Re: MUSIC: The Next 25 Years
Sun, 7 Nov 1999 09:04:17 EST

In a message dated 99-11-06 13:19:17 EST, (Robert Owen) wrote:

> Some spontaneous thoughts on your lovely post, and especially on this
> passage.
> Huxlean "feelies"? Soylant-Green-Style autoeuthanasia? Can one distinguish
> the objet d'art and the artist? Why do I associate your expression with
> "onanism" when what initially caught my attention was the lucidity of your
> vision? Do you have in mind the projection of private fantasy into a
> synesthetic
> n-dimensional medium? "Where", "psychospatially", is the medium? What is
> --
> a sensorium of psychic aether, a hologram that exists only when it is
> perceived?
> How does this differ from the "virtual worlds" that emerge spontaneously
> during
> sensory deprivation, without the intervention of "computer-assisted
> perception"?
> Does this integration exclude a social audience? While one is absorbed in
> the
> evidently all-encompassing and engulfing aesthetique, is one technically
> under-
> going a transient dissociative state? Is the "artistic environment" an "
> alternate
> universe" -- c.f. lucid dreaming?

These are all good questions. In fact, they probably presage the outlines of 21st century art criticism well. Just as there have been spectra of quality in the creation and appreciation of traditional media - what may come to be called the "separate arts" (as a reference to the medium-imposed bright lines between "painting" and "music" and "drama" we recognize now), so there will be in the new art form(s) I envision.

You identify one of these spectra in your first question, with its reference to "onanism". Just as the media of literature, painting, photography and movies/video have given rise to a spectrum spanning pure pornography on the one side, through "erotic art" to works with little or no sexual content, so immersive, interactive computer-mediated art will likewise span a similar spectrum. Similarly, the "separate arts" have given rise to a spectrum spanning purely subjective works (with abstract expressionism perhaps the purest example) on the one end, to "objective" works such as, for instance, the overtly didactic painting of Enlightenment painters like David or the modern "flat" journalistic style of photography and painting. One can see another spectrum in the "publicness" or "privateness" of art in the traditional "separate arts". On the one hand, one had the great "public" works of grand symphonic music, civic architecture, traditional works of drama, and painting on the heroic scale of, again for instance, the great works of the Enlightenment painters. On the other, one can see much more "private" art in the form of small-scale painting and print-making, craft-oriented forms such as "art pottery", traditional chamber music, and the like.

Immersive virtual interactive art will span the same spectra, I imagine (and will almost surely give rise to new ones we can't yet envision). These spectra define a multi-dimensional "critical space" into which one can fit the potentialities of interactive, immersive multi-media art. Thus one might have purely subjective, totally onanistic and private works or experiences at one "corner" of this space, and non-sexual, objective, public works at another "corner" of this "critical space".

Another dimension in this critical space, "interactivity" is barely presaged in some current media and art forms - I'm thinking of kinetic sculpture, simulation games and, in the example you cite, perhaps the most fruitful progenitor, improvisational music such as modern jazz and traditional Indian music. Thus, I foresee at one end of the spectrum, purely "pre-programmed" immersive works in which there is a clear-cut distinction between audience and "creator" (whether the latter is purely human or not, and whether the "creator" is a lone individual or a collaborative enterprise between multiple people and/or machines) and, at the other end of the spectrum, more interactive "works", where there is no clear-cut separation between the pre-determined art "object" and the resulting experience of the participants/artists/audience. In this artistic world, our current vocabulary distinguishing between creator and audience, instrument and product, object and context will all be construed very differently.

[snip a nice description of the improvisational experience in jazz]

> Why the computer? Is it here a prosthetic device for the musically
> challenged
> or a nucleus for a qualitatively new form of aesthetic ___________?

Again, I think we are limited by our current vocabulary. I think "it" is both of the things you suggest, and more. Just as our current distinction between "computer" and "peripheral" is increasingly coming into question, likewise, I think the distinctions between "medium", "instrument" and "object" will be transcended and we will have to develop a wholly new critical vocabulary. Notions such as "theme", "motif" and "dynamics" will become paramount and, perhaps, critical concerns with media and instrumentalities may come to be seen as quaint or very historically bound, such as the conventions of mediaeval iconography now seem to us.

      Greg Burch     <>----<>
      Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                           Thomas Huxley