The Invisible Academy

Wednesday 30 May 2007

It looks like I’ve been on a John Cage kick lately, but that’s like saying a physicist is on an Einstein kick. My interest in him hasn’t changed; it just happens that I’ve been posting about him more often than usual.
I’ve just been reading an interview of Cage with Peter Gena. This comment made by Gena makes, in a more concise and lucid way, the point I was getting at in my intemperate rant about most electroacoustic music:

There is a difference between receiving an idea, and evolving through one. The attitude in, “That’s a good idea; I think I’ll write a piece with that,” is usually less productive and rarely experimental. The best examples of this are often connected with technology. A technician introduces a new “chip” and can do forty voices at once, and costs only five dollars; so ten of those can produce 400 voices. Then because of the new chip, a composer who rarely writes music gets an idea for a piece, outside of any active aesthetic continuum.

This was said back in 1982. So many musicians (I’m thinking particularly of composers) have not learned to accommodate technology into their musical practice; for all this time they have been distracted by the continuous developments in technology and dashing from one latest thing to the next, allowing their music to be dictated by them. Furthermore, like academicism at its worst, the music so produced is directed toward justifying the idea behind it (the old “it’s better than it sounds” phenomenon) than as a product of genuine creativity.

Gena, naturally, then goes on to contrast this approach to Cage’s:

What strikes me about your music and ideas is that the ideas come at a point when you need them, as opposed to this other approach.