Just Press Play: Challenges of Performing Electronic Music in Singapore (page 1 of 9)

Just Press Play: Challenges of Performing Electronic Music in Singapore

Electronic and electroacoustic music – a definition

For the purposes of this article, when I refer to ‘electronic music’, I mean music where the composer has anticipated the electronic processing that would be applied to his/her musical concept, and the final piece reflects interaction between electronics and music.[1] [2] This music intentionally sounds ‘electronic’ and would not be possible without the use of electronic instruments or processing. It is therefore different from using electronic instruments to perform other forms of music (pop, jazz, classical).

I have also cited examples from the field of ‘electroacoustic’ music as well, because the forms of electronic and electroacoustic music are closely related, if not interchangeable, and face similar challenges in performance. To be more precise, ‘electroacoustic music’ can be more narrowly defined as 'art' music that depends on the use of electronic (or computer) technology for its production.[3]

Just Press Play
The composer walks onstage to briefly explain the artistic basis of his work and the technical steps employed to create it. He then gestures to the sound engineer, who presses the ‘Play’ button on a CD (or tape or DAT) player. The piece begins, the lights dim, and the composer leaves the stage, leaving the audience to sit in the darkened hall watching a pair of loudspeakers.

This scene, which I first witnessed at the Boston CyberArts Festival in 1999, is repeated (with slight variations) at electronic music performances all over the world, including Singapore. Compositions were presented in a similar way at the Music Technology Asia 2000 Conference in Kuala Lumpur[4], where I presented a paper on the role of Electronic Music in the 21st century.

Unlike performances in almost any other musical genre, the audience sees nothing happening onstage. Orchestral performances feature dozens of musicians bowing strings or blowing wind instruments. Jazz and classical performances alike feature instrumentalists whose fingers fly over fretboard or keyboard. Electronic music audiences often get a darkened room and an empty stage.

No wonder then, that the market for electronic music performance is still considered a highly specialized niche.

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[1] Encylopaedia Brittanica On-Line, "Electronic Music", http://members.eb.com/ (visited March 2000)
[2] Infoplease.com, Meaning of electronic music, http://www.infoplease.com/ipd/A0422872.html
[3] http://www.lancs.ac.uk/users/music/teaching/lisa/4summary2002.html Visited Wednesday, September 03, 2003
[4] http://www.music.upm.edu.my/MusTech.htm