Paper Presentation in Sweden

I have just returned from the Royal College of Music, in Sweden, where I delivered a paper on digitisation – abstract pasted below. An extended journal issue will be published in late 2017/early 2018 with the same title.

Expanding the Sphere of Irrelevance: musical works, recordings and their digitisations

Dr. Adam Stanović

The type-token theory enables philosophers of music to explain how musical performances, and more recently recordings, can remain faithful to a given work despite their inevitable differences. According to this theory, popularised by Richard Wollheim, works are types (abstract formations laden with properties) and their performances and recordings are tokens (concrete manifestations which, providing their properties correspond with those of the type, are deemed to be equally and ideally permissible as instances of the work in question) (Wollheim 1980). In most cases, tokens have substantially more properties than their corresponding types, and this serves to explain the notion of performance interpretation, and variability among recordings; the properties of types (works) are conditional and non-negotiable, but their tokens (performances and recordings) add additional properties to produce substantial variability. This observation is certainly not new; Roman Ingarden, for example, suggested that there is a “sphere of irrelevance” built in to each musical work which accounts for variability (Ingarden 1986, p.23; original 1931). More recent contributors have described musical works as thin types (Davies, 2004) that underdetermine the many details of their fully-formed tokens (Godlovich 1998; Scruton 1997).

The digitisation of performances and recordings requires an extension of this theory; the choice of microphone(s), hardware, software, the room and available acoustic, the choice of format or media, the digitisition format and distribution medium are but some of the many factors that potentiate variability. Vastly different digitisations may be drawn from the same performance or recording, depending how these variables are negotiated. With this in mind, it may seem sensible to refer to digitisations as tokens of tokens; digitisations are instances of performances or recordings which are, in turn, instances of works. A more sophisticated theory, however, considers performances and recordings as second-order types, for which digitisations are their tokens in their own right. Such a theory, elaborated in this paper, would serve to explain how the many variables involved in the production of digitisations substantially extends those associated with first-order types (works) and their performances and recordings. This observation does not merely account for the relations that hold between works, performances, recordings and their digitisations; it also suggests that the sphere of irrelevance must be extended, albeit in conceptual terms, to account for the ever-increasing variability that the age of digitisation has produced.

Recent News

A number of exciting things are happening at the moment. Ctrl c has been scheduled for performance at the Korean Electroacoustic Music annual conference in Seoul, as has Foundry Flux at Sound+Environment Conference in Hull, and the Sound of Memory Conference in Kent. At Hull, I shall be presenting a paper with Amanda Crawley-Jackson on the Foundry Project. I’m also writing a paper for the Swedish Journal of Musical Research, after having an abstract accepted. Closer to home, Inam shall be performed at No Bounds, as part of BBC music week…

…more to follow…

Residency at Holst House

I am very pleased to announce that I shall be the composer in residence at Imogen Holst’s former home in Aldeburgh, during the Easter break. During this time, I hope to compose a new work for piano and tape. I am extremely grateful to the Britten-Pears Foundation for making this residency possible, and for setting up these composer retreats.

Imogen Holst House

Imogen Holst at 9 Church Walk. Photo: Nigel Luckhurst.

Success for Sheffield University

We had a great year in 2016 here at The University of Sheffield, we lots of success in various competitions… the following post has just gone up on the university website:

“Electroacoustic music, or sonic arts, in the Music Department at The University of Sheffield achieved something extraordinary in 2016, with staff and students represented in every single major composition competition. These competitions, which span the globe, represent the pinnacle of the electroacoustic field, with prize-winners receiving substantial performances and broadcasts as a direct result of their achievements.

The year started with PhD student Alejandro Albornoz receiving Third Prize at SIME (France) for his piece ‘La Lumière‘. Issac Baggaley (MA), Chris Bevan (PhD) and Dimitrios Saava (PhD) were all finalists in the same competition. This was shortly followed by Vanessa Sorce-Levesque, another PhD candidate, receiving First Prize at JTTP (Canada). Dr Adam Stanovic, lecturer in Sonic Arts, later received an honorable mention at Musica Viva (Portugal) and a nomination at the Destellos Competition (Argentina) whilst his colleague, Dr Adrian Moore, was a finalist at Metamorphoses (Belgium). The year finished with success for PhD student James Surgenor, who received First Prize at Musica Nova (Czech Republic), with Stanovic again a finalist.”

Inam finalist at Musica Nova

Inam – my latest piece – was a finalist at Musica Nova, Czech Republic. It was great to be listed alongside Giles Gobeil and Marry Mary, but particular congratulations go to James Surgenor (a PhD candidate at The University of Sheffield) who received the first prize. It has been quite a special year for composers at Sheffield, with awards and mentions for a substantial number of students – James (PhD candidate), Alejandro Albornoz (PhD candidate), Dimitrios Saava (PhD candidate), Vanessa Sorce-Levesque (PhD candidate), Isaac Baggaley (recent MA graduate), Jonathan Higgins (recent MA graduate) all had successes in international competitions.