Four new books were recently added to our bookshelf, all released by Bloomsbury Academic and focused on diverse topics around experimental music theories:
After Sound: Towards a Critical Music
by G Douglas Barrett
“After Sound considers contemporary art practices that reconceive music beyond the limitation of sound. This book is called After Sound because music and sound are, in Barrett’s account, different entities. While musicology and sound art theory alike typically equate music with pure instrumental sound, or absolute music, Barrett posits music as an expanded field of artistic practice encompassing a range of different media and symbolic relationships. The works discussed in After Sound thus use performance, text scores, musical automata, video, social practice, and installation while they articulate a novel aesthetic space for a radically engaged musical practice. Coining the term “critical music,” this book examines a diverse collection of art projects which intervene into specific political and philosophical conflicts by exploring music’s unique historical forms.
Through a series of intimate studies of artworks surveyed from the visual and performing arts of the past ten years-Pussy Riot, Ultra-red, Hong-Kai Wang, Peter Ablinger, Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, and others-After Sound offers a significant revision to the way we think about music. The book as a whole offers a way out of one of the most vexing deadlocks of contemporary cultural criticism: the choice between a sound art effectively divorced from the formal-historical coordinates of musical practice and the hermetic music that dominates new music circles today.”
Experimental Music Since 1970
By Jennie Gottschalk
“What is experimental music today? This book offers an up to date survey of this field for anyone with an interest, from seasoned practitioners to curious readers. This book takes the stance that experimental music is not a limited historical event, but is a proliferation of approaches to sound that reveals much about present-day experience. An experimental work is not identifiable by its sound alone, but by the nature of the questions it poses and its openness to the sounding event.
Experimentation is a way of working. It pushes past that which is known to discover what lies beyond it, finding new knowledge, forms, and relationships, or accepting a state of uncertainty. For each of these composers and sound artists, craft is developed and transformed in response to the questions they bring to their work. Scientific, perceptual, or social phenomena become catalysts in the operation of the work.
These practices are not presented according to a chronology, a set of techniques, or social groupings. Instead, they are organized according to the content areas that are their subjects, including resonance, harmony, objects, shapes, perception, language, interaction, sites, and histories. Musical materials may be subject, among other treatments, to systemization, observation, examination, magnification, fragmentation, translation, or destabilization. These restless and exploratory modes of engagement have continued to develop over recent decades, expanding the scope of both musical practice and listening.”
Experimentations: John Cage in Music, Art and Architecture
By Branden Wayne Joseph
“Experimentations provides a detailed historical and theoretical analysis of the first three decades of experimental composer John Cage’s aesthetic production (ca. 1940-1972). Paying particular attention to Cage’s inter- and cross-disciplinary engagements with the visual arts and architecture during this period, the book sheds new light on some of Cage’s most controversial and influential innovations, such as the use of noise, chance techniques, indeterminacy, electronic technologies, and computerization, as well as upon lesser known but important ideas and strategies such as transparency, multiplicity, virtuality, and actualization. Ultimately, it traces the development of Cage’s avant-garde aesthetic and political project as it transformed from the emulation of historical avant-garde precedents such as futurism and the Bauhaus, to the development of important precedents for the post-World War II movements of happenings and Fluxus, to its ultimate abandonment in the aftermath of problems encountered in the vast, multimedia composition HPSCHD (1967-69).”
Postmodern Music, Postmodern Listening
By Jonathan D. Kramer. Edited by Robert Carl
“Kramer was one of the most visionary musical thinkers of the second half of the 20th century. In his The Time of Music, he approached the idea of the many different ways that time itself is articulated musically. This book has become influential among composers, theorists, and aestheticians. Now, in his almost completed text written before his untimely death in 2004, he examines the concept of postmodernism in music. Kramer created a series of markers by which we can identify postmodern works. He suggests that the postmodern project actually creates a radically different relationship between the composer and listener. Written with wit, precision, and at times playfully subverting traditional tropes to make a very serious point about this difference, Postmodern Music, Postmodern Listening leads us to a strongly grounded intellectual basis for stylistic description and an intuitive sensibility of what postmodernism in music entails.
Postmodern Music, Postmodern Listening is an examination of how musical postmodernism is not just a style or movement, but a fundamental shift in the relationship between composer and listener. The result is a multifaceted and provocative look at a critical turning point in music history, one whose implications we are only just beginning to understand.”