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Production and reproduction


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Author Topic: Production and reproduction  (Read 615 times)
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« on: July 10, 2009, 11:22:34 am »

. . . given the move from definite pitches as the central quality of music, in both tonal and serial systems, to including more and more noises (indefinite pitch), it's also interesting that the machines designed to reproduce were more successful at producing noise than the machines that mimicked the pitch producing quality of most musical instruments. . . .

I would demur at this part - about the noises - because I think it is in general important to retain the operations of harmony in music.

But overall, there have as I see it been over the course of the past few decades a number of significant advances or steps in the capabilities of electronic music.

1) tape recorders with continuously variable speed. In controllable form these must have come in around 1970. I remember in 1965 I bought a tone generator from Edgeware Road and a surplus recorder from the BBC which had a speed variation knob, but it was impossible to control with any accuracy.

2) the next step would have been the ability to change the speed of a piece of music without changing its pitch - and also the ability to change the pitch of a piece of music without changing its speed. Correct me if I am wrong about these, but I suspect they became available around 1980.

3) then around 1983 began the widespread use of sequencers, connected to synthesizers, making everything that had gone before seem impossibly difficult in comparison. More and more detailed individual characteristics could be assigned to every note of a work.

4) finally in 1995 or so came the advent of the sampler, whereby the sounds of "real instruments" could be recorded and played back by the sequencer. I have yet to hear a sampled stringed instrument that sounds totally lifelike though, and in any case as I see it many synthesized sounds are more suitable for many pieces of music - even Bach! - than the sounds of actual or manual instruments.

There are of course now many more such computerized musical marvels, but these were the principal stages were they not?

And it is my view that the heyday of acousmatic music is yet to come!

(The word "acousmatic" refers to the akusmatikoi, pupils of Pythagoras who, so that they might better concentrate on his teachings, were required to sit in absolute silence while they listened to their master speak, hidden from view behind a screen. In a radio talk in 1955 the French writer Jérôme Peignot used the expression "bruit acousmatique" to describe the separation of a sound from its origins as encountered in musique concrète. Schaeffer in his Traité des objets musicaux (1966) compared the role of the tape recorder to the screen of Pythagoras, emphasizing the concentrated listening facilitated when working in the studio with sound recorded on tape: repeated listening encouraged a better appreciation of the detailed abstract attributes of sounds. In 1974 the composer François Bayle, head of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, suggested adopting the term as more suitable than "electro-acoustic music" for representing the special conditions of listening to music on tape. Acousmatic music has focussed attention on how we listen to sounds and to music, and what we seek through listening. Consequently, music analysis and music psychology have expanded their fields of inquiry to encompass the wider sound world of electro-acoustic music.)
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