• Saison 2015-2016 - None - None > TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music
  • Oct. 9, 2015
  • Program note: TCPM 2015
  • Baptiste Bacot (conférencier)

When playing an acoustic instrument, the musician applies force from his body to the instrument’s exciter, which is amplified by the resonator. Except for vocal music and electronic music, the hands of the musician are the main vectors of sonic generation. Directly in touch with the instrument, they delve into its expressive possibilities through modulations of sonic parameters (pitch, dynamic, length, tone). The relationship between playing techniques’ evolution (gestures) and instrumental displays (the shape of the instrument’s body) leads to the organological conception of musical instruments.

Electronic music refers to many different genres, all of which are defined by the technological means used to produce it. Those means can be summed up in three categories: sampling, sound synthesis and sound or data processing. Various device configurations are required to record, edit and perform sounds in an instrument-oriented way. Since those often include basic controllers, they have to be programmed for the musician to be able to perform his/her music. When controllers are embedded, on dancers’ bodies for instance, movement and the sonic reaction could even be contrary to the prosaic signification of sonic bodies in motion and our cognition of everyday sounds – distance, azimut, zenith, objects’ mass and hits related to their frequency and volume range – could be disrupted. Body movements are then not necessarily related to generated or controlled sounds anymore, nor to daily sonic environment [3]. That paradigm, which removes “executive human gesture [4]” from the sonic result itself, is most of the time what makes the distinctiveness of electronic music. Its performance analysis requires both a thorough examination of controllers and gestural strategies, an approach that has thus far been only superficially explored [5]. Major questions remain unexamined: how does one analyse this electronic music’s controller-practice in terms of organology? To what extent can controllers be, from the musician’s point of view, a renewed approach to creating electronic music?

This contribution based on an ethnographical study, which began in 2014, aims at analysing the gestural appropriation of instrument-like devices used in electronic music, especially the mixing console. Two solo musicians using consoles in their performances are part of this comparative paper.

Robert Henke’s Lumière, is an audio-visual work in which he uses four music- synchronized laser beams. A total of three interviews (one featuring a set up walkthrough and a demonstration) about Henke’s work have been made last year and this year, during the 16th and 20th performances of Lumière. The second musician, Brain Damage (a.k.a. Martin Nathan), digitally records and arranges music sequences. On stage, he sends these scenes through channels of his Yamaha 01V mixing console, which provides motorized faders (their last position is recorded and can be recalled at any time). He thus manipulates through faders and buttons the type, amount, duration of effects and level of each track. Two interviews with demonstrations have been conducted and filmed as part of this research.

This approach, based on carefully documented professional musical practices, questions the evolution of creative process through controllers, and more widely, stresses the possibility of a wider organology, which could encompass electronic devices alongside traditional musical instruments. The control gesture becomes an instrumental parameter, vital to the creative process in electronic music. According to the performer, the aesthetics of the piece or the device used to achieve it, performing music via a mixing console produces singular hand playing techniques related to the prior music production strategies in the studio. This analysis facilitates a new framework for conceiving performance and technological appropriation in electronic music creativity.

TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music

From the same archive