Eclectic I

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Forum wk2

I want to be original... Just like everybody else
as discussed by Stephen Whitington

In certain cultures musical traditions are passed on from one generation to the next. There is a key repertoire which is valued and cherished within the culture and mastery of this repertoire is of the utmost importance. Originality is something earned through this mastery and quite often even then it comes up against harsh resistance within the culture which holds fast to their traditions and opposes change.

Stephen's perspectives on music bring into question the severe extreme to which modern society is shunning anything deemed un-original. Is this really a just system? How can you truly define originality when it’s through the exposure and study (whether institutional or personal) of music/art that one obtains mastery? One student raised a very valid opinion along the lines that we create from piecing together different forms and styles to create something new from the old. In this way how is it possible to ever be entirely 'original'? If this practice were wrong Mozart would be sued for 'ripping off' Haydn.

So where does originality spring from?

Is it in fact experience or is it innocence? Stephen talked of how children are spontaneously creative. In their innocence they have not yet been confined by a set of structures and rules and are free to create. Many composers try and return back to that state of innocence to reach into the pool of creativity that it contains.

The story of Erik Satie epitomizes the power within 'innocent composing' but is it any more legitimate and original than studying music? I find personally that I'm learning a lot more as I study music. There is the trap of falling into following the guidelines and regurgitating. I came from having previously composing with next to no standard musical training before I came to university. I wrote from that place of innocence which Stephen referred to. I believe that it is possible to maintain that whilst understanding and applying the new knowledge I obtain. Maybe Satie's 'fall' was that he set out to write a fugue and he wasn't looking to write from innocence and experimentation but completely from mastery. A balance is necessary in my opinion.

Then we delve into the realm of technology; beginning with Walter Benjamin’s opinion about the 'Aura' of original as compared to reproductions, and moving onto Baudrillard's Simulacrum. Is the distinguishing brilliance of the original still of any importance when reproductions are so far detached that there is no longer a connection?

This of course flows naturally into the notion of putting lots of different parts of pieces together such as in the work presented by John Zorn and Christian Marklay. Although I find it disappointing that these examples where of very experimental art nature and there wasn't anything from the more commercial realm of sampling. I really enjoy the notion of plunderphonics though. It is really taking it to the next level and is a brilliant example of Simulacrum.

The final topic of the talk broke new ground for me. All my previous approaches to computer music have been from sample based musique concrete esque, or at most when I created a Virtual Synth which I then played like any normal synth. But now that we are being introduced to coding in Max this year the concept of computer generated work is quite mind boggling. David Cope's computer program opens up a whole can of worms I don't really have time to discuss.

Being that we did a whole Forum on copyright laws last year I think I can get away with not covering it. -thankfully :P There was way too much to cover this week and not enough words (or time) to cover it.


Wittington, Stephen. "Forum – ‘Originality in Music’". Lecture presented at University Adelaide. Thursday 8th March 2007.

Pic References

Unknown. ( 8 March 2007).

Hale, Jim. September 27, 2006. ( 9 March 2007).


Blogger John Delany said...

QUOTE: I wrote from that place of innocence which Stephen referred to. I believe that it is possible to maintain that whilst understanding and applying the new knowledge I obtain.

I agree, this seems entirely possible, and many of my favourite composers and performers are those that whilst highly knowledgeable in theory and western musical art, normally compose pieces in a very child-like manner (ie. just imagining an idea in one's mind and going with it...) I enjoy it when a composer (notably in film music) utilises specific theoretical concepts to create a mood (through the use of specific modes for example. Composer Alan Silvestri does this very effectively). Therefore the theory element is merely a part of the toolkit. An extra means of expression at their disposal.

On a separate note, could I just point out that Stephen's surname is neither spelt "Wittington" nor "Whitington" but WHITTINGTON. Spelling, spelling, spelling!

1:39 AM  
Blogger Ben said...


"these examples where of very experimental art nature".

And you were doing so well...

2:55 AM  

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