Can orchestral music and electronic sound comfortably coexist? Joshua Cohen, Contributing Editor, Sequenza21

Joshua Cohen
Photo courtesy Joshua Cohen

To intermingle the orchestra with electronic sound or not to intermingle is not the question. At least not the question that interests me. The discussion may better be framed in the context of compositional choices rather than aesthetic territory.

Any composition is the result of choices made; at any level of involvement ranging from improvisational writing through total integral serialism. A choice implies an evaluative effort — a weighing of factors where the willingness of the evaluator to ask questions of compositional integrity engages a process as much as it seeks an answer. This process of compositional inquiry and the integrity implicit within it anticipates that anything ìbelongsî together so long as the decision to unify/destroy by comparison and contrast is one that is wholly informed by the compositional process — by the material itself — and not by a prefabricated decision made exterior to the musical discourse — namely a decision informed by fashion or novelty.

All music, all sound, begs treatment. It is our job, as composers, to provide that context. Wild dogs urinate to mark their territory — we don’t have to. We should kennel our dogmatic tendencies.