As I read the conversation with jonCates and researched some of the glitch media artists’ pieces, I found most interesting how he talks about the system which he creates in his works. These glitched systems may malfunction or be loud or have mistakes but Cates considers these imperfect aberrations to be the essence of his artworks.
“A poetic embrace of noise and error,”
the glitch media works to show the messy reality of our technologically driven lives, but in a positive and playful manner.
No doubt, communication in our lives heavily takes place on the web or through technology. This gap between the language of our daily interactions and the language we use on our machines is closing in terms of how we handle ourselves on each. As this gap closes, our lives evolve into a techno-social system like that in Cates’s video. In this techno-social system, we communicate both in reading information and sharing it out to others. Cates calls this
“the performance of everyday life that we’re all doing all the time with all of our technologies.”
Can living be measured by our use of technologies? I don’t believe so, at least not entirely. But it can be a valuable source of information and data storage, a platform in which we live out our communication and therefore, our life.
As our lives revolve around these complex tech-social interactions, technology-facilitated communications start to reflect our instinctive verbal communication and language. Yet, jonCates doesn’t seem to reflect life accurately, choosing to break the reality of daily interactions through layering of text, noises and web interactions in his glitch work. It seems that this is what gives the glitch media the name “dirty new media,” speaking to the chaotic reality of our lives which is reflected in how we use technology. However, I would argue that because it deviates from logic and our communication habits (such as pausing, thinking, reflection, silence, etc.) the glitch media example of BOLD3RRR was not very pleasing to watch or listen to. Cates believes glitch aesthetic is growing in popularity to the point where it is not
“exclusively resistant or exclusively political,”
but I think the glitch media art field would need to greatly expand for the aesthetic to be more accepted or logical.
From two months studying at NTU, my perception of design has definitely changed. Projects I have been exposed to in all of my courses have been much more than visuals on a poster or screen. The experience of interacting with media is multi-sensory and through this class, so far, I have learned how sound augments an experience in a particular space, shared with others or alone, or while interacting with an art installation. Emotion, purpose and innovation associated with interactive media is very much a result of sound.
“break at all cost from this restrictive circle of pure sounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds.”
Of course, every noise has its own unique sound but Russolo blew the door open for the infinite sounds we could CREATE ourselves. As I explored combining recorded noises in Max and utilized various output modules, it become quite obvious how expansive the sound landscape is.
So where does one begin in producing a sound? Is it entirely fabricated from scratch like the sounds produced from Russolo’s noise machines? Or is it experimental use of instruments that already exist, as composer Edgard Varese practiced in his piece Ionisation? For the purpose of my project, I was inspired by contemporary sound artist Bill Fontana’s use of everyday sounds, recgonzing that
“the world at any given moment is a potential musical system.”
Listening and observing are a couple of the most important skills in learning and finding inspiration in our daily lives. As I went about my days here in Singapore, I did not actively search out moments of sound inspiration. Rather, it was in the times when I was just being present in a space that I would pick up on a soundscape around me that I wanted to record. These sounds were then combined to become half of my compositional audio-visual piece, layering each of these moments on top of each other to create a new sound landscape.
Yet, with all I had learned about finding and producing sounds, composing them posed a greater challenge. Harkening back to Russolo’s “Awakening of a City”, it appeared that noises could become a musical composition as we try to organize them in a strategic manner. There may be no recognizable form of composition exactly like that of musical notes; but the freeing of sounds as they collide on a three dimensional plane, explained by Varese, creates new colors, magnitude, and perspectives so that
“the entire work will be a melodic totality. The entire work will flow as a river flows.”
Layered sounds, reverberation, additive filters, and changing volumes moved the individual sounds towards a calculated composition in our projects, abandoning linear movement of sound masses. And while what we were creating in class was an entirely conceived sound composition, there are similar sound mass compositions that we experience around us. Go to a hawker center or cafe, a public concert or sports event and you will be able to pick up this textural mass of sounds. Yet we don’t always do so. We pay attention to what we see more so than what we hear. Our reading from composer John Cage on silence, helped me acknowledge that listening is as powerful as seeing or creating.
That is not to say that video should be disregarded. But because we are constantly focused on the visuals in front of us, video feed can make sounds more recognizable and less imaginative. Thus, used wisely, video can help root a composition in narrative. Visuals add depth to a soundscape just as sounds add dimension to video. Combined together, they form what a digital landscape truly is: an immersive experience in a composed story. Artist Janet Cardiff showcases how sound and video can distort time in a listeners mind, relocate people from place to place and open up alternate worlds,
Whether it’s traditional musical notes or experimental noises, music reflects the world. It reflects the way in which the artist intended a sound piece to be heard. It reflects the thoughtful innovation of unique sounds that have been put into the world. And music reflects the emotion of the listeners and authenticates our experiences. Through our digital landscapes, we are able to take these reflections and our learnings on conceptual sound art to evoke new stories with creative purpose.
History is often read as context for understanding the present. Yet, in John Cage’s “History of Experimental Music in the United States,” he spends the first four paragraphs renouncing history:
“Why, if everything is possible, do we concern ourselves with history (in other words with a sense of what is necessary to be done at a particular time?”
Instead he proposes, that:
“one does not seek by his actions to arrive at … success… beauty… [or] truth[,] but does what must be done.”
While this seems to contradict any sense of purposeful composition, the theory makes sense in combining noise sounds that may simply be noises that are heard in everyday life — noises combined without artistic intent. Accepting this lack of control can be quite difficult for the designer’s mind in someone like myself, which attempts to design a concrete solution to a problem.
Reading Cage’s writing after reading Edgard Varese’s “The Liberation of Sound” gave me a greater appreciation for how advanced Varese was for his time. Still, Cage criticizes Varese as being not experimental (or varied) enough in the outcome of his sound compositions. Cage’s focus on chance operation and lack of preconceived notions seems to be a reversal of how we compose, design, or create.
Out of the three of these terms, I would deduct “create” to be the word that fits Cage’s proposal for experimental music best; yet, creation typically exists through use of the imagination and Cage reject’s Varese’s use of the imagination. His extreme opposition to history and purpose in music is quite intimidating in envisioning how myself or anyone might compose such music based on indeterminacy.
On the other hand, composing silence seems to be accepted by Cage and planning for space and emptiness is an idea that easily translates across much of art and design. Maybe Cage is proposing that we abandon commonly accepted ways of planning and strategically composing sounds and approach compositions from new angles. We can still write pieces with intent but then flip the composition or erase parts or find other means that would result in an outcome that wasn’t originally conceived. Possibly, experimental music might simply be about letting the sounds drive the composition and being open to however the sounds combine themselves…
“Giving up control so that sounds can be sounds”
This brings up the concept of what is considered sound versus music, which we have explored in each reading so far. If we let noises drive compositions, does that mean they are still musical compositions? One of John Cage’s most famous pieces, 4:33, pushes this to the extreme with silence as sound.
With 4:33 as my point of reference, listening to Cartridge Music actually emphasized “silence” as sound, or as Cage points out in his writing, the importance of emptiness. Even with earphones in while listening to Cartridge Music, I could still hear the background sounds of the cafe I was in: the workings of a kitchen, the people sitting next to me, distant cafe music, silverware clinking:
And yet, these surrounding noises added to the experience of the listening to this piece of inconsistent rough mechanical sounds. Silence allows each listener to have a slightly different experience while listening to a composition. Essentially, through 4:33, Cartridge Music, and his writing, Cage puts a focus on time, unpredictability, and the constant noise surrounding us as the only requirements to successful experimental music.