Spoken word / performance lecture
by Andrew Garton


Music is dead! We listen, love, work and die silent in numbing arpeggios of repetition. With its skilled interpreters, its concert halls and cathedrals, its theorists and record companies, its evolution from ritual to repetition confirms the end of music and its role as creator of social space. The maintenance of social order and cohesion is built upon the absolute denial, prohibition and commodification of free expression. Music is no exception. In fact it performs as an indicator of its success, the success of power, of commerce to define and control its compositional procedures and its production, distribution and consumption.

Music is dead! In the Middle Ages the European jongleur, both a musician and entertainer, would travel from village to village performing privately and publicly. The jongleurs income was derived from these performances and their material was gathered, assimilated and modified from what they heard and what they saw along the way. They ensured that access to music remained the privilege of every social class. They were essential to the social circulation of information. The jongleur "...was music and the spectacle of the body. [They] alone created it, carried it with [them], and completely organised its circulation within society."

Music is dead! True folk music, is no longer possible. The original folk process of incorporating previous melodies and lyrics into constantly evolving songs is impossible when melodies and lyrics are privately owned. The jongleur became a businessman, a skilled interpreter of music inhibited by cultural property and copyright protections.

Music is dead! "The mind believes what it sees and does what it believes..." The messengers of capital are thorough. Creating an audience for its own message. You cannot rebel against something you have been taught so thoroughly to believe you want, need, can't do without. All the glitters is not gold.

Music is dead! But doesn't abstract and experimental music push back the economic boundaries, freeing creativity, exploring new sonic landscapes? It could be said that the modern musician gives the appearance of being more independent of power and money than their predecessors, they may actually be, more tightly tied into the institutions of power than ever before. Jacques Attali, a French political economist, suggests that the contemporary composer and musician, "separated from the struggles of our age, confined within the great production centers, fascinated by the search for an artistic usage of the management tools of the great organizations (computer, electronic, cybernetic), Shas become the learned minstrel of the multinational apparatus. Hardly profitable economically, [they have become, perhaps] the producer of a symbolism of power".

If music is dead, how do we resurrect it? The author, John Berger suggests, "There is always a danger that the relative freedom of art can render it meaningless. Yet it is this same freedom which allows art, and art alone, to express and preserve the profoundest expectations of a period [in history]." Does the resurrection of music call for a collapse of the manifestation of capital? Does it demand that we turn the tools available to us now into instruments for the socialization of free expression? As a composer immersed in technology, bound to all that should harness my skills into the service of capital, I have opted for the realization of a music that strives towards the liberation of the imagination, towards the discovery of our inert spiritual and creative capabilities. The future of music and sound is space!

Sensorium Connect is one such space, an ever-changing generative sound space that combines the medium of radio and that of the Internet into an exploration of non-repetitive creative possibilities. For artists like me, the Internet has become a vital platform with which to further our ruminations on the world. It's a collaborative medium that returns us to a kind of social circulation of information, just as in the time of the jongleurs.

Sensorium Connect is both composition and process. The composition is comprised of sounds created by the artist, Stelarc, during his performances. The sounds include brain waves, heartbeat and blood flow. The sounds of his third mechanical hand are also amplified.

We have also sampled an angle transducer that measures the bending angle of the legs and a sensor that monitors CO2 in the breathing. "These variations, make it a much less predictable signal and a much more beautiful resulting sound. The sounds that are indicative of the physiological function of the body, and the mechanical operation of the third hand are rendered neutral in their associations so that they don't sound like a musical instrument or natural sound or some kind of other technological object that we know and identify with". (Stelarc, 1996)

These sounds are further mutated through a generative compositional process that sees to it that the piece, as well as much of the sounds, is never heard the same twice.

Acoustically what's happening in Stelarc's performances is a kind of aura is generated around the body. "When internal body signals are amplified they are, in a sense, emptied from the body into the room within which the body is performing. The humanoid shape of the body that originally contains the sound now becomes the cuboid space of the room". (Stelarc, 1996) With Sensorium Scan, these sounds are further emptied into what one might call the suspended ever-evolving space of the Internet. An acoustical landscape translating from humanoid form to cuboid space to a space as instrument.

Generative music is algorithmically driven to produce variation, ongoing evolution and development of sounds. The process of creation, performance and distribution of music is changing. The Internet is an amorphous infrastructure for the liberation of creative ideas and is no doubt influencing the work of artists the world over. It is a time of enriching exploration and discovery that is akin to the period during which Francesco Pierro was to discover perspective and the body's relationship to space.

Can music change before it dies outright? It is changing. It is a participatory change. Listening to Sensorium Connect contributes to the process, engaging the space, whether you listen in via the Internet, or never have anything to do with computers. The suspended space is expanding and the physical world as we believe we know will change. The distance between audience and performer is fast becoming reclaimed physical space. We are all engaged in the space of change, giving birth perhaps to a spectacle to both fascinate and liberate the mind."

Jacques Attali, Noise, University of Minnesota Press, 1977, ISBN 0-8166-1286-2
John Berger, Art and Revolution, Granta Books, 1969, ISBN 1-3579-10-8642