NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1937 __ « Toward a New Music: Music and Electricity »
Carlos Chávez (1899-1978)
Comment : The present and future of music as affected by electricity, ie., radio, recording, film, amplification, and music synthesis - not to supplant existing music media but to stand side by sode with them in broadening the entire musical spectrum. Carlos Chávez's Toward a New Music: Music and Electricity (1937), attempted to found a ``centre of experimental music" which would utilize film strips: "people didn't think about using tape recorders, but ``film phonographs." With the help of this particular kind of camera, we thought we could save certain sounds, building libraries of them and composing on the basis of these catalogued elements.". (Douglas Kahn)Carlos Chávez reckoned that “the electric apparatus of sound production will facilitate the constant and inevitable development of music”. Surveying the state of music technologies in the 1930s, Chavez saw a vast field of opportunity. “The effect was that of sound extraodinarily well outlined, balanced, and accentuated”, he enthused about the famous 1933 broadcast performance from the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to loudspeakers before an audience seated in Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. Chavez recognized that with technological mediation “classical music conceived within the limits of direct human performance [...] undergoes a manifest alteration, if compared with the composer’s original conceptions”, and that, for many, this was a source of objection. But for him, the debate over whether such treatment was “traditionally ‘proper’” was of far less consequence that what it implied : “What is needed is the new music conceived in terms of these new resources”. Such music would soon emerge, but in the world of concert music, it would take the form of Pierre Schaeffer’s “musique concrète”, and then electronic and computer music. The tradition of musical performance would carry on much as it always had. (Albin Zak, “The poetics of rock: cutting tracks, making records”, 2001)
Original excerpt : « The new electricity apparatus of music production was conceived and developed by the physico-mechanical sciences as ways of repeating or reproducing the music of today. If they are satisfactory for that purpose, they are immensely more important as apparatus for the creation of a new and unthought-of music. [...] What is needed is an understanding of all the physical possibilities of the new instruments. We must clearly evaluate the increase they bring to our own capacity of expression and the magnitude of the advance they make possible in satisfying man’s supreme need of communication with his fellows. [...] The historic evolution of musical notation indicates a tendency to make constantly more and important the phenomenon of creation of musical production, and to make the phenomenon of its performance or reproduction constantly more mechanical. That is, it indicates a tendency to make the musical work unalterable as originally conceived. »
Source : Chávez, Carlos (1937), “Toward a new Music : Music and Electricity”, trans. Herbert Weinstock, New York : W.W. Norton, 1937, p. 175.
Source : Kahn, Douglas (1990), “Audio Art in the Deaf Century”, In “Sound by Artists”, edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, Toronto : Art Metropole : Banff : Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990, pp. 301-309.
Urls : http://www.quantium.plus.com/ahr/ (last visited )

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