Procrastination from Code-Slinging

But first, an update of the dissertation meter:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
300 / 4,500

I’m getting tired of the current set of functions I use to make music, so I switched to a set of functions (originally coded by my chair) that interface with csound, a powerful but horrible-to-code (an exercise in self-mortification) program for music composition on the computer. Using his code is an oddly intimate thing–there are some functions which fit how I think and program intuitively, making me confront the fact that perhaps we aren’t too different, after all.

When I was last on a retreat, one of the other guests made the comment that things made with computers don’t have a soul. At the time, it was one of those comments that hurt, and you don’t quite know what to say in response out of politeness and not wanting to make trouble. (I think I wandered off to the chapel, instead.) But it’s a common complaint I hear about computer music.

While there are people who are into it for the technology, and seem to only consider the shiny thing in front of them, for me computer music is more intimate and exposed than instrumental music ever was. In instrumental music, you’ve got musicians between you and the audience. It’s not a bad thing, and I love the communion that happens when an ensemble just “gets” your piece. But with computer music, there’s nobody to hide behind, not even the technology people try to use as a shield.

Lately I’ve been listening off and on–I find it hard to listen to music when I’m trying to write it–to some of the computer music from the 1960’s. We’re talking early stuff written on computers that could only dream of the processing speed of my video card. People on my committee speak of “borrowing” CPU time from big mainframes, only to get a few seconds back the next morning. Yet what they managed to do with so little was highly musical. Listening to those pieces is like watching a concert soloist play–you start to think it’s something so easy anyone could do it. That’s the sign of a great musician–you don’t hear the technicalities, but the stuff inside of it. It’s also the epitome of taoist thought, that something is so full of effort it becomes effortless.

Eh, I’m nowhere near there yet. I gripe and moan about how slow my computer–a 1.2 ghz athlon thunderbird–is, yet I can compile a stereo piece in less than an hour. It’s humbling to think that my teachers needed days.

And as a bit of a sleepy non sequitur, I put a sitemeter up. It’s been interesting seeing where everyone is from.


~ by Jen on October 12, 2006.

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