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Re: [microsound] maths science and electronic music

On Apr 12, 2005, at 4:15 PM, David Powers wrote:

Yes, but sometimes certain mathematical processes create aesthetically
interesting sounds. There are plenty of serial pieces that sound good
to my ears, and I don't have to be aware of the math, as a listener.
However, the math does matter in a sense, if the composer did not use
that mathematical process, the piece wouldn't sound that way, and thus I
as a listener would never have the pleasure of experiencing that
particular sound. The math does not JUSTIFY the piece as being
aesthetically pleasing, but it is a necessary moment in creating that

That's a tough one... I think that, in the right context, math /could/ enhance the aesthetic value of a piece (phrases like 'aesthetic value' and 'aesthetically pleasing' are loaded, and difficult to get a handle on, but lets pretend for the moment they're not...). It's not a particularly foreign idea that extra-musical meaning can enhance, alter, or even fundamentally make up the experience of music. Historically, one can think of programmatic works of music that are heavily dependent on, for example, a text, story, painting, etc. Good knowledge of this text/story/painting/etc. is going to change our aesthetic engagement with the work, potentially at a very deep level. Can we consider, for example, a Xenakis piece somehow programmatic, insofar as it might be about some kind of mathematical expression or process? Will a good grasp of the mathematics in use, at an intuitive level, enhance/change out experience of the piece? This certainly seemed to be the case with some serial music... the aesthetic value didn't lie in the sounds produced, or the notes, but somewhere in between these and the system being used to produce them. I'm sure plenty of serialist composers had plenty of powerful experiences with other serial works (even if they sounded like shit to the layperson). I'm certainly not advocating any kind of /reliance/ on extra-musical meaning to justify or complete the piece, but it happens all the time, and is probably, in some sense, unavoidable. Am I making sense?

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