Ambients of Interactions

24/01/2014 - 15:00
  • Metamusic
something I learned about the nature of (meta)music, looking back to the time in Graz
Kasi on Casio

ime has passed now since the exciting days of the musikprotokoll in Graz and it's time to reconsider our experiences after that. We have made many experiences and came to conclusions - some of them seem obvious in retrospect, and some are still unexpected and surprising.

What really captivates me is the way the animals interact with the situation they are put in: the birds adapted very fast to the new situation and, as soon as there was an audience the birds (at least some of them) started  to search for their attention and to interact with them. So we ended up being into a very complex situation involving the birds themselves and the social relationships within them, our own group of different people with different tasks, the audience - and each of this groups getting into different interactions, expressing their needs and wishes, trying different means and signals.

Approacing the project, lying somewhere in my head there was the presumption that the birds would "enjoy" playing music or making noises just for its sake. In fact I was denying that playing music, like any other utteration, is always an act of communication, and thus always immersed in a social context - and it makes no sense to take it outside the context. Usually,  we take little notice of the contexts we "use" music in, they just get blurred away in the usual prectices. We don't think about why there is music as soon as we switch the radio button on, or why there is always that light pop-sound ambience in the supermarket, why we get out into a "festive" gathering sitting a fancy room watching penguin-dressed men loudly manipulating wooden trunks, and what makes an accordion player sitting in the cold of the pedestrian area with a hat on the street. These are the just four situations coming into my mind. Now, let's assume, in all four situations there is exactly the same music piece being played, something popular like Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. It would be the same theme, but the context makes it a very different piece each time.

Now imagine Kasi the parrot giving a rendition of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on the casio keyboard, in the framework of the musikprotokoll im steirischen herbst. Would that be "metamusic"? I would have strongly disagreed a while ago, but I am not so sure anymore. I would have taken the argument that "metamusic" is not about musical training and tradition and it would be that different and new sounding that we humans would have a hard time even recognising it for that. A parrot playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, on the other hand would be a lie, an act of Dressage, an embarrassing situation for both the bird and us.

So, there is something I learned: It is the social construction that makes the piece, not the way it sounds. And it is the buildingof  "ambients of iteractions" and investigating them we should take the main care of. The birds will always interact with us, because they expect some outcome to happen. Whatever means and expressions they choose, it's up to them.