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Günter Mayer


Towards an Aesthetics of “Radiogenic” Music

“We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds and their genera­tion. We have harmonies, which you have not … divers instruments likewise to you un­known, … strange and artificial echoes reflect­ing the voice many times, and as it were toss­ing it, … also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes in strange lines and distances”.

(Roger Bacon, The New Atlantis)

The emergence of modern audiovisual media and the power they have unfurled are part of a very real, advancing process of socialization. The media are one fea­ture of the many processes of social and political transformation which also ex­ert increasing influence on the liberation movement and its development in the former colonial and oppressed countries of the Third World. The development of the record industry (not to mention film) the development of the big, industrially organized public institutions in radio and television , and the influence of the various branches within the media industry (especially leisure electronics) have brought about a deep, worldwide change in the historically inherited insti­tution of music, in the functions and structures of old and new music alike.

The latest revolution in the media, the introduction of cable and satellite technology and new peripheral technologies, is changing the way in which millions of people live and work, thus causing further changes in the mode of exist­ence of music, that is, in the social processes of production and reproduction of musical occurrences, of their distribution and exchange, and of their appropri­ation by recipients.

Anyone who delves into this untraditional subject for musical theory very quickly becomes entangled in a plethora of economic, political, technical, social, cultural and artistic, aesthetic contradictions — national, indeed increasingly in­ternational, global in scope — which interrelate in the most complicated manner in the course of their development. Given the former basis on which musicology founded its experience and generalizations, and from which it derived an aesthetics of music, this presents many new problems for that interdisciplinary re­search, for which there is an ever increasing need.

Drawing on more recent ideas which outline the general characteristics of the new situation and prospects for music and for musical culture created by mod­ern media1, I would like to concentrate here on one specific theme.

I. Electronic music

1. In asking what is “radiogenic” (and “telegenic” music), we are asking about the production of music in specific relation to media, about that field of new music which is produced for the media. Essentially, this concerns the field of “legitimate, functional loudspeaker music (or electronic optical music suited to television)” — as Stockhausen phrased it2 — in which the potential contained in the electronic, audiovisual media for developing the musical forces of produc­tion has for some time been the object of compositional exploration and aes­thetic formulation. We are dealing with “radio music that is no longer simply stuffed into the radio” (Adorno)3 and telemusic which is more than a live re­port or studio production of concerts with traditional or contemporary vocal or instrumental music. The microphone, camera, tape and loudspeaker (or screen) are no longer used here as technical means capable of reproducing music which exists before and beyond these media, as notes on paper or in performance, and which_is merely presented in the media through, but independent„ of transmission. Instead, these means are regarded as means of musical production, and what they produce for technical reproduction via the loudspeaker (and screen) only exists as technically mediated sound for the ear (and eye) because it is “rooted directly in the technology of its production” (Benjamin)4.

The time has come to think more deeply about music in the age of its tech­nological producibility.

2. Thinking along such lines started quite early: even in the first years of radio it went further than the sort of demand couched in the terms of pre-phono-graphic music which maintained that — due to the technological limitations of the medium — chamber music transparency and the “open” forms were fitting for radio. Similar concepts were elaborated for film, drawing on experience with composition.5 What should be realised on reading how much intellectual investi­gation of the productive potential in the new means of musical production (radio, records) was taking place in the twenties in Germany alone, is just how surprisingly far these ideas probed into the future. They were also decisively in­fluenced by the new experience of photography and film in the imaginative treatment of documentary or fictional videograms, seeking to work with “acous­tic photography” by using “fade, slow-motion replay, time lapse, close-up, trick etc.”6 These early reflections on “radiophonic music”, “absolute radio art”, the “pure radio play” and “radiogenic poetry” were an intellectual anticipation of “musique concrete” and the initially somewhat more narrowly defined “elec­tronic music”, both of which evolved in practice after World War Two under the auspices of radio, in the studios of Cologne, Milan, Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo, Warsaw etc. and in a number of US universities.

Those early thoughts and a handful of initial experiments were connected with less-known names such as Guido Bagier, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Karel Teige, Walter Bischoff, Arno Schirokauer, Frank Warschauer, Kurt Weill (who made his his fame in other ways), right through to Velemir Khlebnikov, Bela Balasz and Dsiga Vertov.7

The more familiar “classical composers” of the new avantgarde, who have all used electronics to a greater or lesser extent, took up and pursued this theoretic­al work, developing the practice of producing and shaping concrete and electron­ic sound: Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Herbert Eimert, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, Luc Ferrari, and later Bruno Maderna, even John Cage, to name but a few, although few of their works have enjoyed a very broad response. Electro-acoustic music has not come to dominate the field of “ad­vanced” composition and on the whole the media as institutions only pay select­ive attention to these productions (broadcasting them after most people have gone to bed). However, their contribution to musical culture, their value —not so much within the oeuvre of each individual as overall — should not be under­estimated as regards the qualitative features of “pure tape composition”, for it is here, in the use of the most sophisticated technological procedures, that new aesthetic conceptions stand out most clearly.8 This can be observed in works by Charles Dodge, Sten Hanson, Jean-Claude Risset, Christian Clossier, Trevor Wishart, Elzbieta Sikora, Bengt Emil Johnson, Bengt Hambraeus and many others. Media-related “radiogenic” tape composition is being produced in the GDR by Georg Katzer, Paulheinz Dittrich, Lothar Voigtlander, Ralph Hoyer, and more recently Friedrich Schenker. Radio DDR II is doing an excellent job in promoting these efforts. They have broadcast a series of documentary and fictional pieces for radio which are no radio plays in the traditional sense. The narrative and illustrative elements are replaced by a narrator in abstracto in which vehicle and sense combine in the rhythm, structure and form.9

Georg Katzer’s Aide-memoire — a composition for radio — was “written” (or created) to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nazi take-over in Germany -as a contribution to the international debate on the analysis of fascism. Aide-memoire is subtitled Seven Nightmares from the Thousand-Year Darkness. Katzer’s material consists exclusively of acoustic records from the Nazi period, and the commentary and interpretation are provided by a wide range of technic­al manipulations in order to expose the terrorist ideology of invasion and the hysteria of total war.

Until now, “radiogenic” productions of this kind have been linked by and large to broadcasting studios and transmission by radio. Few have been available for individual consumption independently of programmed transmission in the form of records or cassettes. That is something which will soon be changing.

3. Various forms of “live electronics” developed in the field of “advanced” com­position during the sixties and seventies. These are independent of transmission, but require the involvement of musicians and specific forms of “performance”, usually under spatial conditions which have evolved with bourgeois concert prac­tice and, while they may be adequate for offerings of pre- and non-phonographic music, old and new, detract from the appropriation of “live electronics”. The provisions are particularly unsuitable for television. In fact, when concert halls are built or reconstructed, sites for the camera and lighting are often “forgot­ten”. Stockhausen’s Globe Auditorium at EXPO 70 in Osaka was the exception. (Here the visual features of new music also had a place, though less in connec­tion with the players’ movements than with the play of light: moving, changing lights, projections of film and slides.10)

4. As we know, the new methods of electro-acoustic tape composition have been used since the outset for a synthetic, technical reproduction of traditional sounds, that is, to imitate a number of less popular “classical” works. They have permitted popular encounters with new electrophonic sounds within these fam­iliar tonal structures, to the extent that these products, determined by their technical reproduction, have been able to absorb new dimensions of tonal colour, volume and movement, even when they remained extremely faithful to the original, thereby inevitably restricting these possibilities. One recent example is Mussorgsky’s Pictures From An Exhibition in the tape version by the Japan­ese composer Isao Tomita. I must say that in my opinion the technical effort that went into it11 is in no way matched by the basically traditional sound of the end-result.

It seems to me that this electro-acoustic remould of traditional music, with its fondness for florid romantics and naturalistic vulgarisms, is another case of what Adorno, referring to radio, described as the immanent revenge against great music as an ideology.12

The “advanced”, “serious” forms of pure or mixed tape composition men­tioned here make only a sporadic appearance within the overall context of the more up-market musical culture which exists today — in the work of composers, in the listings of concert halls and opera houses, in radio and television pro­grammes, and among the various commodities offering acoustic or visual experi­ence of one kind or another. Even popular electro-acoustic rewrites of less fam­iliar classical music are still no more than the divertissement against the more or less traditional backcloth of musical activity.

However, since the mid-sixties there has been growing mass interest, especial­ly among young people, in the new electro-acoustic production and mass repro­duction of pop sound, in that trend which evolved out of the Afro-American forms of blues and jazz, above all in rock music, and which is continuing on its heady course — also in disco, punk and “new wave”. The theory and aesthetics of music have to date underrated this aspect of “Music and modern media”. Let us therefore devote it some special attention.13

II. Pop music

1. The products of pop music14 are bound up for their audio realization with technical apparatus, technologically mediated production and technological re­production. They are essentially independent of concert performance: since the Beatles’ LP Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) they have ceased to be mere technical recordings of live performances. The performance, the concert, brings a technical end-product to life. Besides, there are more people involved in the simulated, personalizing, play-back performance than just the musicians up on stage. Live concerts of this kind of pop music are being dominated more and more by technical side of their production. They need complicated studio equipment, studios on wheels.

The reasons for this are both economic and aesthetic. The concert form, the multi-media show, is essential for the economic realization of pop products, which primarily takes place in the sales act through individual purchases of a commodity (a record or cassette) in which the music has materialized by technology. The enterprise is only cost-efficient and profitable as a result of mass turnover.

The concert is a form of advertising which stimulates the exchange of the sound-bearing commodity. At the same time, the pop star’s new aura, the fasci­nating technology in the outstanding mass experience of a live concert, is also crucial to the music’s aesthetics. Even in a live concert, the musical happening takes place through the loudspeaker. The visualizing features have assumed a growing aesthetic relevance. More recently, motivated by a concern for maxi­mum profits, this visualization of pop music has progressed beyond the multimedia shows and film into new, handy, “telegenic” creations of the video clip. These, too, boost publicity. Examples might be the narrative Modes in the Visualization of Popular Music in the American series Solid Gold15, or at man­agement level, the Video Pop Music Project for Cable TV in Europe run by Videomarketing Ltd. Founded in 1971 as a TV, Film, Video Distribution and Consultancy Company, it will be integrating pop videos of different styles and techniques (produced by record companies for several years) into a daily pro­gramme service to be made available country by country in Western Europe as Cable TV expands.16

2. Pop music, as a form of “radiogenic” (or “telegenic” music), clearly illus­trates the generally essential characteristics of composition for tape. An aes­thetics of medica-specific music cannot confineitself to the technical sources of sound and the apparatus of sound processing in themselves. In media-specific music, the technical equipment intersects with the economics of the modern media machinery, the big, almost industrially organized institutions of radio and television, above all the record companies, and then the industries_which manufacture the audio systems. These various branches of what Enzensberger calls the “consciousness industry”17 have so_far been the only ones with the economic means to build and run studios with up-to-date technology. That is a symp­tom of continuing socialization which even extends to the production of music, which has only proved profitable in the sphere of pop music. This process is international, worldwide, and unlike avant-garde electronics it has reached the masses. In the recent past it has taken shape in many regions and countries that are not highly advanced industrially, at least in the production and distribution of pop music, and since the seventies we have witnessed Transculturation and the rise of national Pop and Rock in all regions of the globe, also in small coun­tries. (See the results of the MISC project run by Krister Malm and Roger Wallis18).

The studio, as a qualitatively new technological “instrument”, cannot be seen in isolation from the institutions responsible for production and distribution, nor from the form of economic value which determines production, distribution, exchange and consumtion in each respective society. They also influence the quality and quantity of musical products — the aesthetic imagination, the sub­stance and shape of musical phenomena and their objective existence in society. It is good to note that research into how these relationships function in pop mu­sic has begun internationally in recent years and will be accessible for future theoretical studies, in the new Yearbook of Popular Music, and at international conferences and in publications under the aegis of the IASPM (International As­sociation for the Study of Popular Music) founded in 1983.

At first glance, economic factors seem to have exerted less influence on “ad­vanced” music. Nevertheless, it has above all been radio in a handful of highly developed countries that has functioned as the decisive patron and organizer of electronic music, indeed, for new music in general since 1950. This has made its impact on both the technical aspects and on aesthetic, stylistic aspects.19 The centralization created by economic and political factors led to an ideological, aesthetic monopoly, which also entailed an influence on the content of the pro­ductions and the degree of commitment to carrying them out and making use of them. There was a tendency to reject experiments with the musical implications of the mass medium with a view to political emancipation of the masses. Stockhausen’s political aesthetics, which foresees the coming of more elevated Man, rhymed better with the bourgeois concept of the Modern Age and the media than did Nono’s musical programme and practice for a political aesthetics which posits mass action by degraded mankind and which sets their real liberation as its goal. Meanwhile, the centrally administered institutions of the socialist coun­tries set the tone there in response to the overall political and ideological situ­ation.

3. The complex links between technical, economic, aesthetic and political fac­tors emerge very clearly in pop music, where musical developments take place without public funds on the basis of profit-seeking enterprise, outweighed in the highly developed capitalist countries only by the oil and steel industries. Of course, the sphere of distribution and exchange plays a substantial role in form­ing — and deforming — aesthetic manifestations of the media-specific evolution of musical potential as a result of economic processes of creating and realizing value. This catalyses the evolution in a quite specific way. The aesthetic conse­quences of advertising and ephemeral fashion, etc. cannot by any means be ex­plained in solely aesthetic terms.

The remarks made by Adorno and Eisler in relation to the practice of film music in the forties are certainly still relevant to some fields of pop music, from the “schlager” to the technically mediated disco sound:

“… what is true of all mass cultural advantages under the prevailing system is true in this instance, too: ostentatious spending has increased, and the mode of presentation, the technique of transmission in the broadest sense, from acous­tical accuracy to the psycho-technical treatment of the audience, has been im­proved in direct proportion to the capital invested, but nothing essential has changed in the music itself, its substance, its material, its function as a whole, or in the quality of compositions … there is a striking disproportion between the tremendous improvement in the technique of recording, on which all the mir­acles of this technique are spent, and the music itself, either indifferent or bor­rowed without taste or logic from the stock of clichés”20

There is no need to provide acoustic examples, as most of the pop music now on offer fits the bill.

4. However, the aesthetic moulding of authentic mass experience under the in­fluence of economic profit-making is particularly marked in those expressions of pop music which have sprung from the Afro-American tradition of blues and jazz. In clear contrast to the European folk and art music traditions and their sell-out to the cultural industry, elements of black folk culture have prevailed, being able to express a collective experience of urban life and capitalist existent­ial conditions, without being ideologically incorporated into them, still speaking with the voice of a community. It is this which underlies the deep authority of these forms of popular music, especially of rock music. It is this which lies at the heart of the ambiguous but fertile relationship between popular music and the productive apparatus.21

In popular music of the seventies this tendency has been realized in quite sim­ilar relations between other folk traditions and improved to musical apparatus: there are the old Arabic elements in the popular music of Tunisia, there are the traditional Zairean elements in the popular music of Tanzania (Swahili Jazz), there is traditional music in the reggae of Jamaica, there are West African tradi­tions of the Yoruba Nigerians in Juju music.22 This is a process of acculturation reflecting the everyday experience of masses of people. For example, during the seventies, the most popular Juju Music composer and player in Nigeria, Sunny Adé, released about forty albums — every one of which sold about 200.000 copies.

Or: expanding cassette technique has led to a free flow of music either newly recorded or pirated. In 1981 there were eight million new recorded cassettes per month in Indonesia alone. This means 96 million cassettes per year for a popu­lation of 150 million.23

Since the late seventies, pop music production is carried out on an inter­national basis, using sophisticated multitrack studio facilities and an ever-increas­ing number of synthesizers on the various national pop and rock scenes. For ex­ample, in the GDR, there are hundreds of rock groups using synthesizers as nor­mal, standard equipment.

5. The difference between avantgarde and popular music in developing radio­genic electro-acoustical music is not only to be found in different traditions and different areas of social experiences and functions. In pop music of the type we are referring to, elements of folk Culture are still alive: the creative process tends generally to be a joint activity of cooperating individuals, of collectives. Here, musical developments are carried forward by the many professional and the in­numerably non-professional groups who assimilate and adapt the best results of the “individual” groups. There are no scores any more. Technically created re­corded music, controlled by ear, is realized by musicians whose own lives re­semble clearly those of their audiences: they have experienced the same social contradictions and, in the best cases, they express these experiences authentically.

6. With the critical development of social conflicts and their increasingly critical reflection (Widerspiegelung) by young people in popular music, with the appear­ance of different forms of underground or counter culture among creative young and highly skilled musicians (especially in the seventies), a new quality of criti­cism has come into being which attacks the established bourgeois (or socialist) society. This brought about a politization in popular music, leading frequently to serious criticisms of the capitalist system. In the best cases, such criticism was simultaneously directed towards the established music industry, against the com­mercialization of popular music. Looking through the album covers produced by many of these skillful and critical artists, it is easy to see the extent and breadth of commitment and involvement in the social and political contradictions of our times as expressed by such groups as The Clash, Pere Ubu, Talking Heads, Floh de Cologne, The Pop Group, Kraldjursanstalten, This Heat and Art Bears.

Of course, the kind of musically and poetically highly articulated records made and live performances given by groups like Art Bears (e.g. The Song of Investment Capital Overseas from the LP The World As It Is Today — 1981 -) or The Work (e.g. Balance) or This Heat (e.g. A New Kind of Water) are quite different from the popular sound of contemporary music market stars. However, these alternative rock musicians are neither few nor esoteric (e.g., in Western Europe, such groups as Henry Cow, Art Bears, The Work, This Heat (Great Britain), Magma, Etron Fo Le Loublan, Z.N.R., Art Zoyd (France), Univers Zero, Aksaq Maboul (Belgium), Stormy Six or Macchina Maccaronica (Ita­ly), Sammla Mammas Manna, Kraldjursanstalten (Sweden) or Cassiber (Federal Republic of Germany and Great Britain), Floh de Cologne (Ibid.)) A consider­able number of these groups have been both politically involved and explicit as well as successful with record sales (e.g. Henry Cow, Stormy Six or the ultra-maoist Norwegian group (Tramteateret). Tramteateret established itself as one of the best-selling pop groups, almost winning the Norwegian qualifying round of the Euro vision Song Contest, being televized weekly, and putting on frequent live cabarets).24

Styles may vary considerably amongst these groups but some general ten­dencies are to be found in the seventies and early eighties. Political involvement is growing. Cliches from the entertainment industry are attacked with merciless satire while the gap between electro-acoustic pop on the one hand and advanced electro-acoustic music and live electronics on the other is progressively being bridged.

Similar tendencies can be found in the work of some new American groups such as The Residents, The Mnemonists or Pere Ubu.

7. Essential and totally new for the seventies was — in this kind of popular mu­sic — that new organizational structures for production and distribution were established, relatively independent of big business (e.g. the cooperative L’Orchestra in Italy, Recommended Records and Rough Trade in Great Britain). Finally, some of these groups joined to form the international movement “Rock in Opposition” — with the purpose of initiating alternative forms of music cul­ture, of festivals for politically committed rock musicians, of discussions about theoretical problems drawn from their common experience.

8. Of course, in the large area of popular music there is — as in “serious” music — the electro-acoustical imitation and adaption of popular classical composi­tions. In early days these forms were as rare as in the “serious” area (e.g. James Last or Emerson, Lake & Palmer). However, since the seventies we have been able to listen to a multiplicity of rock and pop approaches to classical music, ranging from “quotation” and “arrangement” to “digest” and “remake”.25 Such approaches to “classical music” can be found in recordings by such diverse ar­tists as Zappa, Collosseum, Nice, Ekseption, Genesis, Yes, Renaissance, Procol Harun, Louis Clark, Accademia, Boston Pops, W. d Los Rios, King, Krimson, Chicago, Amazing Blondel etc., etc.

9. Another important recent development in popular music is the new quality which came to be established in the relationship aesthetics of great importance.

The profit-seeking improvement of technology made highly sophisticated recording facilities cheap and consequently widely available. Now it is possible for individuals, groups or cooperatives to own their own recording equipment and set up their own recording_studios. Now there is a whole market-subsector of low-budget equipment devoted to home recording, and 16 trac machines are also on sale. This means as Chris Cutlcr (membcr of Henry Cow, now Cassiber) wrote that: the technical standards of mode ‘home’ recording equipment are so high that the master quality of these recordings is effectively indistinguishable from the products of expensive “official” studios26

10. This process is very important because this “do-it-yourself” tendency means easy access to_a range of instruments which require little skill to produce musically acceptable compositions. The ubiquity of tape-recorders now enables people who would never even have considered making music before, much less have studied an instrument or thought about forming a group, to make and release records. A quite well known example is The Residents (USA). They have never been anything but a recording group. Every thing is composed in their own studio.

All these factors have led to a flood of independant records and to the establishment of relatively independent distributive networks. I have already mentioned some of this. Cutler, with first hand experience of the sceene, formulated the tendency as follows: “At least the industry has lost its power of veto; its ap­pearance of initiative has gone. All that is new and innovative no longer seems somehow to emanate from them”.26

It is clear that new contradictions will arise here (1) between studio produc­tion and the lack of social context for such musical production, (2) between the quality of tapes and records so produced and the scope of their distribution. Nevertheless even though record companies will try and organize these new el­ements of independence into a profit-making system fundamental changes are taking place.

11. We are witnessing the potential democratization of the technically mediated production of music and of music culture in general. This means easy access to the new media and to a variety of musical content and form, available for pro­duction and realization by masses of people. In this way. democratization should no longer be understood merely in terms of distribution — for example, as a means of instilling the values of classical music into the masses of musically il­literate people27. From our new understanding of musical production we are bet­ter able to discover the revolutionary social, political, cultural and aesthetical potential of the new media. This may encourage constructive reflection in new dimensions counteracting the cultural pessimism of those judgements on the new media. which are inevitable both in the elitarian aesthetics of composition as well as in statistical or educational typs of sociology or aesthetics of perception. Emphasizing the aspect of production rather than reproduction may give impulses for a new discussion about the term “mass-communication”and, of course, about the old question “what is music?”

III. Aesthetics

1. The type of discussion advocated above, based on practical experience and on progressive social criticism, is not so much taking place in academic musicology, nor within the boundaries of the already traditional concepts of the “avant-garde” (which have already lost appeal for some avantgardists themselves) as in the area of the politically and socially committed popular music. It is from here, from these processes of musical production stimulated by the results of early” avantgarde theory and from this general adoption and adaptation of the real and general practices of technically mediated music, that far reaching conclusions can be drawn, because the process of recording. (and the electrification of sound) implies a revolution in music production quite as far reaching as that brought about by notation.

Notation was once a new form of musical storage which contained an innate potential for new modes of musical production, for new sophisticated forms of composition. The relationship is similar between recording as a new means of storage and its potential for musical production. The innate qualities of record­ing which distinguish it from notation as a new means of musical production are, refering once more to Cutler’s concepts as follows:

1. 1. Recording brings musical production back to the realm of the ear. The prime concern is once again — as with folk Music — sound.

1. 2. Recording allows for the manipulation or assembly of sound, or of actual performances in an empirical way: through listening and subsequent decision making.

The immediacy of performance is not lost but is freed from time. It can be taken apart. Assembling and shaping of music on tape includes manipulation of the tape itself and of the mediating electronic equipment. Since the develop­ment of multitrack-recording, the ease of overdubbing, selective addition and erasure, electronic alteration of sound both before and after registration, have encouraged the use of the studio as an instrument rather than merely a docu­mentary device. Music can be assembled both vertically and horizontally over time, moulded and remoulded. Tape runs forwards, backwards at many and vari­able speeds. It can be cut up and glued together.

1. 3. Recording is a medium in which improvisation can be incorporated — or transformed through subsequent work — into composition. Recording replaces firm emphasis on performance, becoming optimally a medium of composition for performers — just as musique concrète became a medium of performance for composers. Thus, recording strongly favours the reuniting of those two roles whose mutual distinction was revolutionary when notation was introduced, centuries ago.

1.4. In recording, constructive decisions in the assembly of sound are concrete and empirical. They can be reached through discussion. A personal vision is no longer the necessary mediator between composition and realization. This can be­come a collective activity. Thus, as a creative unit, the group finds the maximum of resources at its disposal in the recording studio — a medium which encourages collective work, and practicularly collective composition.

These innate qualities of recording echo those of the folk mode. It is precisely in popular music of the described types that folk techniques and the most advanced productive media elide. It is quite clear, that under these circumstances and in this general “revolution”, our very understanding of what music is will have to undergo profound change. Moreover, this process will be moved, will be pushed forward by those musicians who are particularly well-versed in folk techniques, i.e. by musicians in a better position of uncovering the innate potential of the new media. These interesting ideas of Cutler’s should lead us to conclude that the term “new music” coined by the avantgarde in the twenties, should now be widened in the light (and sound!) of new experiences in the ad­vanced pop music of the seventies and eighties.

2. It is very interesting to compare Adorno’s concept of “radio music” — based on the experience of extra-radiophonic music — with the new phenomena in po­pular music mentioned above.28 Adorno had drawn — more theoretically — the new quality of “radio music” from the new “technological-social structure”. From his point of view, the new radio music should differ from the actual process of “composing”: confronted with the ideal of “radio music”, Webern or Boulez would, for instance, have to be understood as “traditional”.

What are then the innate qualities of radio music in Adorno’s concept and how do they correspond to the new phenomena of electro-acoustical music, es­pecially to those of popular music?

Every moment of radio music should be present, unmistakable in its own meaning — not based on a continuity of musical transcendence, harmonic or contrapuntal perspectives of development, or variative procedures. This should correspond to the behavior of listeners who should be able to go in and out of the musical flow without losing anything from it; all this according to Adorno.

This is a similar experience to that contained within pop music. Adorno’s conception of radio music includes the quality of intensity, conciseness and brevity, sensation and simultaneity of events. This means pride of place for the “characteristic detail” (motif or complex “new” structure), of timbre, which has acquired equal status as an element of musical interest — and a predomi­nance of contrasts. Still referring to Adorno, musical thinking is realized not so much in organic-thematic variation as in coordinated musical sections, in “fields”. All this is developing parallel with aleatoric compositions and musique concrète, i.e. with the use of acoustic documents (noise and music) on the one hand, and with the wide area of technically mediated acoustic inventions and their manipulation and synthesis with the transformed documents on the other. This is the exact experience in and with new pop music. As with advanced el­ectro-acoustic “classical” music, this new pop music expresses new relationships between noise, organized acoustic fields, acoustically relevant soundscapes, on the one hand, and silence, single acoustic events on the other. All this is done with a new intensity and in itself constitutes a contradictory quality of aesthetic values.

3. Pop products are generally of short duration. This is due partly to the necess­ity of economic realization, partly to the aesthetic function of these products in entertainment and dance (e.g. changes between quick and slow dances or be­tween the concentrated and deconcentrated perception of music, all of which is essential in entertainment). Moreover, the pop music products have, within the limits of such dimensions, relatively simple basic structures.

However, pop music becomes increasingly complex as regards the simultan­eous layering of sophisticated musical events. This tendency includes aspects of elementarization and montage, to be regarded as general phenomena of mass ex­periences. The electro-acoustically mediated innovations are not so relevant in the realm of melody and harmony as in rhythm and timbre. This is a result of the Afro-American black folk tradition, in which all these parameters have pro­perties quite different from those of tonality.29 Particularly important is the new technically mediated intensity of sound and timbre, both of which can be adjusted by listeners themselves using the controls on their radio or amplifier.30 These are important points in the understanding of the new aesthetic values of organized, complex sound events, which are units — not necessarily to be listen­ed to in fine detail.31

4. It is clear that the musical-aesthetical quality of electro-acoustic music is de­termined to a certain extent by the subjective position of the musicians in socie­ty and music, by their involvement in social and musical developments. All new technically mediated potential allows for both realistic and idealistic tendencies in the conception and functions of such music. New aesthetic values in this kind of music are the result of emotional and intellectual activities in both produc­tion as in perception. These invariants cannot be identified merely by referring to the “realistic” or “progressive attitudes of the musicians and audiences in­volved. The matter is far more complicated and cannot be dealt with in the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, while Adorno was still complaining about a lack of suitable radio music as late as the 1940’s, the situation now is quite dif­ferent. Recorded music of the types described above has become the real experi­ence of millions of people. Added to this use of electro-acoustic music is the re­fined use of modern forms of visualization which have become widespread every­day culture, not only in the form of youth-oriented video clips but also in differ­ent types of advertising for both young and old.

IV. Conclusions

In the title of my paper I have used the “obvious” phrase “radiogenic music” coined by Karel Teige in the twenties.

With the miniaturization of studio equipment, with more and more individ­ual, democratic access to the new productive and reproductive media of recording on the one hand and with the centralization of technical sound memories in computers and the possibility for everyone to use these through cable technology on the other it is necessary to modify the old terms “radiogenic” and “radio music”. In the early days of radio the aspect of distribution, of broad­casting was predominant The early term was a reflection of the contemporary use of the new technical medium organized under the institutional aegis of “Radio”. The main point was the dissemination of a pre-existant information. However, at present the main points are (1) to understand the new productive potential of recording and of the electrification of sound, as well as (2) to rea­lize that these are now widely available and used relatively independent of the Institution “Radio”, of the profitmaking record industry and of distribution as “radio programs”. In the thirties Walter Benjamin emphasized the new quality of the work of art under conditions of its technical reproducibility32 , whereas now the aspect of distribution. of institutionalized dissemination from those earlier times has ceded first place to electro-acoustically produced and mediated music, a concept insufficiently covered by the term “radio”. We should there­fore really be using terms such as “electro-acoustical” or “electrophonic” music, possibly even the more precise but less elegant term “electrophonogenic” music, to emphasize the genuine technical aspect of media specific production . Tendencies in this direction, can be_understood as the expression of increasing democratic access to the_constantly developing productive and reproductive media of recording, i.e. as mass processes, involving masses of people, relatively independent of the monopolized record industry and outside centralized institutions. These tendencies will have an impact on the content and the meaning of music as well as on the newly discovered aesthetic values. If we consider the most advanced type of experience in this field, it is possible to see how the mass media can in this way actually become the media of the masses themselves.

Or, to cite Cutler:

“… it is clear already that the battle for the immediate future of music will be fought out through the medium of recording. The qualities of this medium which are useful to the bourgeoisie are already well developed, and constitute the imperatives of ‘mass-culture’ mediated through the form of the commodity. The crucial point about this is that the value of this to the bourgeoisie is not cultural; it is only commercial — and this leaves the profound and innate potential of the medium for cultural and aesthetic expression still underdeveloped, for indisputably, intrinsic to the process of recording and electrification are revolutionary imperatives, imperatives which can only be brought to fruit in an egalitarian and classless society. These qualities can be identified. In fact they are already exerting a pressure, expressing itself as a contradiction, on the whole field of music”.33

Of course, although it could be objected that this point of view makes insufficient distinction between class relations and the development of music, the basic idea seems to me indisputable fit also seems likely that the innate progressive potentialities of the itself cannot be optimally realized if musicians exclude themselves from the development of the new expressive media as well as from the socially progressive mass-movement in which the semantic and pragmatic aspects of new aesthetic values are constituted and discernible, thereby contributing towards the establishment of new musical language. Many progress­ive pop musicians were or are now in the same or in similar positions to those oc­cupied, both yesterday and today, by such figures as Nono or Henze. The most committed of them are now joining forces, thus making the general direction of musical change quite clear. Commitment is necessary in this process of change. The better the social and progressive change, the better realization of the new musical potentialities in the media will be; or, conversely: the better the musical­ly progressive change the better it will be for social change in general.


1. Cf. Music and Tomorrow’s Public. A Report prepared by the International Music Coun­cil (UNESCO) and Auspices of the IFDI (International Federation of Producers of Phonograms and Videograms) by a joint IMCIFDI Team Egon Graus, Robert Weede. Edited by Everett Helm, March 1975.

2. Karlheinz Stockhausen, Elektronische und instrumentale Musik, in: Vol. i, Texte zur elektronischen und instrumentalen Musik, Cologne 1963, pp. 146-7.

3. Theodor W. Adorno, Über die musikalische Verwendung des Radios, in: Der getreue Korrepetitor, Frankfurt am Main 1963, p. ⅖.

4. Walter Benjamin, Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit, in: Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. ½, Frankfurt am Main 1974, p. 481, Note 9.

5. Theodor W, Adorno/Hanns Eisler, Komposition für den Film, Leipzig 1977.

6. In 1926, for example, Guido Bagier wrote an article about “talking film” (a synonym for radio), in which he recommended using sound in the same way as photography “with cartoon, fade, slow-motion and time lapse, and the many forms of mix and superimposition. This completely releases music from the conventional concept of ‘form’ … People will discard the cliche” s which limit our music to an acoustic conglo­meration of orchestra, choir and solo instrument. We shall be able to capture vagrant tones and combine them to make sound colours which, in natural production, have never been heard before. In a word we shall have to reject the concept of music in rea­lity, its imitation by machine — and this much-maligned machine will create its own acoustic content in accordance with its nature.” Der sprechende Film, in: Anbruch, 8 (1926), pp. 380 ff.

7. There is a detailed summary of the way German radio conceived its musical functions before 1933 in the dissertation by Stefan Amzoll, Komposition fur die Rundfunk, sub­mitted in Berlin in 1984, Back in 1922 Maholy Nagy developed some ideas about creativity independent of the large orchestra by considering the sound potential of technic­al apparatus. In 1928, referring to the bruitist Luigi Rossolo, Karel Teige used the term “radiogenic poetry” to describe an art using musical and other sounds which is “as un­like literature, recitation, as it is unlike music” (quoted there from Hans Scheugel/ Ernst Schmidt, Fine Subgeschichte des Films, 2 vols., Vol. 2, Frankfurt am Main 1974, pp. 918 ff.). Walter Bischoff, a prominent exponent of the early German radio play, talked of a “completely new acoustic scenario similar in tempo and rhythm to that of the cinema” (Das literarische Problem im Rundfunk, p. 58). Hans Flesch saw radio as “moulding an art which proceeds from the audiable and just as film proceeds from the visual”. Both he and Arno Schirokauer use terms such as “sound image”, “audio-se­quence”, “artistic synthesis of pure acoustics and phonetics”, “absolute tonal art” and “pure radio play”. In 1930 Frank Warschauer discussed the production of electronic sound by means of apparatus which would burst the confines of sound production and modification. Finally, in the late twenties, Kurt Weill also outlined the notion of “ab­solute radio art”, and interestingly enough he too was inspired by his experience with “absolute film”.

Stefan Amzoll draws the threads together thus: “However unpolished some of these attempts may have been, they laid the basis for new expressions of contrast and unity in art. In a practical manner they brought into play novel concepts of composition and contextual relationship, concepts which assumed creatively deductive thinking outside the customary norms of composition and which set out, prompted by motives related to media technology and artistic technique, to give birth to something which had never existed before. Essentially this signified progress in material aesthetics and, simultan­eously, a challenge to the dominant musical aesthetic of autonomy, even though, in practice, the trend was massively accompanied by purely reproductive factors, tech-nicist games and many posings of productive art … Historically speaking, the first steps were being taken from mirror-like reproduction towards the technical produci-bility of new sound phenomena. From this point, creative stimulation was also derived from the possibility of producing synthetic sounds (using electrical instruments, acoustic sound projections, etc.) and from new combinations of natural tonal material with individualized auditory manifestations of art. Radio was declaring its potential ability to function as the creator of entirely new artistic forms whose reproducibility ‘is rooted directly in the technology of its production’.”

8. This view, put forward by Hellmut Kühn in 1976, proved in 1983 to be erroneous. At the time he wrote: “The hopes cherished by the experimenters of the twenties have not been fulfilled in the realm of “serious” E-music. There has been no composition for radio — rather the very opposite of an art which involves action — nor have we wit­nessed new forms for the presentation of classical music. The annotated broadcast has remained the exception.” In: Die Musik in deutschen Rundfunkprogrammen, Musik in den Massenmedien Rundfunk und Fernsehen, Perspektiven und Materialien, ed. by Hanns Christian Schmidt, Mainz 1976, p. 40.

9. Georg Katzer, Entwicklung und Perspektiven elektroakustischer Musik, in: Musik und Gesellschaft, 33, (1983), No. 6, p. 355.

10. Karlheinz Stockhausen, Osaka-Projekt, in: Texte zur Musik 1970, Vol. 3, Cologne 1971, p. 153 ff.

11. This calls for the following technology: Moog 38, Moog System 55, Polymoog, Scape Programmer 950 B, Boat Ring Modulator 6401, Boat Frequent Shifter 1630, Roland Synthesizer System 700, Equalizer Mixer, 6 Tape Recorders with up to 16 Tracks, Noise Eliminator and effects equipment such as Echo, Phase Displacer and Rhythm-maker.

12. Theodor W. Adorno, Über die musikalische Verwendung des Radios, op. cit., p. 2^5.

13. To some extent there was a turn in the seventies. After so many basically journalistic offerings and a mere handful of dissertations (Tagg, Middleton, Wicke), we now have many ventures in this area and some serious initial fruits. One might consider the first three volumes of the yearbook Popular Music, which started appearing in 1981, and the Proceedings of the First International Conference on Popular Music Studies, Ams­terdam 1981, Popular Music Perspectives, ed. by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Goteborg & Exeter 1982.

14. Taken here primarily to mean rock music.

15. Cf. Arnold S Wolfe. Pop on Video: Narrative Modes in The Visualization of Popular Musik. On Your Hit Parade and Solid Gold. Presented to the Second Conference on Popular Music Studies of the IASPM, Reggio Emilia, Italy, September 1983.

16. Cf. Popular Music and the Public Conscious, ed. Rauhe, Schischik & Tagg, IMZ, Vien­na, 1983.

17. Cf. Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Bewusstseinsindustrie, in: Einzelheiten I, Frankfurt am Main 1962.

18. Krister Malm/Roger Wallis, Transculturation and the Rise of National Pop and Rock in Small Countries, IASPM Internal Publications P 8302, 1983.

19. Cf. Leo Karl Gerhartz, Rundfunk, Musik und musikalische Produktion — Uberlegungen eines Rundfunkredakteurs, in: Musik in den Massenmedien Rundfunk und Fernsehen, op. cit., p. 21.

20. Hanns Eisler, Composing for the Films, London 1948, p. 50.

21. These comments are based on Chris Cutler, An analytical Framework, Paper given at the Popular Music Research Symposium at Exeter in September 1982 and at the Fes­tival des Politischen Liedes in Berlin (GDR), February 1982.

22. Cf. the study by Krister Malm/Roger Wallis, op. cit.

23. Cf. Martin Hatch, Popular Music in Indonesia: Thinking about Definitions. Presented to the Second Conference on Popular Music Studies of the IASPM, Reggio Emilia, Italy, September 1983.

24. Cf. Geir Johnson, Changes in Norwegian Popular Music 1976-1981. Presented to the Second Conference on Popular Music Studies of the IASPM, Reggio Emilia, Italy, Sep­tember 1983.

25. Cf. Paolo Prato, Musical Kitsch: Close Encounters between Pops and Classics. Present­ed to the Second Conference on Popular Music Studies of the IASPM, Reggio Emilia, Italy, September 1983.

26. Cf. 21.

27. Cf. 21.

28. Cf. 3.

29. Cf. John Shepherd, A theoretical model for the socio-musicological analysis of popular musics, in: Popular Music 2, Theory and Method. Cambridge University Press 1982, pp. 142 ff.

30. Cf. Helmut Rosing, Zur Rezeption technisch-funktionsbezogene Aspekte, in: Musik in den Massenmedien Rundfunk und Fernsehen, op, cit., p. 59.

31. Cf. Carl Dahlhaus, Asthetische Probleme der elektronischen Musik, in: Experimented Musik, ed. by F. Winckel, Berlin 1970, p. 85.

32. Cf.4.

33. Cf. 21.


It would be necessary to give a discography on the above mentioned new trends in popular music — to indicate some of the territory covered. It is impossible to give the absolute mini­mum of records, released by the most important groups. Those interested in obtaining in­formation may contact the following distributors:

L’ Orchestra, Via Moscova 13, Milano, Italy

Recommended records, 387 Wandsworth Road, London SW 8

Rough Trade, 202 Kensington Pall Road, London W1 1

A very informative survey is on the Recommended Records Sampler of new music by Faust, Art Bears, The Residents, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, Henry Cow, L. Voag, Stormy Six, The Work, R. Stevie Moore, Z.N.R., Vogel, Sogenanntes Linksradikale, Blasorchester, Picchio Dal Pozzo, The Homosexuals, The Muffins, Decibel, Aksak Maboul, Feliu Gasul, Conventum, Ron Pate, Robert Wyatt.

    Published in: TVÄRSPEL, Festskrift till Jan Ling, Göteborg 1984, 386-405

    Musica/Realtà, Anno VI, numero 16 aprile 1985, 119-143 (in Italian)

    Ästhetik der Kunst, Berlin 1987, 82-102


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