As I’ve begun to experiment more in the compositional aspect of electronic music, I’ve discovered that there is a certain degree of complexity required that I do not seem to possess. (Ah, well. Some things are not meant to be.) I cannot fathom the degree of premeditation combined with a healthy dose of spontaneous innovation that is required to produce a truly amazing piece.
This begs from me two questions. 1) How do they do it? 2) What effect does it have on composers and performers of all musical traditions today? My intrigue spurred me to action, and like any curious human being today, I did what any would do in such a state of curiosity … I consulted Google. I stumbled across the website of a German electronic music composer/performer, Robert Henke (http://www.monolake.de/). In a compilation of thoughts on live electronic music performance, Henke reveals the difficulties a “performer” encounters (http://www.monolake.de/interviews/supercomputing.html). Unlike a live performance, where a group of performers (sometimes a very large one) pool together their talents and abilities to create a piece of music, electronic music performances oftentimes rely on the abilities of one single person. Henke brought up an interesting point. Our culture is so attuned to the idea that musical performances are always – in a sense – organic that it has caused unrealistic expectations to be placed on the performer. For example, Henke makes the argument that no one would ever expect one person to compile an entire orchestra and perform a work live. Those expectations would be ludicrous. But audiences today expect the same type of “creation in the moment” for sometimes much more complex music than any orchestral piece written. Is it really possible? Henke says no. Much of a performance is already pre-made. One simply presses play and then wows the audience with effects.
Although still complex, and impressive as it is to even imagine a piece of music like this (let alone create it), Henke says the fact that much of the spontaneous creation that is expected and does not occur takes much of the joy and wonder out of the experience, and not only for the audience members. But what is one to do? If a DJ relies only on hands-on improvisation during the time of performance, the music we expect would not be what we hear. But in order to wow the audience with effects and complexities so new to our ears, one must sacrifice the originality of a live performance.
All that to say, my research did not exactly answer my questions posed above, but it opened my eyes to a world I have not been able to see – the eyes of an electronic music performer. I wonder where electronic music’s next step is? I do not believe this dilemma the performers face is enough to curb societies interest in it, but I do believe that it must be combined with other media in ways that either do not require the organic performance, or can somehow be incorporated into one (Which, by the way, has begun to happen. Check this out: http://www.romaneiro.com/strata/ ).