Conference paper Open Access

A Listening Art

Lautour, Reuben de

In the introduction to Expanding the Horizon of Electroacoustic Music Analysis Leigh Landy and Simon Emmerson observe that “...there remains a legacy of ‘absolute music’ which persists in some genres [of electroacoustic music] – those that claim a ‘high art’ heritage usually” (21). In this paper I examine this legacy by reassessing the status of the work-concept in electroacoustic music studies. Adam Stanović covered similar territory in his recent article Beyond the Fixity Fallacy; I aim to provide a slightly different perspective, based on Lydia Goehr’s “historical approach” as described in The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works. I will begin by exploring the core ideals that support the work-concept, and to what extent they remain operative in contemporary acousmatic music practice. Assuming that the ways in which contemporary acousmatic music is composed, performed, and listened to, differ substantially from instrumental concert music of the early 19th century, I hope to highlight aspects of acousmatic music culture and practice that have escaped attention and potentially deserve further study. Unlike Stanović I do not propose a rethinking of, or an alternative to the work- concept; rather, I suggest that acousmatic music demands a different way of thinking about the relations between composers, performers, and listeners, and I believe that the beginnings of a new approach can be found in Roland Barthes’ essay From Work to Text. My discussion is limited to acousmatic music, where the “legacy of absolute music” and trappings of early 19th century concert culture are perhaps most evident, though I hope that some aspects of the discussion are relevant to other forms of electroacoustic music. Two case studies, Louise Rossiter’s Neuronen and Panayiotis Kokoras’ AI Phantasy, serve to illustrate how some of the conflicts between the work-concept and acousmatic music play out at a compositional level.

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