Space and Modern Music in Relation to Contemporary Multimedia

"Time has turned into space, and there will be no time" - Samuel Beckett (1)

Pulsating through the mind of the concertgoer exists an unconscious metronome directing focus on set elements of the musical experience. A certain sequence of events characterizes the orchestral concert. The darkened hall dictates the patron's actions, commanding silence and propriety. Contrasting luminescence silhouettes the orchestra and directs the eye towards the stage. The houselights come up, and applause rewards the musician's hard work. Time dictates all, and the audience and musicians play their parts well. The spatial dimension remains largely the same, (though many composers have distorted this relationship by encircling the audience with instrumentalists). Yet, even in these cases, time and space remain stagnant with little variation.

Enters the second millennium, teaming with electronic innovation and technological wonders. 

Multimedia, a phenomenon birthed by Futurism, Dada, and Fluxus, embraces installation, interactive media, soundscapes, theater pieces, and a plethora of related art forms. Simply stated, multimedia/intermedia involves a cross disiplinary approach which emphasizes an all-encompassing sensory experience. The mind cannot process the excessive input, and forces each person to limit absorption. Therefore, each person has a different experience. Derived from twentieth century "Happenings, " most intermedia events require active participation. Traditional time no longer has hold of the patron. For instance, in Liz Philips' Sunspots, each person's movement controls the sounds produced by theremine-like devices (2). Inactivity results in silence, as opposed to the expected inactivity during the orchestral performance. A patron can move "backwards in time", repeating his previous actions, causing a corresponding reversed repetition of his melodic invention. Amorphous spatial delineation results in a distortion of time.

Soundscapes further displace time. Here, an artist recreates a set physical space. Closing one's eyes, the banal sounds differ little from the typical sounds of the everyday. Opening the eyes exposes the artificial setting. One chooses to move about the space, meditate in the space, or exit the space. Time remains static throughout. It is irrelevant. The sounds continue on without interaction from the audience. Patrons enter, pause, and exit. They control their own experience, but do not control time. Maryanne Amacher's Music for Sound-Joined Rooms exemplifies this point. The exhibition consists of several rooms. Amacher laces the area with sonic and visual elements based largely on the physical properties of the rooms. (3) Without sequential demands, the installation gives each participant freedom to explore each sonic environment at her own pace. Once again, the patron controls time, and space determines the patron's actions.

Some intermedia art violates the participant's space, thus confusing time. Intense imagery jars the senses while maddening music and imposing performers actively involve the unwilling audience. Time exists as a dizzying montage which strikes each person at a different time in a unique way. At the University of South Florida's SYCOM studios, for example, composers handed out roses and balloons to certain patrons as electronic music blared from speakers. Performers encourage the audience to dance onstage, instigate active shouting matches, and display grotesque imagery meant to isolate concertgoers. In the author's own piece, Conversations on a Bus, performers accosted each person, asking them personal questions, proclaiming maniacal mantras, and informing them of discreet political events. Time fragmented. Space no longer mattered. Here a direct relationship existed between space and time. Blurring of space resulted in disintigration of time. Simultaneous performance prevented any one person to experience the piece as a whole.

With the advent of the Internet, a new venue exists - the home. Interactive sites , such as Carla Scarlatti's Public Organ: An Interactive, Networked, Sound Installation, encourage webgoers to add their own artistry to an existing framework. With multimedia CD-Roms, the click of the mouse dictates action. Artists, such as Laurie Anderson, have enjoyed a good reception to works presented this way. Virtual reality and interactive media confine physically while giving free reign to creativity. Multimedia has opened Pandora's Box, surrendering control of space and time to the people. The future concert hall will be no bigger than a laptop's speakers. Certainly traditional performances have not passed into desolation, but, as a matter of course, contemporary "concertgoers" often choose convenience and control over tediousness and submission.

Concepts of space and time change with each new art form. Time no longer dictates space. The performance no longer requires an austere audience in a darkened hall, staring at toiling musicians dressed in funereal black. Instead, the change of venue, the change of space, has rebirthed a new definition of time. Traditional performances have evolved into interactive exhibitions and internet galleries. The audience member transforms into an active participant. We can only surmise how much farther the spatial and time relationship will change. Time has turned into space, but what will happen when space is no more?
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1. Cope, David. New Directions in Music. 7th ed. (Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, Inc., 2001), 128.
2. Chadabe, Joel. Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music. (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1997) , 327.
3. Burns, Kristine H., ed. (Women and Music in America Since 1900: An Encyclopedia. Vol. 1-2, Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002), 6.



Award-winning composer Sabrina Pena Young is a foremost expert on Virtual Opera Production and Music Technology. A sought after consultant and speaker in music, arts, and technology, Young continues to push musical boundaries. Critics have called her "Wagner 2.0"and "Talented" with her works presented at Art Basil Miami, Opera America in NYC. the Beijing Conservatory, ICMC, London's Angel Moving Image Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, SEAMUS, the NY International Independent Film Festival, Miramax's Project Greenlight, TEDxBuffalo, the Holland Animation Film Festival, TEDx, and countless venues in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.

CONTACT SABRINA PENA YOUNG FOR YOUR NEXT PROJECT, COMMISSION, or CONFERENCE.


Spenayoung@gmail.com


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