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1926 __ « Holism and Evolution »
Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950)
Original excerpt : « Community Music and Sound Objects.Community-driven creation, results in a holistic process, i.e., its properties cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its components alone [Smuts, J. 1926]. A community of users involved in a creation process, through a Shared Sonic Environment, definitely constitutes a Whole in Holistic sense. According to Jan Smuts (1870-1950), the father of Holism Theory, the concept of a Whole implies its individual parts to be flexible and adjustable. It must be possible for the part to be different in the whole from what it is outside the whole. In different wholes a part must be different in each case from what it is in its separate state. Furthermore, the whole must itself be an active factor or influence among individual parts, otherwise it is impossible to understand how the unity of a new pattern arises from its elements. Whole and parts mutually and reciprocally influence and modify each other. Similarly, when questioning object’s behaviors in Physics it is often by looking for simple rules that it is possible to find the answers. Once found, these rules can often be scaled to describe and simulate the behavior of large systems in the Real World. This notion applies to the Acoustic Domains through the definition of Sound Objects as a relevant element of the music creation process by Pierre Schaeffer in the 1960’s. According to Schaeffer, a Sound Object is defined as: “Any sound phenomenon or event perceived as a coherent whole (…) regardless of its source or meaning” (Schaeffer, P., 1966). Sound Object (I’object sonore), refers to an acoustical object for human perception and not a mathematical or electroacoustical object for synthesis. One can consider a sound object the smallest self-contained particle of a Soundscape (Schafer, M., 1977). Defining a universe of sound events by subsets of Sound Objects is a promising approach for content-processing and transmission of audio (Amatriain, X, & Herrera, P., 2002), and from a psychoacoustic and perceptual point of view it provides a very powerful paradigm to sculpt the symbolic value conveyed by a Soundscape. In an artistic context the scope for the user’s personal interpretation is wider. Therefore such Sound Objects can have a much deeper symbolic value and represent more complex metaphors. Often there is no symbolic value in a sound, but once there is a variation in one of its fundamental parameters it might then convey a symbolic value. All these ideas about Sound Objects and the Holistic nature of community music are the basis for the main concept behind the Public Sound Objects System. In fact, in PSOs raw material provided for each user, to create his contribution to a shared musical piece, is a simple Sound Object. These Sound Objects, individually controlled, become part of a complex collective system in which several users can improvise simultaneously and concurrently. In the system a server-side real-time sound synthesis engine (a Disklavier Piano in the case of the Casa da Musica installation) provides an interface to transform various parameters of a Sound Object, which enables users to add symbolic meaning to their performance. (Alvaro Barbosa, The Public Sound Objects : A System Prototype for Experimental Research).Holism Theory : from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, entire, total) is the idea that all the properties of a given system (biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave. Smuts defined holism as "The tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution." The idea has ancient roots. Examples of holism can be found throughout human history and in the most diverse socio-cultural contexts, as has been confirmed by many ethnological studies. The French Protestant missionary, Maurice Leenhardt coined the term cosmomorphism to indicate the state of perfect symbiosis with the surrounding environment which characterized the culture of the Melanesians of New Caledonia. For these people, an isolated individual is totally indeterminate, indistinct and featureless until he can find his position within the natural and social world in which he is inserted. The confines between the self and the world are annulled to the point that the material body itself is no guarantee of the sort of recognition of identity which is typical of our own culture. According to Jan Smuts (1870-1950), the father of Holism Theory, the concept of a Whole implies its individual parts to be flexible and adjustable. It must be possible for the part to be different in the whole from what it is outside the whole. In different wholes a part must be different in each case from what it is in its separate state. Furthermore, the whole must itself be an active factor or influence among individual parts, otherwise it is impossible to understand how the unity of a new pattern arises from its elements. Whole and parts mutually and reciprocally influence and modify each other. » (Àlvaro Barbosa)
Source : Smuts, J. (1926), « Holism and Evolution ». 1926. London : Macmillan.
Source : Barbosa, Àlvaro M. (2006), « Displaced Soundscapes: Computer Supported Cooperative Work for Music Applications », PhD Thesis, Music Technology Group, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.
Source : Barbosa Àlvaro M. (2008), Ten-Hand Piano: A Networked Music Installation, Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME 2008); Genova.
Urls : http://convergencias.esart.ipcb.pt/artigo/24 (last visited ) http://www.abarbosa.org/docs/t_abarbosa.pdf (last visited ) http://www.abarbosa.org/docs/barbosa_NIME08.pdf (last visited )

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