Sound Work

Composition as Critical Technical Practice

Edited by Jonathan Impett

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The potential for critical technical practice in the creation of music
The practices and perception of music creation have evolved with the cultural, social and technological contexts of music and musicians. But musical authorship, in its many technical and aesthetic modes, remains an important component of music culture. Musicians are increasingly called on to share their experience in writing. However, cultural imperatives to account for composition as knowledge production and to make claims for its uniqueness inhibit the development of discourse in both expert and public spheres. Internet pioneer Philip Agre observed a discourse deficit in artificial intelligence research and proposed a critical technical practice, a single disciplinary field with “one foot planted in the craft work of design and the other foot planted in the reflexive work of critique. … A critical technical practice rethinks its own premises, re-evaluates its own methods, and reconsiders its own concepts as a routine part of its daily work.”

This volume considers the potential for critical technical practice in the evolving situation of composition across a wide range of current practices. In seeking to tell more honest, useful stories of composition, it hopes to contribute to a new discourse around the creation of music.

Contributors: Patricia Alessandrini (Stanford University), Alan Blackwell (University of Cambridge), Nicholas Brown (Trinity College Dublin), Marko Ciciliani (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria), Nicolas Collins (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Agostino Di Scipio (Music Conservatory of L’Aquila / "Arts, écologies, transitions" Research Team, Paris), Daniela Fantechi (Orpheus Institute / University of Antwerp), Ambrose Field (University of York), Karim Haddad (IRCAM - Centre Georges Pompidou), Jonathan Impett (Orpheus Institute), Thor Magnusson (University of Sussex / Iceland University of the Arts), Scott McLaughlin (University of Leeds), Lula Romero (composer), David Rosenboom (composer), Ann Warde (independent scholar), Laura Zattra (IRCAM / Rovigo Conservatories of Music), Julie Zhu (Stanford University)

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

Introduction: Music-Making and Storytelling
Jonathan Impett

Too Cool to Boogie: Craft, Culture, and Critique in Computing
Alan F. Blackwell

Illusions of Form
David Rosenboom

What to Ware? A Guide to Today’s Technological Wardrobe
Nicolas Collins

Toward a Critical Musical Practice
Ann Warde

The Composer’s Domain: Method and Material
Nicholas Brown

Dissociation and Interference in Composers’ Stories about Music: The Renewal of Musical Discourse
Jonathan Impett


The Impossibility of Material Foundations
Scott McLaughlin

Thinking Liveness in Performance with Live Electronics: The Need for an Eco-systemic Notion of Agency
Agostino Di Scipio

Experiment and Experience: Compositional Practice as Critique
Lula Romero

Designing the Threnoscope or, How I Wrote One of My Pieces
Thor Magnusson

A Few Reflections about Compositional Practice through a Personal Narrative
Daniela Fantechi

Temporal Poetics as a Critical Technical Practice
Karim Haddad

Collaborative Creation in Electroacoustic Music: Practices and Self-Awareness in the Work of Musical Assistants Marino Zuccheri, Alvise Vidolin, and Carl Faia
Laura Zattra

Parlour Sounds: A Critical Compositional Process towards a Cyberfeminist Theory of Music Technology
Patricia Alessandrini and Julie Zhu

Changing the Vocabulary of Creative Research: The Role of Networks, Risk, and Accountability in Transcending Technical Rationality
Ambrose Field

Designing Audience–Work Relationships
Marko Ciciliani

Online Materials
Notes on Contributors

Format: Edited volume - paperback

Size: 285 × 195 mm

376 pages

B&W illustrations and colour illustrations

ISBN: 9789462702585

Publication: December 17, 2021

Series: Orpheus Institute Series

Languages: English

Stock item number: 145789

Jonathan Impett is director of research at the Orpheus Institute and associate professor at Middlesex University London.