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Electroacoustic Mythmaking: National Grand Narratives in Electroacoustic Music

Andean, James (2016) Electroacoustic Mythmaking: National Grand Narratives in Electroacoustic Music. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

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

Dataset description

Histories of electroacoustic music tend to converge around a limited set of grand narratives, which construct an outline of electroacoustic history organized around themes including the 'Great Studios', a small handful of 'Great Composers' (Stockhausen, Schaeffer, Berio, Cage...), and contrast and conflict between 'Great Nations' – primarily, between France and Germany. While all of the above had roles to play in the development of the genre, these narratives can at best be described as misleading, and at worst be accused of rather sinister undercurrents. Not only are such simplifications extremely reductive, and at times demonstrably false, they also support a form of broad national caricature that demands a thorough and critical rethinking. Where composers of this period of post-war Modernism were desperate to ensure that the nationalist romantic mistakes of the past would not be repeated, the retrospective gaze of electroacoustic history has re-imposed this same narrative once again, by emphasizing post-war animosity as a defining factor in the birth of a new musical genre. These narratives of 'great men', 'great studios', and 'great nations', are all focused on loci of power – but silently and invisibly, without addressing the various sources and motivations that lie behind these accumulations of power. The picture that emerges as a result appears to privilege and celebrate power, lacking an essential level of scrutiny. To balance this largely unintentional narrowness of vision, we might usefully pursue two parallel paths. A focus on various forms of power as a defining factor in the development of electroacoustic music is not without its relevance, but requires contextualization and closer examination; for example, an examination of the resources involved in EA's development – the flow of resources, points at which resources are or have been abundant, or at which they have been lacking or denied – would serve to openly address and balance narratives of power, and could be expected to lead to greater insight into the forces that formed our field, and may potentially help in shaping strategies for future development. On the other hand, we might move away from power as a central narrative, to focus on some of the more positive forces that have had every bit as much of a formative effect. Many of the 'great men' and 'great studios' were of such great importance not only through the force of their thought and creative output, but, very importantly, through their often significant efforts and successes in building communities of interest. Taking this as a starting point, a number of alternative approaches to electroacoustic history suggest themselves, taking the interplay of communities and community outreach as cornerstones: for example, a mapping of electroacoustic history through its great pedagogues, and the communities and webs of influence they have helped to inspire. This would retain something of a 'great men' approach, but a focus on pedagogical figures leads us, in my opinion, to a more accurate and fuller image of the changing electroacoustic landscape.

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
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:39



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