experimental Music

August 15th, 2006 by David Kronemyer · No Comments

The post-WWII era has seen an outpouring of innovative electronic and experimental music. One of the main reasons why is the invention of the tape recorder, which expanded music from primarily a performance-based artistic medium of a conventional score, into one where it became possible to affect the parameters of the outcome by manipulating variables during the course of the performing and recording process. Our premise for the class is that electronic music is just like any other kind of music, except that it uses electronics as an instrument, rather than, say, brass, strings or woodwinds. In order to put the subject matter in a wider theoretical context, we will begin by discussing briefly the philosophy of music, with an emphasis on topics such as the interplay of chance and necessity when composing, and the indeterminacy of aesthetic preference. We then will analyze the work of key proponents in the idiom, including Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaeffer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, David Tudor, Edgard Varèse, Terry Riley, Phillip Glass, John Adams, Milton Babbitt, and Morton Subotnick. Time permitting, we may also discuss the Afro-futuristic work of the great Sun Ra. That being so, this will not be a class about techno, Miami bass, freestyle, hip hop, trip hop, synth pop, post-punk, jazz-funk, dub, disco, jungle, gabba, ambient, down-tempo, drum & bass, big beat, or kraut rock. Nor will it be a class about computers, ProTools®, plug-ins, midi, or sampling. Rather, we will be focusing on musicians, their work and performances, and interesting and unusual sounds. The course has been especially designed for performers of non-electronic instruments: to think differently about the music they make, challenge their musical assumptions, deconstruct the process of composing and performing music, recognize their musical intuitions, and expand the scope of their conceptualization of what counts as music, to begin with. The class requirement will be to create an original work of electronic or experimental music of approx. three minutes in length. This could be anything from musique concrète, classically understood; or, a composition using “conventional instruments” in unconventional ways, or with unconventional accompaniment – something that juxtaposes the instrument against its environment, and that emphasizes its salience in relationship to its surroundings. In this way, hopefully, we will get closer to the idea of a kind of music that never even has been imagined before.