A conversation between composer John Supko and critic Jeffrey Edelstein
Perhaps writing indeterminate music can be both a rewarding end in itself, and a path to finding that which indeterminacy can’t give us.
It’s another presidential election cycle and—in addition to PAC moneymen, countless commercials, polls, trolls, sound bites, and sniping—there’s the new tradition of one candidate or another pissing off some well-known recording artist by using the artist’s song without consent.
This week, I want to talk about some of the actual work I’ve done with indeterminate digital music, with a focus on both the technologies involved and the compositional methods that have proven useful to me in approaching this sort of work.
Music seems to have more restrictive standards for fair use than other creative arts because there’s a well-established market for licensing arrangements, reprints, synchs, and samples, all of which are treated as derivative works. And courts are very reluctant to disrupt the marketplace—even one as dysfunctional as music licensing.
I have a certain tendency to refer to my indeterminate pieces as “my indeterminate pieces.” But wait, aren’t they generative? In this week’s episode, I want to try to hash out some of the terminology floating around this sort of music.
Everything you’ve heard about fair use is probably wrong. It’s always a gamble as to whether something is or isn’t a fair use and, in my humble opinion, courts have recently shown a lot of chutzpah in making the determination.
Why should a recording be the same every time you listen to it? Until recently, this question wouldn’t even have made sense. But today there’s no reason why this must be the case.
Here’s a situation that’s commonly misunderstood among creative collaborators: Jack and Jill agree to write a song together. They call it “Tumblin’ Down the Hill.” Jack writes the music and Jill writes the lyrics. Who owns what?
One side of the survivability equation is the caution-to-the-wind embrace of a personal vision, fearless of the consequences, no matter how impractical. The other side thinks outside of the individual and looks at the times.