Michael Edwards - Aesthetic and Musical Approach

Electric Cowboy Cacophony: A Project for Cross-Genre Free Improvisation, 29/7/09

PDF of draft paper written for the Arts in Society Conference, Venice. Download here.

Re: Bridging the gap between computer music and traditional instruments, Edinburgh, 14/12/06

I am convinced that computing will inform the design and fabric of future musical instruments. However, my experience as a software engineer in Silicon Valley clearly showed the importance of bridging technologies; that a quantum shift from one technology to another completely different from its predecessor is rarely successful. Hence my compositional work mostly incorporates traditional instruments--with their rich tradition and performance practice--and cutting-edge computer sound processing and diffusion.

Re: Music Technology in Composition and Education, Edinburgh, 9/11/05

Music has always been a technological art, from early instruments to the latest computer-aided algorithmic composition. Much work is necessary, however, before the computer's status as musical instrument/compositional tool/studio-in-a-box-on-stage is raised to a general level of acceptance and understanding by musicians and audience alike. My composition and performance with computers promotes just such an understanding: with its combination of traditional instrumental and state-of-the-art digital techniques, hybrid works are created that bridge the gap between pre- and post-digital music making. Focusing on the diversity of applications of computer technology to music, the future vitality of this field depends upon moving beyond the commercial music software emulations of analogue equipment and already known musical paradigms into applications for which the computer alone is central to the endeavour. My research and teaching centres upon exactly this: algorithmic composition, sound processing and synthesis, computer music performance, and internet technologies demand intimate knowledge of computer programming for the implementation of unique, personal, and independent 21st-century musical ideas. Custom-programming by the musicians themselves (instead of reliance upon pre-existing, limited, and history-bound software) leads to an expansion of musical vision, informing, instead of being limited by, the imagination; it extends the boundaries of musical experience, both for performer and listener; and it secures the future of creative music in our information-technology mediated world.

Re: My Algorithmic Composition Software, Edinburgh, 22/4/04

The overall aim of my slippery chicken composition software is the generation of instrumental and computer music structures from the same musical data, creating a synthesis of these two often structurally incompatible sound worlds. It is not my aim to create a distinction between live and electronic sound, rather it is the exact opposite: I seek to blend the two sound sources, presenting the audience with a melding of the materials, both instrumental and electronic, causing an aural investigation on the part of the listener into the source and nature of the sounds, but, more importantly, presenting a coherent sound image, extending the instrumental sounds with the electronic, and enhancing the electronic sounds with live performance.

Re: My Algorithmic Composition Software; extract from a programme note (selbstporträt als ein anderer), Edinburgh, 11/03

... a recent interesting phenomenon is that of email or chat-room persona, virtual-reality 'avatars' even, where a person may represent themselves through internet technology as something that they are not, or perhaps are, but want to keep secret. It is common to find people who exchange highly insulting messages ("flame wars") whereas in person they are quite timid, harmless; complete misanthropes or social misfits who come across as friendly, well-balanced people; your next-door-neighbour perhaps, who becomes the drooling sex fiend you always knew him to be. Computers allow the adoption of a new character, the realisation of the wildest schizophrenic dreams even, with countless, multiply split personalities; and no-one has to know a thing about it.

But I'll come clean: this piece was developed with my slippery chicken algorithmic composition software. With this, I create (potentially large) musical structures from basic musical material. Don't misunderstand me: I do the composing, not the computer. Every single step the computer takes in generating the structures has been programmed by me. What the software allows, is for me to step outside of myself for a while, to investigate, explore, to see what might be possible were I to use this idea or that idea. I have the possibility to write music that I otherwise might not be able to due to the high complexity of its generation. Central to the concept is also that the same input material creates both instrumental and digital ("tape") music structures so that the two sound worlds are unified, not at odds with each other (unless that is the intention).

In this piece, and for quite some time now, I wanted to change, to eschew my usual loud, aggressive, fast, dense musical character and produce something quiet, slow, rather diffuse. The music is still me though, partly because I failed of course, but also because I still have to bring to full fruition, and react to, the structures offered me by the program; that is, I still have to compose in the traditional sense of the word. But I'm able to present a different aspect of myself, develop a side of my musical character that perhaps lies dormant, dominated, obliterated by its bigger, stronger alter-ego(s).

My Aesthetic "Positioning", Vienna, 16.12.00

This text is available only in German