Sound Work - Composition as Critical Technical Practice

ORCiM Seminar 2016

SOUND WORK
Composition as Critical Technical Practice
Orpheus Research Seminar 2016
21-23 November 2016, Ghent, Belgium

The 10th Orpheus Research Seminar offers the opportunity for contributors from around the world to gather and explore the theme of composition as critical technical practice.

This seminar – convened by Jonathan Impett - will consider composition as a research activity - a process informed by theory and intuition, constraint and contingency, expectation and experience. It is a continuous iterative process of inscription and reflection in which its models, metaphors, aspirations, obligations, tools and technologies all play a part. This process is distributed temporally, socially and materially. The artefacts of composition – however notated, improvised, virtual, embodied or technologically implemented – are hybrid technical objects. Neither pure ‘inspiration’ not unmediated formalism account for what they contribute. We might rather consider composition as a design process, and study its dynamics and decisions in the spirit of critical technical practice – a term coined by Philip Agre in his work on the creation of the artefacts of artificial intelligence.

Given the prominence of the work and its author, of originality and development in Western art music, we might expect composition to be seen as the very embodiment of the notion of music as knowledge-production. Practice-as-research and artistic research have reached a relatively mature stage of assimilation and consensus, and yet the role of composition as research remains much debated in some quarters, unhelpfully unclear in others. Is this a question of communication, of discourse, of process and reflection, of composition as a cultural activity, or of its wider intellectual context?


The self-reporting of composition tends to consider the areas in which it aspires to be innovative, or the theories – musical, aesthetic, social, scientific, technological – that have informed the work, rather than research aspects of the activity of composition itself. The knowledge presented in such cases often lies outside composition. There is no shortage of investigation of the ontology and epistemology of the ‘work’ as a persisting historical cultural phenomenon, but the technologies and context of composition have undergone a paradigm shift. The present, to repurpose a phrase, is another country.

This seminar will consider composition as a research activity, as reflective critical making. Composition walks a tightrope between formalism and the arbitrary, a process informed by theory and intuition, constraint and contingency, expectation and experience. It is a continuous iterative process of inscription and reflection in which its models, metaphors, aspirations, obligations, tools and technologies all play a part. This process is distributed temporally, socially and materially. The artefacts of composition – however notated, improvised, virtual, embodied or technologically implemented – are hybrid technical objects. Neither pure ‘inspiration’ not unmediated formalism account for what they contribute. We might rather consider composition as a design process, and study its dynamics and decisions in the spirit of critical technical practice – a term coined by Philip Agre in his work on the creation of the artefacts of artificial intelligence.

Keynote speakers:

Nicolas Collins, Professor of Sound at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)
Alan Blackwell, Professor of Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge

Schedule:

 

Monday 21 November
   
14:00 Welcome
Jonathan Impett, director of research Orpheus Institute, Ghent
14:30 Keynote 1
Nicolas Collins, Professor of Sound at SAIC, Chicago
15:30 - 16:00 BREAK
16:00 - 18:00 4 Papers (20’+10’)
16:00 Johannes Bergmark:Composition, Improvisation and Experimental Musical Instrument Design
16:30 Tom Hall: Slowness Now - A reflective approach to composing with music technologies
17:00 Giovanni Verrando: Composition and lutherie
17:30 Thor Magnusson: "How I wrote one of my pieces"
18:00 - 19:30 DINNER (OWN ARRANGEMENTS)
19:30 Performance
Richard Craig
Jurgen De Blonde
Sam Hayden & Mieko Kanno
   
Tuesday 22 November
   
9:30 - 11:00 3 Papers (20’+10’)
09:30 Sam Hayden & Mieko Kanno: Live Notation as a Hybrid Composition and Performance Tool
10:00 Oded Ben-Tal: Modes of Collaborative Composition
10:30 Aaron Einbond: Reproduction as Compositional Research in the Wake of Big Data
11:00 - 11:30 BREAK
11:30 - 13:00 3 papers (20’+10’)
11:30 Eduardo Abrantes: Now Wait For It – Call-and- response as compositional process
12:00 Scott McLauglin: Material Topologies
12:30 Richard Craig: A Work-in- Progress (the Performer as a Composer)
13:00 - 14:30 LUNCH (IN HOUSE)
14:30 – 16:00 3 papers (20’+10’)
14:30 Lula Romero: Composition as Experiment
15:00 Simon Waters: Changing Countries’ - Studio-based composition across the shift from analogue to digital technologies 1980-1995
15:30 Nicholas Brown: Composition Pedagogy in an Age of Electronic Media
16:00 - 16:30 BREAK
16:30 - 18:00 3 Papers (20’+10’)
16:30 Patricia Alessandrini: Parlour Sounds - Working towards a practice-based feminist theory of music technology through a critical compositional process
17:00 Harald Muenz: Aesthetic Phonetics - Composition-based research in a borderline area of perception
17:30 Ben Dwyer: ‘KnowingUnknowing’ - Thoughts on the dynamics of improvised and “crystalised” composition
19:00 DINNER (IN HOUSE)
   
Wednesday 23 November
   
9:30 - 10:30 2 papers (20’+10’)
09:30 Sandeep Bhagwati: Alienation Strategies in Trans-Compositional Creative Musicking
10:00 Ann M. Ward: Toward a Critical Musical Practice
10:30 - 11:00 BREAK
11:00 Keynote 2
Alan Blackwell, Prof. Interdisciplinary Design, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge
12:00 – 13:00 Wrap up and discussion

 

Seminar booklet

 

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