MUSIC 209, Spring 1999 : Whose musical language is the real one?
Miller Puckette (


Your professors live in a different century from the one you will make your careers in. In ours, the twentieth, Beethoven's old tower of Babel finally fell down under the weight of Wagner's plaster additions. We then invented a thousand new musical languages, sometimes making a new one for an individual piece of music. It's up to you now: what language do you want to speak?

The object of this seminar is to write a book whose chapters describe each participant's take on the question of language. For example, you could explore how some composer's choice of constraints can give rise to inventive solutions; or how changing technology gives rise to changing musical practices; or whether conventions work differently in composition than in improvisation. You could also just invent a new compositional idiom and discuss whether it would have been better than Schoenberg's.

Participants will edit each others' chapters, in a microcosm of the "peer review" process. The first "printing" will be web-based. Afterward, if there's enough interest, we might seek out a dead-tree publisher.


There are two main things to take care of which we can do in parallel: get a basic command of web publishing; and write the papers. In the first regard, activist Kerry Hagan has put together a great introduction to web publishing from ACS accounts at UCSD. If you want to see a really low-tech example, you can also consult my own proposal (from the list below) and then choose "view source" on your browser.

As to getting the papers written, here's a (very optimistic) schedule:
May 5. First submission goes from author to editor/reviewer
May 12. Reviews due. Don't publish them, we'll look them over in class.
May 26. Second submission (on web)
June 2. Editors' final version


Here are some of the papers (others have since disappeared or weren't made public)
Musical Expression and the Human-Computer Interface -Harry Castle
Serialism of Cruelty: Artaud, Boulez, and Musical violence -Andrew Infanti
Elucidating Human Expressive Elements Endowable to Computers in Improvisational Environments -Derek Keller
Just Another Heretofore Silenced Voice, Bustin' Out and Singin' a Song of Dissent -Linda Kernohan
Stand back: twentieth century art music is falling under its own weight -Miller Puckette