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Title: The ontology of generative music listening
Authors: O'Rourke, Michelle
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Generative music, manifesting a perpetually new music which transcends the temporal limitations of both live and recorded music, presents us with continuously new possibilities and perspectives which in turn enable new modes of being. As specific compositional choices are automated, the sonic possibility space thus becomes the operative creative field. The new concern with structural possibilities as they come to presence yields a new listening ontology. Brian Eno’s specific manifestation of generative music has evolved along a distinctly technological trajectory of creativity. Through his own liminal position between popular and avant garde musical cultures, his ambient aesthetic has found a new mode of expression and materialization. The music is environmentally utilized as an absent presence rather than as an object of focus, and this position is preserved and mirrored textually in this inquiry; the music is not directly treated as an object of scrutiny but rather informs the text as a background, ambient presence. The experience of listening to generative music carries with it the possibility of transcending the duality of the subject–object relationship and its impedance of the transformative power of the aesthetic experience in its traditional aesthetic conception. Generative music thus inherently evades both traditional methods of analysis and traditional modes of aesthetic commentary. As the music foregrounds the moment in which reception occurs, while simultaneously existing as a background presence, it elicits a transformation in the way in which we perceive and conceptually order the sound, the environment, and our subsequent relation between the two. Generative music itself becomes a structure through which one can engage with a new way of being through listening, one in which we apprehend our creative capacity through being receptive to alterity. In this way, listening itself has an ontology, one which can only be revealed through new forms of textual engagement. Ontologically, Heidegger provides the language to explore a music that reorients us at the level of being. Phenomenologically, he examines and reveals the structures of being which manifest our earth and world, our very possibilities of and for being, and these structures are precisely those which are technologically represented in generative music. Aesthetically, Heidegger views the artwork as almost a generative system in itself—one which sets truth to work as it manifests a dynamic between revealing and concealing. Art and technology, and thus poiesis and techne respectively, are examined as orientations of being which have an ideal configuration for Heidegger that manifests at the level of thought. Thus, Heidegger’s specific philosophic configuration which is pre-eminently concerned with ontological structures and coming to presence provides a structure through which generative music can emerge and find resonance. Heidegger’s philosophy evolves and unfolds in new generative iterations through his student Hans Georg Gadamer, who extends the hermeneutic nature of being to include the process of mediation. This enables an exploration of the temporality of the moment of the aesthetic encounter—a point of convergence at which the perceiver or listener undergoes self-transcendence through entering the unifying and structuring force of play. Play manifests sonically in generative music, during which the preexisting temporal and subjective structures are reconfigured and transformed through technological mediation. Similarly, Emmanuel Levinas reveals new variations on Heidegger’s ontology as he explores notions of alterity and the ways in which these are formative of our subjectivity. As he delineates the moment of encounter with the Other, we recognize its constitutive elements as they play out technologically within the generative music listening encounter. As the notion of infinity is played out sonically through each passing generative iteration, it manifests a constant overflowing of itself in both thought and presence. This process arises through a dynamic movement between interiority and exteriority, in which an internal desire for the Other is ignited and perpetuated by the external, radical Other. This simultaneously internal and external encounter with alterity situates a fundamentally radical passivity, one which reflects our ontological situation which comes to be mirrored in the technological, generative manifestation of the same structural relations. The philosophical approach of the present inquiry is not a commentary on generative music; it is a demonstration of its genesis—embodying the generative motion between being and becoming which comprises generative music, rather than engaging with traditional textual commentary about music. Between the textual presence and musical absence, a space arises in which music can emerge not as an object but as a way of being into which we enter. In this way, the subject–object structure of traditional aesthetics is transcended in a move toward a new aesthetic which encompasses the larger truth at issue—that the process of configuration, combination, juxtaposition and subsequent emergence is the very point of the genesis of meaning, or the origin of truth. Thus, generative music embodies not only a technological but also a textual path to this moment in which we engage with the origins of our own ontological possibilities
Description: Ph.D Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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