Noémi Büchi


Meditations on a Music of the Now
Master Thesis
, Electroacoustic Composition


“The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” (Kenneth, Goldsmith)

Does music need words? The question may seem crude, yet it must be asked, especially by those who seek to comment on music. The question of how to comment on music is not an easy one, especially in an academic context. The above introductory quotation seems to me to be an appropriate response towards the conditions of academic writing today. I am constantly tormented by the thought that everything has already been said and everything has already been written. Faced with an enormous abundance of available texts, the problem these days is not having to write more of them; it is much more a matter of managing this huge volume. How a way is found through this density of information, how it is managed, analysed and organised - is what distinguishes my writing and thinking about a matter from others.

Furthermore, the question must be asked what possible form a statement about music, especially electroacoustic music, could take in order to remain as close as possible to the work and its effect. The chosen solution represents an alternative text form to the current, classical musicological discourse. Due to the variety of approaches, a search for a more poetic, less strict approach emerged that tries to come closer to the musical experience in the listening process of the recipient. This text is about building a 'bridge' of words and syntactic structures that serves as a link between the sound phenomenon and its study.  

This text in the form of a folding book is a collection of thoughts about a music that seems to be static, but is actually full of subtle inner movements. Often this kind of music or musical technique is called drone music. However, a drone does not move, it is actually static; therein lies the fundamental difference to the music meditated upon here. This is to describe a music that 'floats' slowly, that develops almost imperceptibly, so discreetly that the listener barely registers the moment when something new happens. This music is perhaps best defined by the fact that it eludes clear definition and thus lends itself to an alternative view to classical musicological analysis. This book idea attempts to define terminology poetically in the form of commentary and to create both historical and contemporary contexts in which these works can be analysed and reflected upon. The commentary can then serve as a bridge between the musical thought, the work as such, and the world of potential or actual listeners. It is also a personal aesthetic position, but one that does not exclude existing technical or aesthetic theories. Accordingly, this chosen text form and the folding book as an object corresponds to the intention of presenting a discourse about music and the music experience in semantic and graphical forms. It is an internal discourse about music that aims to reduce the social and intellectual distance between music and its listeners. The transmission of knowledge is conditioned by language in a civilisation based on the written word: musicians need words. For what purpose? To talk about their music. But then what do they talk about? Do they talk about how to interpret their music? Probably not. Sometimes perhaps it is. As a rule, however, the question of interpretation arises for non-musicians, the listeners. Music critics are often not musicians themselves. Every musical work is embedded in a historical context, which also includes a great deal of extra-musical things, such as world views, attitudes, expectations, working conditions, etc. If music always articulates a certain, time-bound "world and self relationship", then one can ask how this relationship is expressed in music, what formal means were used for this. The question also arises as to whether this relationship can be described (admittedly with language) and what the benefit of such a description might be. The aim of this work is to facilitate access.

As soon as one begins to comment, one experiences the inadequacies and the irreducible character of the musical experience. This applies both to analytical approaches, which are often very sober, and to commentaries that rely on metaphors. While analysis can make us aware of certain data and help us understand structures and perceive forms, it cannot capture the deeper value or reality of the work through technical procedures alone, whereas certain commentaries, if inspired, can be illuminating. 
So it needs a form that is inspired and that inspires. But what does that mean exactly? A form that is true to the musical reality that is 'inherent' in the work. Should we examine the historical conditions under which the works were created in order to elicit a more authentic meaning from them by relating them to the practices and theories of their time? How are history and circumstances relevant to understand works? Should we focus only on the composer's indications, such as the musical text (if available at all), forgetting the ideas and principles coming from the respective tradition or aesthetic / cultural environment, in order to reach more directly the composer's thought as recorded on paper or orally? Electroacoustic music usually does not have a score, which indicates that there is no one true solution. In fact, the different ways are all complementary. While I try to approach the musical experience while listening to the works, I am aware of the limitations of the form chosen in this work.

The form of the following meditations and their graphic representation are closely related to the chosen music, which is commented on; the form adapts to a musical score. It is an attempt to approach the musical experience through the medium of text, graphical form and paper, where language does not dominate. The music is not subjugated to a linguistic form, rather the text and the material are at the service of the musical experience. This is to allow a new form of accessibility or simplification of getting to a work. The term and practice of meditation was deliberately chosen in relation to the semantic and sonic content of the music analysed, as a direct connection is made with the musical content: meditating on a theme that is meditative in itself. I meditate on a meditation; I 'subject' my text and form to the chosen works. The form of meditation takes the place of analysis, taking into account the goal of understanding and illuminating the musical work. The difference, however, between analysis and meditation lies in the focus. 

When meditating, one takes the object into oneself, one internalises the (art) object. When analysing, we place it outside of us and we are observers. It is a form of inner speech in which I am in dialogue with the music and the music inhabits me. In mediation, the meditated object and the meditating subject live together and become one, whereas in analysing, the object and the subject are separated by an intellectual work and the subject becomes the observer of the observed object.