Acoustic musicians in a digital world....
July 24, 2005 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Does concert music have a place in our digital future? These musicians are making a strong case in the affirmative-- Aphex Twin at Lincoln Center? Listen to samples here (I particularly like this one), and a whole track here. Concert music (live music, composed mostly in advance, played mainly on acoustic instruments) has had a hard time this past century, adjusting to all of the paradigm shifts that technology has brought, from player pianos all the way to iPods. Classically trained musicians are branching out in some divergent, clever ways….A few interesting examples can be heard here, and here (from this album), and here (I especially like this one).
posted by LooseFilter (22 comments total)
Truly fantastic. I'm so inappropriately excited by this music, modesty demands I remain seated.
[wriggles happily]
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:20 PM on July 24, 2005

The London Sinfonia played a bunch of Warp artists, including Aphex Twin, several years ago.
posted by kenko at 2:27 PM on July 24, 2005

Sinfonietta, that is.
posted by kenko at 2:37 PM on July 24, 2005

[omfg awesome]
posted by ori at 2:37 PM on July 24, 2005

kenko yes, I had forgotten about that! Info from the Warp Records site here and from the LS site here.

The DJ for tonight's concert at Lincoln Center, coincidentally, is Richard Devine, who is a Warp Records artist.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:38 PM on July 24, 2005

Question: how much of a performance can be played by machines before you no longer think it counts as "live"? Tape backing tracks OK or not? How about pre-programmed synth/drum machine parts? Singing along with the karaoke mp3? How far can the people making the "live" music go with this kind of thing before you start to go humpf, that's cheating? And does it make a difference who and where? Can a solo guitarist/singer in a six-table bar with no cover get away with less, or more, than a big-name group that hit you for 80 bucks a ticket?
posted by jfuller at 2:52 PM on July 24, 2005

Sadly, no version of Boy/Girl Song, which is the one Aphex Twin composition I've been itchin' to hear redone in an orchestral setting.
posted by jscalzi at 3:05 PM on July 24, 2005

jfuller: DJ Shadow partially addressed that issue. Since he mainly works with samples he found that he was getting bored up on stage and that he wasn't presenting that great of a show. The show was only great, he felt, when the music was not only in tune, but in the same time signature too requiring much more qork out of him, and resulting in a symphony-length piece of music. That way, he was able to "perform" his samples, not just play them. Too make everything match up, he had to constantly edit and alter. The result is his In Tune and On Time tour. He expanded his 5-6 minute songs into a huge symphony with movements and reprises. Whether or not this is still "cheating", is up to the viewer, but to me, when an artist is obviously working his ass off constantly, performing a piece where the slightest mistake is so audible, that counts as a live performance. For another example of a sampler transcending his medium check out DJ rupture who recently performed a duel against an orchestra playing Anton Webern. Instead of just playing rehearsed samples, he attempted to interact with the orchestra.
posted by cyphill at 3:25 PM on July 24, 2005

DJ Spooky (another great Bay area electronic artist) premiered a piece with the Oakland East Bay Symphony a little over a year ago, a concerto for DJ and orchestra. It was modelled on the classical concerto, and Spooky even improvised "cadenzas".

The pieces before and after his on the concert were by Ravel and Beethoven, and he even incorporated bits from those pieces into his material. While the piece itself was only moderately successful (in my opinion), the concept was spectacularly successful, and the audience loved it. (His book is called Rhythm Science.)

The movement toward long-form electronic works, with development, recapitulation, etc., is generally called IDM. What's most interesting in that realm is that, as turntablists become laptoppers, their world is merging with the world of university computer music projects.

Curiouser and curiouser...
posted by LooseFilter at 3:37 PM on July 24, 2005

LooseFilter is very right to mention DJ Spooky, he's been pushing the evolution of media for quite some time. Even though his attempts aren't always succesful (see his ambitious remix of D.W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation) he always comes back with a new exciting project that mixes music, imagery and even physical objects like sculpture.
posted by cyphill at 4:32 PM on July 24, 2005

I went to a free Stereolab concert in Battery Park (NYC) a few years back, and DJ Spooky opened; unfortunately coupled with Yoko Ono, who yelled wordlessly into the mike the whole time.
posted by Edible Energy at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2005

This makes me happy.
posted by jcruelty at 4:59 PM on July 24, 2005

I have mixed feelings about this. It's pretty cool, but everyone (from The Bad Plus to the London Sinfonia, as someone mentioned) covers Aphex Twin. I hope they leave room for emerging, lesser-known composers of new music.
posted by speicus at 7:03 PM on July 24, 2005

I went to a free Stereolab concert in Battery Park (NYC) a few years back, and DJ Spooky opened; unfortunately coupled with Yoko Ono, who yelled wordlessly into the mike the whole time.

It's kinda funny, just because my reaction to that show would have been "Yoko Ono opened, unfortunately coupled with DJ Spooky...."

Still, though, this is really cool I downloaded the track, and it was pretty keen. Not a huge Aphex Twin fan here, but I enjoy them but it's always cool to hear these kinds of reinterpretations.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 7:22 PM on July 24, 2005

My reaction would've been to skip both opening acts. DJ Spooky's work can be interesting but listening to him blather about semiotics makes me daydream wistfully about chewing glass.

On the other hand, I am all over this Alarm Will Sound recording. This rules.
posted by nev at 8:20 PM on July 24, 2005

It has always been my assumption, being a longtime fan of Aphex Twin, that a few generations from now people would look upon his work the same way traditional "classical" music is regarded today.

It's quite intriguing to see a classical treatment in his lifetime, and I hope it helps to propel his legacy, rather than push him towards a "Switched on Bach" end.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:23 PM on July 24, 2005

Very cool Aphex Twin thing, I ordered the CD. For those in New York, Bang On A Can is a festival full of this kind of stuff. The curator is a very "I'm arty and somewhat academic but still hip" kind of guy. If you get a chance to catch a performance by Steven Schick at the festival, don't miss it. He's a really excellent percussionist.
posted by ddf at 8:49 PM on July 24, 2005

"Logon Rock Witch" and "FingerBib" arrangments were done by Jonathan Newman. Some of his comments about the concert are here.

There was a conference held back in 2001 to address the intersection of orchestra and technology, headed up by Tod Machover from MIT. You can check out the remnants of the website from there.

I have a vested interest in this sort of thing. I recently did a piece for amplified and processed string quartet, with some live Aphex Twin-style stutter editing and some delay. I hope to have a recording posted on my site in the coming months. I'm also looking to eventually do a large-scale piece for wind ensemble/band and electronics of some sort (hopefully more than just pre-recorded playback).

Cool post.
posted by gsalad at 9:12 PM on July 24, 2005

The Ether Festival in London this year was programmed by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, who is now also composer in residence for the BBC Orchestra and premiered his first piece for them back in April. Alex Ross also wrote a very interesting article about new American composers which was published in the New Yorker in May of 2004... thank you for both this post and for those who have provided further links, I am looking forward to learning more...
posted by jokeefe at 10:17 PM on July 24, 2005

Don’t forget that there was an orchestral version of an Aphex Twin track as long as ten years ago.
posted by misteraitch at 10:23 PM on July 24, 2005

Also in Britain, FuseLeeds.
posted by jokeefe at 10:24 PM on July 24, 2005

In a related vein dj/rupture performed on the turntables with an orchestra as part of the sonar festival in Spain. Can't find any better information in english ATM, but I thought I read a review of it somewhere...
posted by nTeleKy at 11:50 AM on July 25, 2005

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