Sound Work

Sound Work

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Composition as Critical Technical Practice

The potential for critical technical practice in the creation of music

(June 2021)

The practices and perception of music creation have evolved with the cultural, social and technological contexts of music and musicians. But musical authorship, in its many technical and aesthetic modes, remains an important component of music culture. Musicians are increasingly called on to share their experience in writing. However, cultural imperatives to account for composition as knowledge production and to make claims for its uniqueness inhibit the development of discourse in both expert and public spheres. Internet pioneer Philip Agre observed a discourse deficit in artificial intelligence research and proposed a critical technical practice, a single disciplinary field with “one foot planted in the craft work of design and the other foot planted in the reflexive work of critique. … A critical technical practice rethinks its own premises, re-evaluates its own methods, and reconsiders its own concepts as a routine part of its daily work.”

This volume considers the potential for critical technical practice in the evolving situation of composition across a wide range of current practices. In seeking to tell more honest, useful stories of composition, it hopes to contribute to a new discourse around the creation of music.

Contributors: Patricia Alessandrini (Stanford University), Alan Blackwell (University of Cambridge), John Bowers (Newcastle University), Nicholas Brown (Trinity College Dublin), Nicolas Collins (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Agostino di Scipio (Conservatorio de l’Aquila), Daniela Fantechi (Orpheus Institute, Ghent), Ambrose Field (University of York), Karim Haddad (IRCAM, Paris), Jonathan Impett (Orpheus Institute, Ghent), Scott McClaughlin (University of Leeds), Lula Romero (Kunstuniversität Graz), David Rosenboom (CalArts, Los Angeles), Ann M. Ward (Cornell University), Laura Zattra (IRCAM, Paris)