Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
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Saturday, May 18 • 11:30 - 12:00
The Controller as an Agent of Unpredictability: Electronic Music, 60’s Counterculture, and the Early Live Sound Industry

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Controllers can be grouped into two broad categories: (1) some, like midi-controllers function as “cognitive extensions,” providing “control” by delivering predictable information. Conversely, (2) electronic music controllers were initially designed to create new sounds and produce music using non-traditional materials and processes. When Moog and Deutsch designed the synthesizer’s controller, for example, they hesitated to use the keyboard because they thought that eliminating connections to known musical systems and outcomes would stimulate new ideas. That the controller could have radical musical, social, and communicatory potentials was even more explicit in Buchla’s non-keyboard controller, as was its design as part of a modular system that could “interface” with other technology, spaces, and real-time events. The controller’s history therefore, suggests we look beyond the paradigm of the creation of the studio “object,” and consider music production as an unbounded field, equally conditioned by performance-related strategies, practices, and debates, particularly those regarding the amount of randomness to insert into a process or event. Significantly, this field includes tech-savvy participants who are increasingly diversified among genres, industries, and technocultures, and continue to collectively develop both expressive and experimental technology. In order to illustrate a foundational example of such cross-fertilization, I explore the use of feedback to induce spontaneity into rock performance in the context of collaborative, participatory areas of avant-garde art, music, and social activity in late-60’s counterculture. I argue that while early rock musicians often embraced the experimental potentials of loud music, they also faced existential struggles to control instruments, sound systems, and acoustic environments. Some, desiring control, developed creative solutions bridging Live and Studio practice. I propose we evaluate audio devices and systems as both “controllers” and “interfaces,” so as to better understand the specific musical and social functions of the of control or unpredictability they are designed to facilitate.


Nicholas Clark Reeder

Towson University

Saturday May 18, 2019 11:30 - 12:00 EDT
Classroom 511 (5th floor) 921 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Attendees (8)