Minding the Memorex
In my wrap-up of Spark last week, I mentioned a number of things that the festival had: Internationally renowned guests, fantastic performances, Indian buffet. (Did I mention the Indian buffet? Superb.) But compared to other electronic music festivals, Spark was characterized just as much by something it didn’t have: fixed-media audio pieces. There wasn’t a single tape piece during the whole week; a handful of video works were presented, but by and large the vast majority of music at Spark was produced by one or more humans on stage.
Longtime readers will be well aware that I am a sworn foe of the presentation of fixed-media music in the concert hall. I haven’t been to a concert featuring tape music in years, and I hope I never have to go to one again. Home listening, for me, is where it’s at; my colleague Brett Wartchow mentioned in his New Music Scrapbook interview that the possibility of investigating tape music in one’s living room suggests that concerts are happening all the time, which is a pleasant thought. But sitting in a darkened recital hall while accelerating clicks swoop around a 5.1 system is about my least favorite kind of musical activity, especially when everyone feels compelled, mysteriously, to applaud. And the composer isn’t even there! You are clapping for a CD player, I want to shout—but my mouth doesn’t work. It’s only 44.1kHz. According to the Nyquist theorem, people who clap for tape pieces are suckers. Never again.
This year’s Spark was 100% free of such degradation. I wonder whether other festivals will move in this direction as well: If a critical mass of participants feels the same antipathy toward the concert presentation of fixed-media that I do, I imagine it’s only a matter of time until tape pieces are enjoyed at home and concerts are for actual people to see other actual people perform. Has anyone noticed a trend one way or the other? Please share your experiences. . . or, alternately, tell me what I’ve been missing all these years so I can finally dig tape music at concerts.