Research Data Leeds Repository

Keynote 3: Music at any cost - fulfilling our desires for intense sonic experiences in the electric and pre-electric eras

Angliss, Sarah (2016) Keynote 3: Music at any cost - fulfilling our desires for intense sonic experiences in the electric and pre-electric eras. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

Sound, more than any other sensory modality, is a stimulus that many of us are willing to experience at a high personal cost. The gig goers who vie to stand near the deafening loudspeakers at a drone metal concert know this. So do the audiophiles who spend thousands chasing elusive ‘perfect’ sound via their modular synths or top of the range headphones. In this talk, I’ll explore this aspect of sound culture which I call the ‘sonic imperative’. I think the sonic imperative has been somewhat overlooked in current histories of electronic music. I’ll attempt to explain why. I’ll also ask what we can learn if we consider it more closely. Electronics, digital processing and electroacoustic transducers have given composers, instrument makers and listeners new ways to meet their cravings for intense or sublime sonic experiences. They’ve augmented the possibilities on offer. Yet in many ways, these developments have merely intensified highly sought-after, extreme sonic experiences that were already available in the pre-electric era. For example: in terms of shock and awe, a thrash metal guitar, played at maximum volume, arguably has a strong family resemblance to a Wagnerian fortissimo brass section. The hi-fi can bring this to the listener invisibly, creating a thrill that’s comparable to the mystic abyss of the Festspielhaus. Whether they’re working with new or old tools, composers generally use them to create music with a certain affect (even if that affect is a sensation of emotional coldness). This can sometimes be lost in histories of electronic innovation - for instance in the UK, when talking about the work of Tristram Cary. Perhaps this is because certain composers are reluctant to discuss their emotional intent. It may also be due to the difficulties of describing affect when working with electronic sounds (which can be unfamiliar). According to his son John, Tristram Cary was ‘very buttoned up’ and unwilling to talk about the emotional heft of his music, preferring to talk about compositional concepts and machines, even though the emotion may be evident to the listener. Sonic imperatives and emotional intentions don’t readily reveal themselves when we survey the physical relics of our electronic music culture, such as the dead machines in museum collections. What’s more, the technical history of electronic music is tightly bound up with other technical narratives, such as the history of radar and telecommunications. Thus, it’s tempting to present a partial history of electronic music machines, one which talks about engineering developments while neglecting any discussion of sonic desire and affect. If we consider these issues, perhaps it will be easier to see electronic music as a continuation of music culture from the pre-electric era.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
Related resources:
Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:34



Research Data Leeds Repository is powered by EPrints
Copyright © 2023 University of Leeds