Music and Industrial Machines in the Digital Age
Music and Industrial Machines in the Digital Age: Our Changing Relationship to Technology
Abstract: From the publication of Balilla Pratella’s “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music” in 1911 up until the sudden increase in the accessibility of synthesizer technology beginning in the 60’s, experimental composers of all backgrounds were enthusiastic about electronic music’s potential for liberating sound. The progression of electronic music since those optimistic years could be, perhaps, better described as a domestication rather than a liberation. The colossal labs and studios have been replaced with laptops. The popular domain has been flooded with such tiny and infamous devices as the iPod mini. The futuristic modules have become a thing of the past. The days of analog, of splicing magnetic tape with razor blades and talcum powder, of punch cards, are over, it would seem. Those who remember the early years of electronic music take occasion to recount those days of yore, 20-to-30-somethings gathered round, listening intently to tales of horror and nostalgia. Despite this trend, there remains a continued presence of composers with an active interest not in the processed, digital sounds of the personal computer, but in electromechanical musical instruments. Rising composers, Jean François Laporte and Schuyler Tsuda, exemplify this presence. However, they do so more in the spirit of pioneerism than scientific innovation. Their use of industrial machines strives to reconnect listeners to nature, or perhaps, to a primordial past that (by Tsuda’s own admission) never really existed. I shall explore the musical output of these composers, both to do justice to their fascinating music as well as to illustrate our changing relationship to technology.