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Aesthetics and Poietics of Sound Material, Form and (absent) Body in Electronic Music: Conceptual Tools for the Computer Musician, and their Applications


The dissertation delineates several notions and conceptual tools of fundamental importance in our computer music practice, and proposes concrete applications of these concepts.

The first chapter is centered around the dialectic of matter and form, from the perspective of aesthetic philosophy, and afterward within the musical discourse. In particular, we discuss the dualism empiricism vs. formalism, a prevalent binary opposition in computer music aesthetics. We generalize this dualism as the opposition signs vs. concepts. While acknowledging the pertinence of this opposition, both from the perspective of the aesthetics and the composition methods, we show that, in practice, the situation is more nuanced, and most computer music pieces exist somewhere on an axis drawn between pure empiricism and strict formalism. The following section discusses three compositional strategies to organize the sound material in a musical form: the form as a result of a process, sound transformations and morphological variations as structuring processes, and articulation of space as structuring element.

The second chapter is centered around the notions of performance, bodily presence and human agency in computer music. We show that the increasing use of electronics and digital technologies in musical practices has dislocated our notion of liveness and magnified the possible interactions with the sound material. We discuss the consequences of the absence of the body or of bodily gestures in computer music performances, and we establish a network of relationships between timbre, attribution of causality, inference of intention, and emergence of a virtual presence, that we consider are at the source of fruitful and creative ambiguities in computer music.

The third chapter presents our answers to these questions, in the form of six electronic music studies within a performance for dance, video and live electronics. These studies are based on a combination of direct interventions, improvisation and algorithmic processes. Several tools and techniques used in these pieces are presented, notably a modal synthesis model with morphing capabilities, a fractal-based algorithm to generate material at different time scales, a virtual analog extended model of the Xpander filter with morphing capabilities, and two reverberations able to generate abstract but cohesive spaces.

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