Twentieth century music is the ramified expression of a split whose origins go back to the end of the nineteenth century: the split between the intimacy of the instrumental gesture on the one hand and its translation into sound on the other. The inventions of Edison (the cylinder phonograph) and Bell (the telephone), though not springing from musical motives, had two main esthetic consequences: the objectivation of the sound wave and the abstraction of the instrumental gesture.
Because sound was engraved in the groove of a record it became a plastic object (it is no coincidence that we talks about “engraving” a CD). The principle has not changed, the only thing that has changed is the nature of the medium and the scope of its potential manipulation, from DJs scratching vinyl records to electroacousticians composing works on computers. The inscription of sounds (in analog or digital format) is very different from their graphic representation. A noted sign represents a sound to be produced or interpreted. The sign is not the interpretation. Electrical signals and digital codes are not mere signifying representations of sound. They do not deliver meaning, they make the sounds themselves available, which means they can be interpreted, or in other words, manipulated indefinitely. A digital code is not the sign of a sound but a sound that has become a sign. From scores to machines, there is a transition from the representation of the sound to be produced (a note signifies a certain interpretation gesture) to the simple presentation of the sound itself. Between the sign and the sound, the interpretation disappears.
- Bastien Gallet is the editor in chief of musica falsa.
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ISEA2000 Catalogue Papers. Produced by musica falsa, magazine on music, art & philosophy. Texts collected by Bastian Gallet. Translations by ALTO.