Composing with Media

“For a long time a form had been in my mind which I believed to be the only in which a musician might express himself in the theater. I called it, in my own private language, making music with the media of the stage.” – Arnold Schoenberg, 1917

Arches, created by Randall Packer, performed by Deborah Slater, Theater Artuad, San Francisco, 1991

One of the dominant trends in the arts today is the emergence of the hybrid artist, the “multimedialist,” whose work moves freely across the boundaries that once separated the disciplines. Clearly, we are seeing a dramatic and final assault on traditional barriers, the line of demarcation between the arts that has been eroding for more than a century.

This tectonic shift towards the integration of visual and aural media has irrevocably altered the palette of the composer, who readily incorporates visual media as integral to the creation of music. Similarly, the visual artist increasingly turns to sound as material for the making of art. Additionally, cross-disciplinary modes of collaboration between musicians and artists have resulted in new interdisciplinary forms that have catalyzed a pervasive new medium, multimedia.

In contemporary multimedia art, musical and visual composition have blurred with the advent of new digital technologies, such that sound and visual media can easily be transposed, controlled and integrated through their reduction to data. Sound can be visualized, and images can be heard, either can be the control source of the other. Where does this sensibility derive from? This research underscores the fundamental changes in aesthetic thinking resulting from the integration of the arts: music, visual art, dance, architecture, literature, and theater. For not only has a new medium been born, but a new artist as well, one who practices a form of artistic activity that is here referred to as composing With media.

Related essays:

Composing with Media: Zero in Time & Space, Computer Music Review, Internet Music, Volume 24 Part 6, 2005, Edited by Andrew Hugill, Routledge Press, Hampshire, UK