We aim to discuss philosophical questions raised by mixed human+computer music. On the musical side, fundamental issues raised by the production and reception of this music are often obscured in the literature by a focus on technical details of system construction or function. Meanwhile, philosophical work on music is typically focused on acoustic instrumental/vocal works, and we feel that it has yet to fully engage with the challenges raised by current movements in computer music, especially where it does not conform to our established work-concept and/or pitch-based structures.
Music that mixes human acoustic sound with live computer processing (and sound generation) challenges many of the notions and values that music has traditionally supported. That much of this music is driven by improvisation adds a further challenge.
By focusing on this relatively recent musical movement, we hope to explore those notions/values to see how far they can be stretched, whether they can or have been replaced or whether there are completely new ways of thinking about music that must be employed.
For example, it may seem that the value of performance virtuosity is undermined in human+computer music. However, it may be alternatively argued that the notion of virtuosity must be partially moved from the pure performance realm into the construction of the instrument (the computer system) that is played. That is, increased performance facility is achieved through modification of the system to more closely adapt to the performer’s pre-existing dispositions, rather than sustained practice/training that allows the performer to adapt to the affordances offered by the instrument. It seems that knowledgeable members of the audience may be able to appreciate the virtuosity of system construction in addition to the virtuosity of pure performance.
Image ©Den Denyer