Letters: Ambered Insects and Red Herrings

Roger Doyle, Bray, Co. Wicklow, writes:
‘Those who produce only acousmatic music, i.e. music for projection through speakers only, are somewhere else again – they have truly transcended nuance by transcending performance. There is no performance, and the sound exists frozen in perpetuity, like an insect in amber. But have they sacrificed one of the basic dimensions of music?’

So ends John McLachlan’s article on nuance in the last JMI.

Jumping as I do to the defence of acousmatic music, I have to ask: is being ‘frozen in perpetuity’ in itself a bad thing? If there is, according to McLachlan, a lack of nuance brought about by the lack of a performance element, then I’ll have to stop going to the cinema, to art galleries, reading novels and poetry, listening to CDs, watching sunsets and throw out my computer. It is false thinking to say that you transcend nuance by transcending performance.

At the beginning of his article McLachlan talks about neccessary musical parameters for composers to think about and suggests that ‘nuance’ be added to any list. Fine, but as his article progresses he speaks only of nuance as a performative paramater, not a compositional one.

Staying with nuance as a compositional parameter, the answer to his question at the end of the article must be that the acousmatic composer has sacrificed nothing, the same as the novelist has sacrificed nothing for not being a playwright. 

Published on 1 November 2007

Roger Doyle is a Dublin-based Irish composer working in electronic music.

comments powered by Disqus