MACHINE

Process

 

With this piece I struggled with what I wanted to say. I toyed with many ideas, but everytime I sat down to begin recording, something didn’t feel right. Upon contemplation of what I was trying to communicate with this piece, I realized that my actual goal wasn’t to promote an idea of mine but rather to stimulate the audience. I had no agenda to communicate, I only wanted to tell a story. And since my story wasn’t taking shape, I decided that this piece was to be about the audience’s story. The way I went about this was by letting go of control of the piece and having a blank agenda. Once I was seized by this idea, I immediately had my process. I began by sitting down at the piano and recording 3 compositions that had little formal structure, even less formal thought put into it, and absolutely no practice. I layered and arranged these 3 tracks to create a one-minute span, with muting here and there. One important thing to note about how I arranged these three tracks is that I did not modify their position or tonality. That is to say, each track started and ended at the same time, and in their original keys, and only dynamic changes were made. Selecting the sounds was a bit more difficult. To stay true to my original intention, I had to select sounds that had no intentional correspondence to meaning in my head. I was not trying to communicate a specific idea or set of ideas. It is much more difficult to do this than I expected — it seems that we automatically associate stimuli we perceive with experiences/feelings we have had before. The way I eventually achieved this was by finding a website that provided me with random sounds, and I downloaded and used those that sounded interesting to me regardless of how well they may fit with the piece.The final component I had to add was the text. This I found to be the most difficult of all to make random. I initially recorded several different sequences of text, the latest being “words... sometimes give... the game away.” It still felt wrong, too forced. So I finally realized that I had to use words picked at random if I was to obey my original premise. I used a random sentence generator from the internet until I found a sentence that wasn’t obviously gibberish and could be interpreted as profound under the correct circumstances: “The harmony contracts the hate.” Syntactically sound yet seemingly devoid of true meaning. Unless it’s spoken with conviction in a deep voice, layered over evocative sounds.The final element that I added to this piece was the title. The title was the only element that I deliberately selected. I selected the title “machine” because I found it to be a small hint about the process I went through to make the piece, yet its applicable meaning to the piece is ambiguous enough for the audience to fashion their own idea about it.

The idea behind this piece is that art is all about perception. Any art form can be analyzed and many distinct, valid impressions of it can be drawn. However, none will ever be identical to the original intent of the artist. This piece takes the idea of “artistic intent” and throws it out the window, yet for a listener without this knowledge, this piece is full of mystery and meaning. This leads to the conclusion that meaning can be fashioned independently from intent. The artist only contributes partially to the art. Artifact becomes art only at the audience’s discretion. If none had called Picasso or Beethoven an artist their names would be lost to us all. The artist is powerless to make good art. The artist creates something; the audience bestows value upon it.