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Laibach and NSK

NSK is considered by many to be the last true avant-garde of the twentieth century and the most consistently challenging artistic force in Eastern Europe today. The acronym refers to Neue Slowenische Kunst, a Slovene collective that emerged in the wake of Tito's death and was shaped by the breakup of Yugoslavia. Its complex and disturbing work—in fields including experimental music and theater, painting, philosophy, writing, performance, and design—has an international following but a powerful and specific cultural context. Within the NSK organization are a number of divisions, the best-known of which is Laibach, an alternative music group known for its blending of popular culture with subversive politics, high art with underground provocation—reflecting the political and cultural chaos of its time.

In Interrogation Machine, Alexei Monroe offers the first critical appraisal of the entire NSK phenomenon, from its elaborate organizational structure and its internal logics to its controversial public actions. The result is a fascinating portrait not only of NSK but of the complex political and cultural context within which it operates. Monroe analyzes the paradoxes, perplexities, and traumas of NSK's work at its deepest levels. His investigation of the relationships between conceptual content, stylistic method, and ideological subtext demonstrates the relevance of NSK in general and Laibach in particular to current debates about culture, power, war, politics, globalization, the marketplace, and life itself. As Slavoj Zizek writes in his foreword, "Today, the lesson of Laibach is more pertinent than ever."

Monroe uses a variety of theoretical and historical approaches, as is appropriate to the shifting and elusive nature of his subject. The use of theory reflects NSK's own theoretical engagement; it is also a valuable way to read the issues raised by the work. Neither oversimplifying nor uncritically mystifying, Monroe leaves intact the "gaps, contradictions, and shadows" inherent in his subject, demonstrating that "it should still be possible to appreciate the work as art that moves, confuses, agitates, or fascinates."

Methods, Models, and User Studies

The field of music query has grown from tentative beginnings in bibliographical systems of earlier decades to a substantial area of interdisciplinary studies in little more than a decade. This volume assembles recent studies from Europe and North America concerned with the query and analysis of musical data. Among these, methods for the synchronization of sound and symbolic data, for automatic analysis through perceptual rules, and for computing a "transportation" distance for thematic comparison are described. The modeling of rhythmic motifs, of melodic traits, and of cognitive distance are discussed. User studies report on human preferences in modes of query (humming vs. tapping, etc.) and on the comparative success rates of more than two dozen proposed metrics for melodic comparison.

In this book, David Temperley addresses a fundamental question about music cognition: how do we extract basic kinds of musical information, such as meter, phrase structure, counterpoint, pitch spelling, harmony, and key from music as we hear it? Taking a computational approach, Temperley develops models for generating these aspects of musical structure. The models he proposes are based on preference rules, which are criteria for evaluating a possible structural analysis of a piece of music. A preference rule system evaluates many possible interpretations and chooses the one that best satisfies the rules.

After an introductory chapter, Temperley presents preference rule systems for generating six basic kinds of musical structure: meter, phrase structure, contrapuntal structure, harmony, and key, as well as pitch spelling (the labeling of pitch events with spellings such as A flat or G sharp). He suggests that preference rule systems not only show how musical structures are inferred, but also shed light on other aspects of music. He substantiates this claim with discussions of musical ambiguity, retrospective revision, expectation, and music outside the Western canon (rock and traditional African music). He proposes a framework for the description of musical styles based on preference rule systems and explores the relevance of preference rule systems to higher-level aspects of music, such as musical schemata, narrative and drama, and musical tension.

Below the level of the musical note lies the realm of microsound, of sound particles lasting less than one-tenth of a second. Recent technological advances allow us to probe and manipulate these pinpoints of sound, dissolving the traditional building blocks of musicnotes and their intervalsinto a more fluid and supple medium. The sensations of point, pulse (series of points), line (tone), and surface (texture) emerge as particle density increases. Sounds coalesce, evaporate, and mutate into other sounds. Composers have used theories of microsound in computer music since the 1950s. Distinguished practitioners include Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis. Today, with the increased interest in computer and electronic music, many young composers and software synthesis developers are exploring its advantages. Covering all aspects of composition with sound particles, Microsound offers composition theory, historical accounts, technical overviews, acoustical experiments, descriptions of musical works, and aesthetic reflections. The book is accompanied by an audio CD of examples.

"Once you get into the flow of things, you're always haunted by the way that things could have turned out. This outcome, that conclusion. You get my drift. The uncertainty is what holds the story together, and that's what I'm going to talk about."
Rhythm Science

The conceptual artist Paul Miller, also known as Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid, delivers a manifesto for rhythm science—the creation of art from the flow of patterns in sound and culture, "the changing same." Taking the Dj's mix as template, he describes how the artist, navigating the innumerable ways to arrange the mix of cultural ideas and objects that bombard us, uses technology and art to create something new and expressive and endlessly variable. Technology provides the method and model; information on the web, like the elements of a mix, doesn't stay in one place. And technology is the medium, bridging the artist's consciousness and the outside world.

Miller constructed his Dj Spooky persona ("spooky" from the eerie sounds of hip-hop, techno, ambient, and the other music that he plays) as a conceptual art project, but then came to see it as the opportunity for "coding a generative syntax for new languages of creativity." For example: "Start with the inspiration of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip. Make a track invoking his absurd landscapes... What do tons and tons of air pressure moving in the atmosphere sound like? Make music that acts a metaphor for that kind of immersion or density." Or, for an online "remix" of two works by Marcel Duchamp: "I took a lot of his material written on music and flipped it into a DJ mix of his visual material—with him rhyming!"

Tracing the genealogy of rhythm science, Miller cites sources and influences as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson ("all minds quote"), Grandmaster Flash, W. E. B Dubois, James Joyce, and Eminem. "The story unfolds while the fragments coalesce," he writes.

Miller's textual provocations are designed for maximum visual and tactile seduction by the international studio COMA (Cornelia Blatter and Marcel Hermans). They sustain the book's motifs of recontextualizing and relayering, texts and images bleed through from page to page, creating what amount to 2.5 dimensional vectors. From its remarkable velvet flesh cover, to the die cut hole through the center of the book, which reveals the colored nub holding in place the included audio CD, Rhythm Science: Excerpts and Allegories from the Sub Rosa Archives, this pamphlet truly lives up to Editorial Director Peter Lunenfeld's claim that the Mediawork Pamphlets are "theoretical fetish objects . . . 'zines for grown-ups."

Computer Synthesis of Musical Style

Virtual Music is about artificial creativity. Focusing on the author's Experiments in Musical Intelligence computer music composing program, the author and a distinguished group of experts discuss many of the issues surrounding the program, including artificial intelligence, music cognition, and aesthetics.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part provides a historical background to Experiments in Musical Intelligence, including examples of historical antecedents, followed by an overview of the program by Douglas Hofstadter. The second part follows the composition of an Experiments in Musical Intelligence work, from the creation of a database to the completion of a new work in the style of Mozart. It includes, in sophisticated lay terms, relatively detailed explanations of how each step in the process contributes to the final composition. The third part consists of perspectives and analyses by Jonathan Berger, Daniel Dennett, Bernard Greenberg, Douglas R. Hofstadter, Steve Larson, and Eleanor Selfridge-Field. The fourth part presents the author's responses to these commentaries, as well as his thoughts on the implications of artificial creativity.

The book (and corresponding Web site) includes an appendix providing extended musical examples referred to and discussed in the book, including composers such as Scarlatti, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Debussy, Bartok, and others. It is also accompanied by a CD containing performances of the music in the text.

The BBC Experiments, 1931-1933

Ezra Pound, best known for his Cantos, referred to himself as a "poet and composer" in the 1929 edition of Who's Who. His two BBC radio operas have been obscured by the polemics of his Italian radio broadcasts and his indictment by the United States government for treason during World War II. In this study of Pound's radio operas of the 1930s, Margaret Fisher draws on the unpublished correspondence between Pound and his maverick BBC producer, Edward Archibald Fraser Harding, to reveal a little-known aspect of Pound's career. "Archie" Harding, an advocate of mass microphone access in Britain and the first to produce a global radio linkup, tutored Pound in radio's theoretical and political potential, as well as in specific radio techniques.

Pound's first radio opera, transmitted in October 1931 under the title The Testament of François Villon, was one of the first electronically enhanced operas to be broadcast in Europe. At Harding's request, Pound wrote a second radio opera, Cavalcanti. Although the opera was thought to be unfinished and lost at the time of Pound's death, in 1983 the American composer and conductor Robert Hughes located the various manuscripts and assembled a complete work.

Fisher examines Pound's reasons for composing and his theatrical models. She discusses the sound design of the 1931 production, as well as the context in which Pound wrote his radio operas—artistic trends in film and radio, various broadcasting organizations and facilities, and contemporary radio techniques. She also compares Pound's radio experiments to those of F. T. Marinetti, Walter Ruttman, and Bertolt Brecht. The book, which contains the 1931 radio script and producer's notes, provides the necessary background and analysis to facilitate a recreation of the 1931 broadcast, a contemporary stage performance, or a film or video production.

A Rewritten Account

Ways of the Hand tells the story of how David Sudnow learned to improvise jazz on the piano. Because he had been trained as an ethnographer and social psychologist, Sudnow was attentive to what he experienced in ways that other novice pianists are not. The result, first published in 1978 and now considered by many to be a classic, was arguably the finest and most detailed account of skill development ever published.

Looking back after more than twenty years, Sudnow was struck by the extent to which he had allowed his academic background to shape the book's language. He realized that he could now do a much better job of describing his experiences in a way that would not require facility with formal social science and philosophical discourse. The result is a revised version of the book that carries the same intellectual energy as the original but is accessible to a much wider audience.

A History of Voice, Sound, and Aurality in the Arts

This interdisciplinary history and theory of sound in the arts reads the twentieth century by listening to it—to the emphatic and exceptional sounds of modernism and those on the cusp of postmodernism, recorded sound, noise, silence, the fluid sounds of immersion and dripping, and the meat voices of viruses, screams, and bestial cries. Focusing on Europe in the first half of the century and the United States in the postwar years, Douglas Kahn explores aural activities in literature, music, visual arts, theater, and film. Placing aurality at the center of the history of the arts, he revisits key artistic questions, listening to the sounds that drown out the politics and poetics that generated them. Artists discussed include Antonin Artaud, George Brecht, William Burroughs, John Cage, Sergei Eisenstein, Fluxus, Allan Kaprow, Michael McClure, Yoko Ono, Jackson Pollock, Luigi Russolo, and Dziga Vertov.

What biological and cognitive forces have shaped humankind's musical behavior and the rich global repertoire of musical structures? What is music for, and why does every human culture have it? What are the universal features of music and musical behavior across cultures? In this groundbreaking book, musicologists, biologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, ethologists, and linguists come together for the first time to examine these and related issues. The book can be viewed as representing the birth of evolutionary biomusicology—the study of which will contribute greatly to our understanding of the evolutionary precursors of human music, the evolution of the hominid vocal tract, localization of brain function, the structure of acoustic-communication signals, symbolic gesture, emotional manipulation through sound, self-expression, creativity, the human affinity for the spiritual, and the human attachment to music itself.

Simha Arom, Derek Bickerton, Steven Brown, Ellen Dissanayake, Dean Falk, David W. Frayer, Walter Freeman, Thomas Geissmann, Marc D. Hauser, Michel Imberty, Harry Jerison, Drago Kunej, François-Bernard Mache, Peter Marler, Björn Merker, Geoffrey Miller, Jean Molino, Bruno Nettl, Chris Nicolay, Katharine Payne, Bruce Richman, Peter J.B. Slater, Peter Todd, Sandra Trehub, Ivan Turk, Maria Ujhelyi, Nils L. Wallin, Carol Whaling.

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