Friday, February 27, 2015

A new humility in music, Juhani Vesikkala guest blogs

I am very happy to say that the first guest blog here on ACUTETHICS (and I plan more) is Juhani Vesikkala.
His predictions of music in 2020 inspired me to write my last blog and I think it is great that he responded with this, as he put it, "crystallisation" and continuation of the things he started upon on his conference blog, which quite understandably could not touch upon everything in such a vast subject.
You can read it here and my responce to it here. But lets listen to Juhani:
The “local context” indeed is and has been the prevailing way of delivering music and interdisciplinary artistic experiences especially. That is where the most effort will be put in the future as long as most consumers of the arts tend to stay for extended time in one city and enjoy the supply of cultural experiences locally. Experiencing local performances allow for more visual- or physical –oriented forms of art that are poorly presented with detached recordings or even live streaming. On the other hand, a local cultural supply doesn’t easily happen to offer those influences and initiatives that a consumer would need (knowingly or not) at a given moment. More personally, the culture of being able to voice your opinion about new music heard in a concert right away seems problematic to me. I do however participate in that culture since the standard concert venues and concert etiquette seldom allow for alternatives. Listening to performances with a subgroup of the same select few thousand people (be it locally or in international festival contexts) means being part of a pretty homogeneous aesthetic niche and the contemporary music etiquette, and that’s a hard-to-change situation. Many initiatives for change inside the niche might actually counteract each other. I actually prefer consuming music at home, being able to pause, mix, rewind, analyse, or stop entirely, and always have all the references available to me per web or elsewhere. Is that a social form of music that brings us nearer to funders? By no means. It is a form of listening made feasible in the last three decades or so, a selfish consumerist tactic that relies on everything interesting or emotionally functional being available, which of course has its flaws. Neither forms of listening, namely: observing a live social acoustic performance or listening to medium-quality audio privately without many visual elements and regardless of an existing timeline, are at all complete ways of experiencing music. And I don’t think we need a given piece of music to deliver to us in full, we just take what our perception, interests, and allotted time allow us to.
Extremely often, “local structures for creatives” are indeed more important than international ones. Creatives however tend to travel a lot, even when they have a limited number of headquarter cities for their support systems to dwell in. That can make schemes of funding less effective or less transparent.
As it is now, we have very little “active responsibility” in the present system, convention, or tradition as you say. Young people working for and in a new music have immense responsibility towards forming a new system.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A new humilty in music

Juhani Vesikkala's writing on the future of classical music is definitely worth a read as it condenses much of the thought in and around young composers and performers dealing with the new situation we are in today in classical music. Yet I feel there are a few things it leaves out and a few which I disagree upon as parts of the solution, which I would like to exand a bit on here.

The first is the idea that composers need to learn new toolkits for delivery or distribution as a focus in the global sense. This is of course important but the issue is that it places the focus outside the local context, and this in a field where live performance is to me the most important factor of a delivery seems out of touch. The issue here to me is, as many have argued, that as composers become managers and administrators and distributors and editors, when do they compose? So the problem in my eyes is, rather then composers doing more work to be seen by concert promoters and venues, how do we create educational models that enable also those who do not make it as composers or musicians to feel fulfilled as the go betweens between those who do and the institutions they need to survive. This idea is from the context of the situation we are in today. Music needs help, from where do we get it?

Another point is that global delivery is there whether we want it or not, the commercial system heralded by youtube and other could distribution services will not disappear anytime soon, and the commercial advertising platforms such as facebook are there. While I agree that some of this needs to be retaught, it is by no means compulsory nor a main long term focus. Instead what needs to be developed is creating new types of support systems outside the personal "fundraiser" in the local context. Classical music has started to desire an existence outside the institutional, how do we support this? How do we reinvigorate the rich and create local structures for creatives to monetize upon? Where are the new mesenates for example? A first is to make cultural, both to institutions and privates donations tax deductable, while changing the legal framework where the pracariat feels it can accept the donations without financial loss in a wider social context.

The second issue touched only slighly upon by Vesikkala is developing new pedagogical methodologies that understand and work with the developing practice of music composition. Rather then thinking about the issue so that musicians should become more adabtable, something that is already a problem in most other labor fields, we should allow musicians and composers do develope stronger long term collaborative relationships and development periods. In other words, rather then fall into the world of "trending" instants we need to focus on long term develpment as the short term will sort itself.

Ian Pace recently wrote on his facebook feed, in terms of political action in classical music, that we should focus on fixing the problems we can, for example countering the abusive and opaque relationship which is possible in much of music education, and we should think about this in realistic terms: we can change this, but we can't change the minds of either Putin or Obama or bring about world peace from a single composition. And while wider political action is necessary, real change can only arise from understanding the local and currect situation and starting from there. This local radicality is what interests me, and what I think is a clear "something" we can do towards creating better musical structures within the infrastructure and scale that already exists.

What I agree on is the need to change of model from singular institution to networked practice, this Vesikkala touches upon, but unfortunately doesn't verbalise properly. That the future is more democratic and direct is most likely to be the case, though many powerdul agencies fight against this. But in terms of music, this is already the place where many of us exists through networked groups and the like, and it is a developmental tendency which seems clear to everybody, thus as this is the case now it is more important focus on creating a new model for networked practice. The work of Taller Ciclo is an example of this, to me Taller Ciclo also points towards a solution outside the western european tradition. A start to unraveling this problem is in accepting that it is more then likely that we in europe and the united states no longer hold the solutions to these problems, this is a good thing because we must get out of the idea that we in the western european world are the center of the world, yet remembering that we have a fantastic infrastructure where these things can be born. Accepting this humility is a start for a new music.

That we have lost the ball, so to speak. This is good because what it should do is make us understand that it is not up to us to uphold the tradition any longer, this leaves us out of active responsibility, which like Francesco Berardi says, is the key for a way out, and the key to finding the new model we so desperately need.

What to me is most important at the moment is to try to understand the questions of how do we create an open networked practice which can inform students on the same level of understanding towards a subject? What are the pedagogical methodologies where rigorous analytical skills and theoretical understanding can be uphelp without the need to fall into outdated models of communication or infrastructure?

In other words, how does one teach music and music theory today?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Classical thoughts 1

After a recent altercation with a famous musician in which he seemed to deem it necessary to try to bring me down both as a person and as a composer, I started thinking about the relationship many composers must have with such people. I was already thinking about being authentic to ones self, and how this tangles up with the posturing and correct image that many push forward as the only way to succeed in the classical music world. But I forget how occasionally prolific musicians are more concerned of their ego then the music they perform.

Of course this is somewhat understandable, they have worked hard to get where they are technically and of course deserve the credit for it.

As a composer this is interesting because it brings out the nature in which one must compose music that makes someone else look good, rather then say, composing music one wants to hear. Globally this of course means very little, there are always musicians who are interested in performing music in which the aim is not a show of skill, perhaps this obsession has to do with the way musicians are trained rather then educated. But in smaller places, where the music scene is limited and especially when it is rigid, it seems one should fall in into the recognized pattern of behaviour or risk not being performed.

This made me think of how it is currently in pop music, pop music has been taking huge strides today in its incorporation of noise and elements which traditionally are thought not to enter. The way in which pop music is made is of course different, in that performers often write their own music or hire someone else to write it for them, this second one is perhaps closest to the way I would see what I am talking about dealing with commissions. The other side to this pop music is that one is allowed to be as crazy and different as one want's, even when it means that there is no engagement with ego in this sense. It is far from non existent in pop music of course, but one can not say, that one would not be allowed to do it, just look at all the avatars flying around.

But where does this leave us aesthetically? Where does it leave us artistically? And where does it leave classical music politically? Like this musician told me, they the musicians are the ones that keep composers in history, here implying not only that I will be forgotten. The first thing he told me in fact was not to bother sending him music, this in a situation where he initiated the conversation, and after this did no faze me proceeded to ask me to send him some music. This to me shows much of the problem in the relationship between composers and musicians, both whom are very involved in music, in that one cannot think beyond this professional relationship where the composers job is to ask everytime possible if a musician wants to play their music (his critique was unfortunately uninteresting).

Just saying this, it is obvious that there is something abusive in the way someone can deal with composers in that what is allowed to be presented to a public is used as a tool for putting people in their place. The hierarchy is obvious as is the distaste for not respecting a priori ones elders or the famous.

In today's pop music this is not the case, electronic media has totally surpassed the live form, and while I do not suggest this should be the case in classical music, as I am a stern proponent of concerts and live music, there is much to learn in the transparency it allowes politically.

The problem here is that classical music is never a singular thing, one needs not only composers and musicians, but also infrastructure and beyond, all of which is concerned with things not directly related to the actual sounds being produced.

Recently there has been a growing number of young contemporary composers whose aim is to understand and refine a new type of collaboration in classical music as well as lead this collaboration outside the traditional image forming aparatus.

When one looks at it, it seems obvious that new types of relationships and methodologies are needed in classical music, and that this collaboration between the people involved should come out of artistic and aesthetic concerns rather then say alligning ones self correctly socially or politically.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Titled PECORINO and PECORINO FAMILY this piece is a single improvisation consisting of a session of 23 improvisations of different durations slighly overlayd at ends while arranged in order. I tried to keep less then 4 parts at a time when I mastered the tracks, but much of which goes in duets or even solos, like the long percussion solo.

The instrumentation is: 12edo electric guitar, 19edo electric guitar, 50-string Kantele, Voice, Percussion, and 12edo steel string guitar. There is no bowing, which is atypical of my normal style.

Here are two images to clarify what I mean, part of the way I work is to plan ahead while I make something now, this way I am able to think structurarly of overlaying lines while I imrpvovise. I trie to keep my eye on a watch as well, but not always. Of course between the actual recorded fragments, I rehearsed some parts more and some not at all:

I recently decided to start make public these strands which I normally don't but that I use for my compositional process. Here these strands take center stage and combine with an obsession I had when I was living on campus at Brunel University on a three part improvised form for guitar you can listen to here:

Here I managed finally to splinter the center part into self sufficient fragments. When I was playing it everyday I failed to see that the solution is instrumentation. This way the sonic transformation which I have tried to create between every track can extend beyond the sound world of the guitar until it folds back into itself at the end, but this time with the acoustic.

Everything was played and recorded on the 16th of February 2015 from 11am to 2pm.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Why is it important to have birth? The classic narrative for sexual reproduction as special, or species related child birth.

Watching material:

The Tribe
Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds
Go Push! Pops

The return of this theme is "keeping inside" "piti sisällään".

Tribal myth as opposed to global myth. If DNA is opposite Logos what is the transfer or myth?