St. Augustin, Germany
In the discourse of philosophical aesthetics during the last two centuries,
it is evident that the question of the essence of art has played
a central role. In this tradition, art was not understood as "something
constructed".  Instead, art was integrated
into the conceptual world of epistemology through the philosophical aesthetics
developed in the major philosophical systems. Accordingly, within this metaphysical
tradition, art was attributed an exploratory, interpretative and epistemological
function, insofar as it was assumed that truth could appear in a
Modern theories of art have freed themselves from this philosophical bondage,
especially from the metaphysical objective of expressing truth
by art, tending instead to orient their approaches toward empirical sciences.
Thus at the centre of reflection on theories of art is less a work's ontology,
but rather its experientiality, that is the way how
it will be perceived and interpreted. Concomitantly, concentration has shifted
to specific aspects of art, like the aesthetic use of signs, schematisation
modes, or the message of art, and thus the metaphysical construct art
has been separated into definable, explainable components. The production
and reception of art, the characteristics of its medium, its capacity for
communication, its effective possibilities and their consequences -- all
these considerations have become points of reflection which can be analysed
This is the context into which the present essay fits. Consequently, it
is not the relationship between technology and art in general which will
be treated; rather, we want to examine critically the interaction of artistic
and technological perspectives and approaches. In this discussion on using
technology in art, we will concentrate primarily on the aspect of artistic
creation to document difficulties and possibilities and to point out
relationships with the epistemological interests and
criteria of validity in each discourse area.
This implies the following procedure : First, we will present and analyse
critically the hypothesis of the "two cultures". Then, we will
examine how, in an empirical analysis of partial aspects of art, connections
to technology can be established which render questionable the strong discrepancy
of the criteria of validity in these two domains. Here, we will take the
use of technology in contemporary music as an example to show in what way
artistic objectives can be realised using technological possibilities and
to show what problems arise. We will then demonstrate how these difficulties
result from the implicit acceptance of technological habits by artists.
And finally, we will discuss in which way technology can be used in art
without giving up aesthetic intentions and criteria.
2. Interpreting the World, or: the "Two-culture
In writings of early Greek philosophers, references can be found to different
ways of interpreting and approaching the world. Aristotle, for example,
differentiates between a theoretical, a creative, and a practical orientation.
According to this, the goal of theoretical science is the search for truth;
the goal of practice ("Praxis") is the act or the result of acts
as well as the proper way of acting ("das richtige Tun"); the
goal of poiesis is making and producing.
Analogous to this early distinction are equivalent attempts at definition,
which can be found up to this day. Science has been primarily imputed theoretical
epistemological ideals whose aim was finding truth. Technique
has been characterised as principally practical, being oriented on criteria
of usefulness. And art was attributed an individually expressive, sensually
and emotionally characterised exploration function,
beyond logocentric or expediency potential. In this way, and especially
from a metaphysical perspective, art came almost naturally into contradiction
with science and technique.
Especially in the diagnoses of philosophical cultural criticism, as they
were developed by Heidegger and Adorno, for example, the distinction between
artistic expression and technological rationalism gained particular meaning.
Technique came to be interpreted as the expression of a totalitarian MAN
against which only art could set a different accent, for art was thought
of as being capable to express undefinable, unpronounceable aspects of the
world which escape from technological control.
In the context of this interpretation, technique was characterised as follows:
The fundamental paradigm of all technical development is the idea of Verfügbarmachung
(making something available). This refers not only to the domination of
nature but also to the control of social processes. A related expectation
is that technique always has to serve a purpose. Technological products
must be useful, which means that in practice, they must be manageable as
well as utilitary. According to exponents of cultural criticism, with the
spread of technique the danger increases that the whole world, including
human beings, become nothing more than an object of technical availability.
Increasingly within our culture, the only possible paradigm and profitable
way of interpreting and approaching the world appears to be an orientation
on exclusively rationally determined expediency.
In opposition to this sort of technological domination by technique and
associated attitudes, Adorno interpreted art as the only possible alternative.
He pointed out that epistemological objective of art
always was diametrically opposed to that of technique: While technique aimed
at a general ordering and a global control, art - in contrast - revealed
individual and particular aspects of the human existence. In artistic expression,
new views of the world which contrast with general paradigms of technology
could be experienced and articulated. In its lack of purpose, art
aimed not at making something available, but rather, in its very distance
from the attitudes proper to technique, it referred to alternative modes
of individual and cultural ways of living.
Points of view similar to these are also found in the works of the philosopher
Jürgen Habermas, who undertakes a fundamental differentiation between
the system-world ("Systemwelt") and the life-world ("Lebenswelt").
These categories imply an important classification for our discussion: Art
is described as an essential aspect of live-world, while technology is understood
as a pillar of the system-world. The criteria of validity differ accordingly:
While art is attributed being capable to express what is significant for
the individual, the paradigm of technology includes rational purpose, goal
orientation and the idea of feasibility. Habermas makes evident the extent
to which these two discourses exert a mutual influence; nonetheless, the
epistemological and practical objectives of the two are diametrically opposed
in his writings. Thus, an orientation towards purpose, utility, and availability
appears here as characteristics of technique, while art is described as
aiming at individual expression, authenticity, and by its attempt to escape
from the purpose-oriented paradigm of availability by using pre-rational
and non-predicative ways of interpreting the world.
The dichotomy between the discourses of art and technology which is assumed
in such theoretical approaches, would have consequences for the anticipated
synthesis in the domain of media art:
- either the synthesis cannot be realised because the different epistemological
objectives and ways of interpreting the world will never fit together;
- or art would pay for the synthesis with the loss of its particular criteria
and its specific exploratory function, a situation tantamount to the burdening
of artistic intention with the paradigms of technology.
In the following, let us examine more closely the suppositions associated
with such a differentiation. As we indicated in the introduction, most classic
attempts to define the discourse of art suffer from the fact that the evaluation
of arts usually is undertaken from the perspective of art reception.
Usually, an implicit ontological assumption lies at the base of such
analyses. Combined with this is the claim for autonomy in art,
which increasingly has become dubious and was identified as a residue of
bourgeois culture. The institutionalisation of art as a socially autonomous
discourse was and is combined with exclusionary practices, which have a
constituting function for every discourse. This process of institutionalisation
presupposed clear criteria, which were intended to determine if a work is
considered to be art or not. With the post-modern widening towards triviality,
however, exactly these exclusionary institutionalising practices became
questionable and with them the associated criteria of validity. Art as an
independent domain, as it appears in the works of Heidegger, Adorno and
even Habermas, looses its clear boundaries - its function in the culture
is more and more characterised by a tendency towards a global Ästhetisierung
of our life-world, which means that phenomena of our everyday life are regarded
under an aesthetic perspective. This disintegration is combined with an
increasing critique of the characteristics which were ascribed to art within
the metaphysical tradition. More particularly, this disintegration calls
into question the capability of art to exist independent of other social
discourses and to develop its autonomous (or even "free") forms
of interpretation and inquiry of the world, which go beyond the ruling orientations.
The dictum of originality, individuality, and authentic expressiveness,
as it appears as a characteristic of art in Adorno's and Habermas' works,
for example, was unmasked as a remnant of a subject-oriented view of the
world. Such a view fails to recognise that the subject, which was once considered
to be autonomous, has long since been completely permeated by all embracing
social structures, such as language and the technologically mediated attitude
of availability and control, to the extent that it is now influenced by
them. According to this, the idea of autonomous criteria of validity in
art also appears increasingly doubtful.
A similar phenomenon can be observed in the realm of technique. Due to the
fact that it permeates all areas of life and influences or even determines
the way of acting within the world by shaping cultural interpretation paradigms,
it cannot be separated from other social areas by identifying special modes
of discourse and particular criteria of validity. Instead, in the so-called
information-society, what Adorno and Heidegger had anticipated, begins to
take place: The paradigms proper to technique become the general orientation
in our culture, penetrating to an increasing degree even areas which previously,
as residues, managed to preserve a proper identity and specificity. And
this is also true, as we will later see, for art and artistic activity.
3. Art and Technology: Intersections and Interconnections
We have thus seen that the traditional approaches in philosophical aesthetics
and culture criticism - assuming the independence of claims and attitudes
in technology and art, become questionable and that the concept of art as
an autonomous social discourse, cannot be maintained. For that reason, we
are convinced that in order to ensure an analysis of the reciprocal pervasion
of conceived goals, interpretation paradigms, and the associated lifestyles,
the examination of the relationship between art and technology must take
place on a concrete level. In such a limitation of our discussion, a glance
at the creative process proves to be fruitful, for here immediate references
can be observed. Here, in particular, we may gain an impression of the close
connections between technology and art which are a further indication of
the brittleness of an overly rigid boundary between both areas, as we will
demonstrate in the following.
In contrast to the metaphysical tradition, in the early history of philosophy,
especially when looking at the Greeks, the intimate connection between art
and technique in the creative process was an important theme. Here, the
separation between ars and techné represented more
a nuance than a fundamental difference. Weibel, for example, referring to
Aristotle, points out the coupling of techné with the concept
of creation. According to this, technique aims not only at imitating nature,
but also at creation and at creative modification
of aspects of the world. Technique is a social act: It is to be "interpreted
as a dynamic process, as working and doing, as making and creating."
In its creative dimension, technique refers not only to the realm of necessity
and control but also to the realm of freedom. It is not per se the form
of expression of an unconditional will to rationality and rationalisation
which aims at making everything available; it can also contribute to overcome
given states and structures. Technique can mask
the truth just as well as it can make it evident -- the creative potential
of technique involves the possibility of liberation.
If the creative function of technique is taken into account, then "technique-art"
is not a contradiction, as is sometimes argued. The traditional confrontation
between machine, the mechanical, technique, technology on the one hand and
creativity, imagination, and creation on the other hand has led to a point
of view from which classical aestheticians could only equate the entry of
machines in art with a threatened fall of art. This confrontation, however,
was only possible due to the fact that the process of artistic creation
and the questions of how and by which means art has been realised
were rigorously excluded from the aesthetic discussion. Had these questions
been included, it would have been seen that the divergence described above
couldn't have been sustained in such a strict sense.
As Kant already has pointed out, every artist takes
recourse to techniques or a set of rules and makes use of acquired
craftsmanship in order to express an artistic idea. And technical means
have always been used in order to express artistic intentions. But even
if these conditions have been recognised, they did not play an important
role in traditional aesthetics. In this classical view, "the material,
the medium of the work of art, the systems supporting the transformation
of an object into a painting, or the material medium of a work's construction"
were neglected compared to the supposed essence of the work of art, its
ontological level. But the ontological raison d'être of the
work of art can and has to be traced back to its material structure, to
the conditions under which it came into existence. For that reason, we direct
our attention to the material fundament of art and to the way how it is
constructed, because - as Adorno already said - only in and by its materiality
the essence of art can unfold.
4. The Use of Technology and Techniques in Art
Taking these aspects into account the diagnoses, which predict the decline
of art in general brought about by confrontation with technique-art or media-art,
become relative. That technology and technological products - as well as
technique in the sense of a goal-oriented process - always played an essential
role in art, becomes apparent in the fact that underlying each work of art,
in addition to creative intuition, is also a system of rules and techniques.
Thus, that technique is a basic procedure of art is manifest. But also the
technological products as well as the historical state of technological
development has always influenced artistic ideas and works. Thus, for example,
it was only after the development of metal tools that sculpture could flourish,
and the painting of the nineteenth century was essentially dependent on
the appearance of artificial paints. The problems of contemporary art result
less from the use of technology and the use of goal-oriented procedures,
than from the fact that the rationalised expediency paradigms of technique
begin to suppress artistic criteria and intentions.
And this fear seems especially valid where aesthetic criteria -- questionable
as they may be -- must yield space to the idea of feasibility and mere sensationalism.
Thus, we have to consider particularly the gradual changes, the fragilities
and the points of intersection which appear in the process of integrating
technology into artistic activity, in order to determine whether the presently
generally observable domination by technique narrows this last remaining
space to play and explore -- the free space of human expression -- or whether
there remains freedom for creative innovation and new forms of interpretation.
Before we undertake a concrete investigation on the interaction of technique
and art in contemporary music, let us discuss one important aspect which
can be seen as a consequence of so-called media art. We have shown
that in the course of its history, art has always had a specific relationship
to technological development, although in the past, this relationship was
primarily characterised by the fact that technology served as an additional
resource. It wasn't until the development of reproduction
techniques that the work of art, its originality, and its aura were questioned.
The explosive growth of information and communication technology suggests
a further evolution: Increasingly, technology has influenced not only the
acquisition of reality through artisanship and handicraft ,
but, spreading in scope, now also influences our images of reality
, that is the kind of imagination and interpretation
of the world, attaining thus a role of central importance in artistic creation,
which may lead to a modification of traditional aesthetic criteria with
still unknown consequences.
5. The Relationship between Technology, Technique,
In western music history we can identify a similar interrelation of technology
and art: particular states of technological development show a close interdependency
to respective artistic concepts. Furthermore we can see that standardised
procedures always have been an essential prerequisite for any kind of composition.
We shall clarify these aspects in the following two examples:
These two little examples show clearly that the relationship between technology
and artistic creation is not simply of a mono-causal nature. Rather we have
to assume a dialectical interrelation of the two domains. Certain artistic
ideas could not have been realised if certain techniques and technologies
were not developed or invented as a consequence of particular demands. In
reverse, technology always stimulated the exploration and experimentation
with new artistic concepts.
- The compositional process is subject to various influences and it
defies - as any artistic activity - a precise description. Nevertheless,
when looking at composition in retrospective, it can be seen that each historical
period was characterised by certain compositional techniques which shaped
the thinking and acting of composers. Over and over, commonly adopted techniques
suggesting new ways of treating the musical material took shape and became
subject to historical development. In this process the work of composers
always implied a kind of response to the currently
established repertoire of techniques, which therefore always occupied a
central role in artistic work.
- However, the work of composers is not only determined by different
techniques: artistic intentions are influenced as well by technology. This
can clearly be seen when looking at instrument making: The development of
musical instruments was always dependent on specific technological achievements.
One the one hand the technological progress inspired composers, instrumentalists,
and instrument makers since it enabled them to think of new possibilities
of sound production. On the other hand the concrete musical needs and wishes
expressed by instrumentalists and composers led to the development of many
But our short historical review points out yet another aspect: In the past,
technology or technological products were only used as a kind of additional
resource when realising artistic ideas. Thus they contributed mainly to
the craftsmanship. In the context of computer and media art, technology
gains a more central role and increasingly influences the intellectual conception
of - and approach to - reality. Technology advances from a bare means to
the very medium in the process of adoption and interpretation of the world.
At the same time we can observe a significant discrepancy between what is
technologically possible and what is artistically exploitable. This disparity
seems to be responsible for certain undesirable developments as they can
be noticed today. We will try to clarify them taking the example of computer
assisted music composition and production.
5.1 Perspectives and positions
When looking now at the relationship of art and technology in contemporary
music in more detail, both from a practical point of view and on the level
of the corresponding theoretical discourses, we encounter various perspectives
and positions which may serve as basis for our investigation.
- The sociophilosophical perspective
In the sociophilosophical tradition, art and technology have been interpreted
as diametrically opposed cultural dimensions - both with respect to their
objectives and epistemological interests. While technology has been understood
to aim at generalizing and standardizing, art has been assigned the function
of expressing the individual, contradictory, and fragmentary aspects of
our social environment. From this point of view the current practice of
using new technology in the arts seems to - so the concern of many sceptical
people - endanger the specific objectives of art in favour of technologically
motivated attitudes and effects.
- The position of media theorists
In the current discussions on the impacts of new media in the arts it is
often claimed that the use of computer systems will lead to a new synthesis
of art and technology. In euphemistic interpretations it is anticipated
that such a synthesis may lead to a new way of using technology by reintroducing
the dimensions of freedom and play. This development has been characterized
as the shift from the homo informaticus to the homo ludens.
Another claim of media theorists is that in media art the means have become
the purpose since they refer to themselves and not any longer to external
- The discourse of aesthetics
The current discourses on aesthetical criteria seem to be characterized
by a profound antagonism. On the one hand, it has been pointed out that
the classical concepts of traditional aesthetics are not any longer adequate
for the description and evaluation of media art. On the other hand, theoreticians
attack the idea to treat media art as a total novum: They argue that
the apparently new characteristics can be found already in older forms of
art and they show that traditional concepts of aesthetics very often have
been misunderstood by media theorists.
- The perspective of artists
The reactions of artists being confronted with new media are very diverse:
The attitudes range from total rejection to euphoric acceptance. But there
seems to be a general agreement on the fact that the technological tools
need further improvement to allow for a more appropriate application in
the artistic field.
- The technological point of view
When we look at our problem domain from the point of view of software engineering
we get the impression that the conception and construction of systems for
artists are mainly guided by technological criteria. The aesthetic implications
of the use of such systems and the concrete needs of artists seem to play
a less important role. Two opposed approaches can be identified and are
presented here in their most extreme forms: Either tools are first made
and artists are then expected to adapt to these and find their way in applying
them in their work; or tools are designed based on concrete needs of artists
and on an analysis of the way they want to use them in their work. The current
practice in the development of artistic tools seems to be situated closer
to the first extreme.
Although we are treating most of the above mentioned points of view in the
context of our research project, we will focus only on the technological
and the sociophilosophical perspective in this contribution. Here we will
demonstrate some of the problems we discerned in the applications of computer
systems in contemporary music.
Even if we concentrate only on the technological and the sociophilosophical
points of view, our analysis is based on certain assumptions related also
to the other perspectives mentioned. Since we formulated our diagnoses and
developed our hypotheses based on these underlying assumptions we want to
present them here first. Naturally our position changed since we started
our work and we expect it to change again. It might, for example, turn out
in the course of our future research work that our current assumptions are
too much embedded in a modernist tradition which has to be reflected more
- We assume that the current use of technology for the most part aims
at generalizing and standardizing most processes in our professional and
social world. Looking at present installations of technology we find them
dominated by motives to control or rule out irregular behavior and to eliminate
so-called irrational attitudes in order to augment productivity. In this
way technology is employed to stabilize general orders.
- We believe that the role of art is to propose an alternative to the
aforementioned attitude, which we call the technological habit. In
our view, art has to distort or disturb generally accepted ways of interpreting
the world by questioning general orders and looking for new ways of perception
and explication. Art should express non-standardized, individual views and
therefore it is opposed to the current habit of using and installing technology.
- We assume that the artist should remain the author of a work. Consequently
we consider computer systems for artists to function as tools rather than
as a medium. The tool perspective presupposes that the artist always has
the possibility to gain insight in the system's behavior. Adopting the tool
perspective allows us to refer to certain criteria which have been formulated
by critical software engineering.
- We consider the artistic process, especially the compositional work,
to be highly individualistic. Thus we assume that it cannot be described
or supported by general formal models as it is required by many technological
- In contrast to some media theorists we think that new media does not
necessarily bring upon a total change of aesthetical criteria and concepts.
Instead we defend the position that it is suitable and necessary to confront
current results of media art with traditional views and criteria of aesthetics,
even if some concepts will prove to be invalid and thus will have to be
redefined. We presume that art and the modes of its reception are always
embedded in a sociohistorical context and that the above mentioned break
with the tradition is not as pronounced as it appears in current discourses.
5.3 Some remarks on the situation in contemporary
In the light of our current set of assumptions we present now our preliminary
diagnosis of the situation of computer use in contemporary music.
5.3.1 Why composers use computers
The first step of our analysis consisted in identifying the motivations
of composers to use technological tools. Among the various reasons we present
here the most important ones grouped under two topics: The first being more
concerned with explicit demands of composers and the second one being rather
inspired by the potential offered by technology as such.
188.8.131.52 Extension of compositional control
Many composers seek to augment the extent of compositional control over
all musically relevant aspects of their work. This may mean better access
to the characteristics of the musical material which the composers wish
to construct as a part of the composition in order to implant on that level
properties exploitable on higher levels of musical organization. Or it may
mean the description of musical structures in form of rules or plans which
are automatically applied by algorithms specified by the composer. Computer
technology can help to augment the radius of influence of the compositional
will by means of control over potentially all perceptually relevant aspects
of the sound material and by the possibility to symbolically represent and
manipulate musical structures. By this means the acoustical limitations
of traditional instruments and the motoric constraints introduced by the
instrumentalists can be overcome. The musical dimension of space becomes
controllable through sound distribution technology and the domain of interpretation
becomes accessible to the composers. More generally speaking, composers
seek for assistance of the compositional process by advanced representation,
modelling, and simulation tools.
184.108.40.206 Emancipation from traditional compositional
Many composers see a chance to overcome traditional patterns of musical
conception and realization through the use of technology. The level of formalization
inherent to certain tools provokes an intended abstraction and externalization
of musical thought. The formal manipulation of musical ideas may offer new
sources of inspiration external to the original ideas and thus may allow
to transcend the horizon of imagination. In that sense technology can be
integrated into the realm of what is called écriture in the
French contemporary music discourse. In such a context composers seek for
tools to sketch, explore, and analyse musical structures in order to experiment
with new ideas and test their validity directly through auditive or visual
feedback. More generally speaking, the emancipatoric potential of technology
lies in its capacity to overcome material constraints and to propose new
modes of operation such as interactive exploration of musical material or
formal constructions. Composers may circumvent the implications of the traditional
separation of composition, interpretation, and improvisation by means to
technological tools. Furthermore technology offers the potential to explore
new forms of musical presentation as in sound installations or in combination
with visual art.
5.3.2 Current state
The second step of our analysis has been an examination of existing tools
and their context of employment in order to estimate to what extent the
aforementioned expectations of composers can be fulfilled today. Although
there is a significant amount of successful applications of computer technology
in contemporary music our general impression is that of a feeble match between
the expectations and the concrete experiences with the tools. Many composers
are unsatisfied with the current state of available tools mainly because
they judge them poorly adapted to their concrete needs and working methods.
The user interfaces of many programs are considered inadequate for artistic
work. Usually programs for different but related tasks are reported to communicate
very badly between each other. It appears that composers with training in
computer programming usually find it much easier to cope with computer technology
but only a minority of them is ready for taking such an effort. The technical
constraints introduced by the tools are estimated to have mostly negative
effects on the creative process: They are said to hinder spontaneity and
impede imagination. Apart from the concrete problems of application some
composers report that many technological tools rather invite to use stereotypical
effects (which their structure proposes) than they permit to realize precise
objectives. Consequently the resulting danger of standardization of artistic
expression and the effort it takes to avoid it are considered unfavorable.
5.3.3 Hypotheses about the causes
We will now present a set of working hypotheses about the reasons for the
unsatisfactory situation described above. Also some suggestions to improve
this situation will be given. We distinguish between two groups of hypotheses:
The first group concerns the adequateness of the tools and the second one
the adequateness of their usage.
220.127.116.11 Inadequate tools
Solutions for the mentioned problems are not always evident. A closer case-by-case
investigation would be needed to develop criteria of validity in sufficient
detail in order to propose coherent strategies. But there are a couple of
suggestions that seem general enough to be mentioned here:
- The particularities of the processes of artistic imagination are not
taken into account to a sufficient extent in the design of tools. The existing
tools are not subtle enough to cope with the complexity inherent to the
creative process. And it is the same complexity that impedes an exhaustive
investigation of the creative process - one prerequisite for improving the
conceptions of tools.
- The different tasks composers perform are not sufficiently analysed
(or analyzable) in order to form a coherent basis for the design of software.
In contrast to other domains of software application there are no generalizable
models for the work of composers and this complicates the task analysis.
- The importance of gestual control and the influence and role of the
body in the compositional and interpretational processes are highly underestimated
when designing tools that should serve in these areas.
- Due to the relatively small amount of users of compositional tools
there are almost no evaluation cycles in the software design process. This
essential feedback from users to software developers is the only guarantee
that the characteristics of a tool converge to the requirements of the user.
- Most commercially available tools are produced for commercial music
production and are thus rarely well adapted to the needs of contemporary
music composition. Usually these tools are based on models of musical composition
inapplicable in the context of contemporary music. But also non-commercial
music software often suffers from implicit assumptions and too limiting
models which are often unwillingly introduced by the software developers.
- Typical applications in contemporary music productions hit very soon
the limits of the computational resources of current computer hardware.
This being a problem in itself it also effects the software design which
often has to sacrifice issues of user-friendliness or openness for reasons
of computational optimization.
- The problem of integrating in one tool or system of tools features
such as a substantial amount of openness, flexibility, computational efficiency,
and user-friendliness is not uncommon in modern software design. But the
contemporary music community does neither have access to the human resources
nor to the software technology needed to solve these problems.
- The concept of participative evolutionary system design could help
to improve the adequateness of tools because it would involve the users
and make evaluation more efficient.
- The concept of multi-layer user interfaces allows to provide tools
usable by novices and experts and improves the learning.
- A better integration of visualization techniques would greatly enhance
the user friendliness and could put more stress on the explorative nature
18.104.22.168 Inadequate use of tools
- Usually composers are neither trained in using computers in general
nor in using tools specially made for composition. There are only a few
institutions which offer pedagogical programs that allow to acquire the
theoretical knowledge and practical experience necessary to successfully
use these tools.
- Very often composers are badly informed about the technological potential
and the accessibility of interesting systems. This substantial lack of information
prevents composers from gaining a clear impression of how they could employ
technology in their compositional work. But such insight would be the basis
for a successful integration of the potential of technology into the repertoire
of artistic expression.
- Even if composers have the opportunity to use computer systems, this
usually happens under time pressure: The pragmatical constraints of musical
productions with their tight time schedules often prevent composers from
exploring the potential of technology and from employing the tools in an
individualistic creative manner. As a consequence composers are often forced
to abandon their original concepts in favour of bare effects which can be
produced easily. Standardized sounds and uniform musical processes are a
typical result of this situation.
- Every technological tool relies upon certain theories or premises
about the tasks it is intended to support. In order to use a tool successfully
it is important to be aware of these premises but they are often deeply
hidden in the structure of a tools. Hence much time can be lost by composer
in trying to use tools for tasks to which the former are simply not adapted.
- The complexity of technological production environments requires often
the collaboration of composers and assistants with scientific and technological
background. Such collaboration may cause many problems due to the different
objectives, interests, and especially the divergent life styles of artists
and technicians. This prevents very often creative teamwork and hinders
5.4 More general remarks
As the character of our presentation suggests, we are currently not in the
position to propose conclusive thoughts concerning our investigations. Instead
we would like to add some more general remarks on the divergence of technological
and artistic objectives.
It appears to us that the difficulties of using computer systems in the
arts can be traced back to a more general problem: the perspective under
which technology has been developed and used ever since in our cultural
tradition. We already pointed out several motives which seem to form a paradigm
for the current use of computer systems: the objectives of regulation, generalization,
standardization, and control. As we also stated above, these objectives,
which often are reflected in individual habits and attitudes of computer
scientists, are strongly opposed to the objectives of artists, who are mainly
interested in expressing particularities, provoking irritations, and in
making out irregularities in order to show new ways of interpreting the
world. Adopting this view, artists have to find ways which permit to employ
computer systems in a different manner than they are used in our current
professional, social, and political surroundings.
In order to really explore the potential of technology and to integrate
the new possibilities into the repertoire of artistic expression, composers
would need different working conditions: Much more time and freedom to experiment,
better pedagogical support, and more democratical access to tools would
be a prerequisite for an alternative employment of technology. Similarily,
only a fundamental change in the way software developers understand the
role of technology would change the quality of computer systems useful to
As certain results in contemporary composition and in media art suggest,
artists succeed to break with the tradition in which technology serves almost
only to stabilize general orders. In that sense an important role may be
attributed to artists today.
The example of computer use in contemporary music pointed out that the current
employment of this technology is rather unsatisfactory. Instead of making
creative use of the technological potential, computer art overtakes a technological
habit of mind, which aims at control, domination, and the idea of making
available all aspects of the world. As a consequence the individual forms
of expression, which are traditionally attributed to art, are in danger
to be lost.
However, this way of dealing with technology is not immanent to the same:
Rather is it the result of a long lasting tradition, which cannot be seen
in isolation but that has its correspondences to intellectual and social
attitudes. The metaphysical concentration on the subject appears as an essential
element of explanation. The perceiving, knowing, and acting subject of mentalistic
philosophy was not only at the centre of all questions
concerning the meaning and the sense of the world but in its central role
it also aimed at the total control over nature. For that purpose techniques
and technologies were developed. They increasingly penetrated our life-world,
shaped the individual way of exploring the world and influenced its interpretation
based on a technological attitude.
As already mentioned above, the domain of art did not remain untouched by
this development. Although up to present art could preserve residuals of
an individual sphere as well as particularities in the manner of approaching
the world. But a certain obsession with ingenuity,
as we can find it again and again in classical aesthetics, is deeply rooted
in the metaphysical concentration on the subject, which may explain nowadays
attitude towards technology. This is not only true with respect to the conception
that the artist is the sole source and supporter of ideas, which have to
be transmitted from a supposed inside to the outside, but it can also be
seen in the general attitude towards the own product. When regarding in
retrospect the tendency of composers to exhaustively prescribe and control
all aspects of the musical process, we perceive an attitude similar to the
technological habit of mind. It is exactly this kind of attribution by artists
themselves or by others which results into an attitude towards technology
which, by necessity, creates problems. Either the artist tries to realise
his or her explicit idea by means of technological tools and often reaches
so the limits of their own competence, of technology, or of the communication
with technologists. Or the artists lets him- or herself seduce by what is
technologically possible (e.g. by the possibility of total control over
the sound material and the interpretation) to the extent that the artistic
conceptions are compromised. The anticipated penetration of artistic creation
by a technological habit of mind leads to a loss of the original potential
of creativity which just results from an insufficiency of control and access.
Art, which was originally understood as the domain representing the particular,
increasingly yields its place to a standardisation of all forms of human
As a consequence, certain preconceptions need to be dropped in order to
allow for a creative use of technology in art today. In that sense the concept
of a solipsistic cogito as the only possible author of artistic ideas has
to be unmasked as a metaphysical construct. It more and more has to be replaced
by the conception that ideas develop in a context, in the togetherness of
individuals, and in the process of exploring the available and accessible
material. The artist should not any longer be regarded as the sole source
of artistic ideas but may appear as a mediator in the attempt to articulate
them aesthetically. This leads to a different approach towards technology
and appears to be the prerequisite for its creative potential to become
accessible. The technological possibilities should be explored in a playing
manner in order to guarantee that they can be at all integrated into the
artists' expressive repertoire. This way of employing technology may result
into a richness of nuances and a diversity which is in clear opposition
to the technological habit of mind ruling our present culture. Only based
on such an approach, which leaves behind all ideas of control and domination,
the use of techniques and technology may overcome a given state or existing
structures and thus points to a dimension of freedom as it appeared in culture-critical
analyses as the proper designation of art.
Thanks to Joyce Shintani for helping us to translate this text from German
 Italics by the present authors; reference: Iser, W.,
"Interpretationsperspektiven moderner Kunsttheorie", in: Henrich,
D., and Iser, W., (eds.), "Theorien der Kunst", Frankfurt 1992.
 In German: Wahrheitsanspruch.
 In German: Erfahrbarkeit.
 In German: Erkenntnisinteresse
 In German: Geltungsansprüche
 We distinguish between "Realtechnik" = technology,
which is charcterized by the production and use of technical products, and
"technique as a process or procedure," which can describe
all forms of goal-oriented activity. Here, we use the term in the sense
 In German: Erkundungsfunktion.
 See especially: Heidegger, M., "Sein und Zeit",
but also Adorno, Th.W., "Aesthetische Theorie", Frankfurt.
 In German: Erkenntnisanspruch.
 Habermas, J, "Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns",
Vol. 1 u. 2, Frankfurt 1981.
 In German: Autonomieanspruch.
 In German: Habitus. In the sense Bourdieu assigned
to it in several contributions, e.g. Bourdieu, P., "Homo Academicus",
 In German: Gestaltung.
 Weibel, P., "Transformationen der Techno-Ästhetik",
in: Rötzer, F., "Digitaler Schein", Frankfurt : 1991, p.
 In German: das Gegebene.
 Kant, I., "Kritik der Urteilskraft", Frankfurt
 Ibid., p. 228.
 A danger which increases in information society.
 See as an impressive example: Piene, O., "Das
Schöne und das Tüchtige", in: Rötzer, F., "Digitaler
Schein", Frankfurt 1991.
 See also: Zec, P., "Das Medienwerk. Aesthetische
Produktion im Zeitalter der elektronischen Kommunikation", in: Rötzer,
 This has been explained by Benjamin, W., "Das
Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit", Frankfurt.
 In German: handwerkliche Realitätsaneignung.
 In German: Realitätsvorstellungen.
 This response may consist in a mere adoption of
current compositional techniques or in a critical evaluation, modification
or transformation of the same.
 The Wagner-Tuba, which was built after the precise
wished of Richard Wagner, may serve as an example here.
 In German: Bewußtseinsphilosophy.
 In German: Lebenswelt.
 In German: Geniekult.