Reactive Music, revolutionary sound

HarS wrote (with greatly catching enthusiasm) about ubiquitous mobile devices, and their involvement in a future “turning point” for music consumption and production.

“For pretty much anyone currently alive on this planet the concept of music cannot but be indissolubly linked with the possibility of the unlimited identical repetition of a relatively limited number of sound recordings. We call them songs, or tracks, numbers, pieces, compositions. These you may hear again, and again, and again. The listening to (which significantly differs from the – soundless – ‘remembering of’) music at any time other than that contemporary to its creation (when you’re at a concert, or playing the piano) roughly has been a common practice only since technologies of recording became available for the public. This consumption of music recordings is a consumption of music as an immutable form; of music as rigidly filled out stretches of time; of intervals that permit the identical displacement of themselves, both in space and in time: you may listen again, at the place and time of your choice.”<!– I have no idea whether somehow someone in some context ever researched along similar lines, but it seems obvious that this continuous exposure of human beings to a limited number of sound recordings (which, adding but a little bit of abstraction, I think of as 'temporal emotive identities') has a big influence on who and what we (think) are. It is therefore that surely, in a time and age with no sound recording and playback technologies available, music must have been a thing very different from what we know it to be. –>

I think you might see where he’s going with this.

“The recent possibility of delivering ‘music’ to popular and widely used consumer devices not as immutable, unchanging recordings, but in the form of more or less open-ended, dynamic processes, the sounding result of which will always be different, is the potential new turning point in the way in which we consume (and produce) music that I hinted at.”

He’s brought the discussion to both the “soundasart” and “oddmusic” Yahoo groups, where the reaction has been everything from outright dismissive to full agreement. My links direct to the opening message of each thread.

Here’s my take on the matter:

“I gotta say, Harold– this is probably more one of those instances where the potential revolutionary aspects of a device are presenting themselves to excitable folks like you, me, and a handful of others; but is just another case of “won’t catch on because the listening public has zero imagination”. Hell, I’d love to see someone use a combination of wireless and GPS capabilities in a handheld device to create textural works where large crowds hear portions of a single work, which shift as they move amongst one another.

You could create music that reacts not only to your own data (accelerometer, location, etc) but that of others, taking into account what they’re listening to, and creating on-the-fly amoebic conglomerates of sound. Train stations could develop into a pulsing meta-noise building in climax as hundreds of listeners board a packed subway car, sharing a sound event, and hearing their eventual release scatter as the train delivers them to their individual destinations, each taking a grain of this social sound with them into their day to be developed further. Cities might develop “signature” sounds, with “aural hallmarks” eventually making its way into the lexicon of every travel guide.

We might someday debate the relative qualities of a strain of New York sound as we similarly discuss a San Francisco sourdough, or a true Chicago pizza. Even more interestingly, rural locations might develop radically different local sounds– the work of years of a listening hermit’s solitary activities resulting in a previously-unheard evolution toward an unimagined sound destination!”

What are your thoughts on this?

One Response to “Reactive Music, revolutionary sound”

  1. Har$ Says:

    Hi Dave, landing a bit late here (two months, indeed (!)) … Must have missed your post on this for some reason, but I do remember your ‘signature sounds’ remark from one of the yah.groups where I tried to provoke a ‘little stir’ :-) … not too much avail – if I remember rightly apart from you most other ‘reactors’ seemed to miss the point, and I did not see the use of insisting, and risking having to enter into another pretty much pointless discussion. Interesting that in the above quote from the soundblog you unveil one of the ‘personal comments’ that sometimes I leave in the source code of the page, but that are not meant to be visible in the ‘public’ text (I add them as html comments- it’s the part enclosed above by ; which lacks twice the additional -, that one would find in the source of the blog page ); did you dig that part out of the page’s code? Or do you use a tool that somehow ignores html comments, and displays them as part of the text? Maybe one of the rss readers? … Just curious … all the best from freezing Paris ! h$

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