Reviewer 1’s Comments
The composition immediately transports the listener to the iconography of the automaton… In the second part of the piece, the speech part with the explanation also follows a mechanical placement of syllables, robotic, almost soulless. The explanation is interesting, yet it cannot detract [from] the fact that the piece continues to sound like an automaton. In the third part of the piece I was somewhat surprised it did not sound as random as the harmonic progressions of the first part. At times, note choice was interesting and did not feel composed, rather improvised in some parts. In this case, hearing the description during part two of the piece helped [me] to understand the method of composing. Nevertheless, the application of the system delivered a result which transcends the composer’s intent. Although the method is intentional, the aesthetic result is accidental. The pleasing parts are there at random, with no clear intention of using tension or release, consonance or dissonance. It is up to the listener to extract meaning out of it.
There are two meanings which can be extracted. The first is the proof of concept of turning text to music. Perhaps big data mining would be the next step on composing a big word base symphony. Secondly, that the listener will try to extract aesthetic musical meaning, even from apparently random choices of sonic content. Nevertheless, not completely random: Only 26 chords were used; only notes from the chord scale where used. Furthermore, with no information being used for diverse note duration, dynamics and embellishments, it does not sound very expressive. Perhaps that is why it sounds like a 19th Century automaton.
Reviewer 2’s Comments
This piece quite literally embodies the theme of the symposium with its structure. There’s something self-effacing / self-conscious, endearing and quite humorous about the work.
This may seem like a facetious question, but how important is the sound in the process? But being someone who often works from a highly conceptual starting point for a piece myself, there often seems to be a tension between the question of whether it is more important to follow the ‘rules’ (however you have established them) as opposed to purely aesthetic considerations? For me, this seems deeply connected to the deductive / inductive, in that my expectations and therefore, to some extent my aesthetic, have been shaped bottom up by my experience, while a top down conceptual approach can provide a logical but not always aesthetically pleasing framework of rules.
Alex Nikiporenko’s Response
The sound is very important for me, just as important as adhering to the rules of the process I’ve set up. The sound, or the musical outcome, informs the decisions I make whilst setting up the systems that will generate the musical material.
I use processes for several reasons – as a means of introducing a conceptual element to my work, tying my music to some extramusical factors that can launch the audience’s understanding of my work; as a means of creating unexpected or unusual musical textures, that I would not be able to come up with intuitively; and also as a way of distancing myself from my music. In a way, the use of processes can be compared to outsourcing some of the composer responsibilities to an automaton. Although a decision to impose a certain rule still lies with the composer, it does allow me to distance myself from the composition – instead of thinking about the individual notes or gestures, I asses blocks of process-generated musical material. This distance improves my ability to gauge the overall effect of the piece, and consider more practical and aesthetic factors. In a sense, finding this balance between the elegance and curiosity of the process, and the effectiveness of the musical outcome is the overarching theme of my composition practice.