October 7 Reading Responses

This week’s readings all fall under the category of Networked Music but each represents a different aspect.

Telharmony (Music in a Physical Network)
The first two documents are archival documents about the Teleharmonium developed by Thaddeus Cahill and the New York Electric Music Company. The first reading is a brochure detailing the innovation and novelty of the Telharmonium. The second is the stock information of the New York Electric Music Company. In the late nineteenth century, the Telharmonium was invented as a means of transmitting music from one location to many. The instrument/machine consisted of a large set of dynamos (electric generators) which could be played by a few performers using a keyboard interface. This music (via electric current) was sent out to the people in the (mostly public) places where they were living, working, relaxing, and eating. While the financial benefits of the Telharmonium are clearly demonstrated in the 1906 document, our readings often mention the potential artistic value:

“Thus a new music is being evolved, at times subtle and entrancing beyond any harmony yet heard.”
“It is here that the performer impresses his own individuality on the music played. Out of the electric currents under his control he creates fresh tone qualities at each instant.”
“Electric music is now commercial music.”

In addition to our readings, I recommend watching at least part of this three-part documentary on Telharmonium.

1. After reading the “futuristic” story on the first page of the brochure, how does music today compare and contrast with this scenario?
2. Thinking of last week’s discussion of agency, where does agency fall for the Telharmonium and its player(s)?
3. The stock information demonstrates the Telharmonium will be a more affordable option than the thousands of live musicians, musical devices, and pianos in existence. What impact has this had on our society? How often do we see live musicians, musical devices or pianos today as opposed to music piped in from an outside source?
4. How does the Telharmonium compare/contrast to technologies we have studied this semester which also use a keyboard interface?

Akkermann (Music in a Digital Network)
This article serves to give an overview of Computer Network Music. What kind of music is this exactly? Here is a link to piece that I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z7JiXHpxj4 After a bit of research online, I found that both the League of Automatic Music Composers and The HUB were both rather small groups which included many of the same members. For those of us who were unaware of network music when we read the Hugill article, it is now clear that many of these ensembles existed on a very small scale. Akkermann explains how the history of computer network music is problematic due to varying terminology and systems, and constant advancements in technology. She points out some of the best known pieces and ensembles including Auracle by Max Neuhaus and Imaginary Landscape No.4 by John Cage. You can listen to the pieces here: http://www.auracle.org/media/Auracle20050203.mp3 and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPfwrFl1FHM To conclude, Akkermann states that the “…interest and activity in computer network music seems to rise.”

1. Which terminology do you believe may be most beneficial: computer network music, music in the internet, internet music, netzmusik, or another?
2. Compare and contrast the classification systems of Hugill, Follmer and Weinberg. Are there any elements which their systems do not address?
3. Using the information Akkermann provides (in addition to previous readings), how can we define the University of Iowa Laptop Orchestra? Follow this link for more info: http://www.uiowa.edu/cnm/2014-15-introduction-loui . Also, let’s attend their concert Saturday, December 12, 2015, 7:30pm in Riverside Recital Hall!

Swift (Music in a Social Network)
Our final reading is a short article from the Wall Street Journal written by Taylor Swift. In response to the idea that the music industry is dying, Swift claims to be the optimist who believes “it’s just coming alive.” To her, the album’s worth is based on the heart and soul put into it by the artist. These albums then shoot arrows to the hearts of the fans, creating a relationship. Swift also comments on the decline of autographs, the rise of selfies, the power of fans, and being in the spotlight.

1. How do you feel about this article? Do you agree or disagree with how Swift defines the value of music? Do you view music as you view your relationships?
2. Although Swift is not addressing networked music specifically, her comments gave me the impression of several types of networks in which she exists. Using the example of her parents, she states that the dream of every artist is to have their music passed down to the children and grandchildren of fans. Thus, music is distributed through a network of families. She also tells how she has brought out “dozens of special guest performers” on her tours in order to keep the audience surprised. Clearly, she lives in a network of celebrity musicians who can boost sales and performance excitement through collaboration. Swift also mentions social media networks in this article, using examples to show that outlets such as Instagram and Twitter can help artists. After a quick search, I found that Swift has 49.4 million followers on Instagram, 64.4 million followers on Twitter, 72.7 million likes on Facebook, and billions of YouTube views (including 2 songs each with over 1 billion views). If anyone has a social media network around them and their music, it’s Taylor Swift.
So, do you agree that these “networks” exist in her music? What impact do these types of networks have on music in general? Are these networks essential to the value and/or success of music today?

General Questions
1. I propose that our readings address physical, digital, and social networks which can impact music. Do you agree with me? What are other potential types of networks?

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