Piotr Peszat

The notion, used as a title, points three, different attitudes that we can easily identify in the musical reality. It is not aim to value mentioned attitudes, but rather point relations between them, their connections and internal interdependencies. It should be noted that mentioned attitudes interact each other, but at the same time, one can indicate quite clear benchmarks or even border points. Of course, we can talk about at least three, different attitudes, but finally, all of them, boil down to the first two, in case of artists associated with the broadly understood „high culture” and on the other hand „artist amateur”, notion, that is quite hard to swallow for representatives of the first group.

Azorro Group confronting the paradigm of originality in Art



Many musicologist do agree on the end of a material progress. It is probably the scariest diagnosis for a young composer, brought up in the spirit of academic education, where, in fact, the most important part of schooling is development of musical material. We get to know about historical and modern techniques of playing on instruments, old and new sounds, articulations. In fact, beginning composer is encouraged to further research exactly that area, usually without pointing other possibilities. On the other hand, it is quite possible, that young, composition student is not at all encouraged to search for his own sound world. Perhaps the whole modernism and avant-garde was just a bad dream?*

*I am referring to an article written by Jan Topolski discussing artistic output of Polish composer –
Eugeniusz Knapik.
Topolski Jan, Misja Knapika, in: „Glissando”, no. 9, 2006.

Speaking about the fall of the aesthetics of material, first of all, I mean loss of strength of negation of the musical material. Without any doubt, we can still explore various performance techniques, but they do not shock the audience, as it has happened almost half century ago. In the 21st century, extended techniques (multiphonics, Lachenmann’s string techniques) are – or at least – should be a part of the young artist’s craft. In this case, we are not talking about something extraordinary, especially considering the wide access to extended techniques guides, like for example Barenreiter’s series.

The main stream of new music is a style of combinations, allusions and quotations; smooth mixture of Serialism, New Complexity, Spectralism, Micropolyphony and of course Musique concrète instrumentale; here and there a tonal topping, and if necessary, icing sound with a bit of electronics.
Michael Rebhahn (german musician and journalist)

One of possibilities of overcoming a creative impasse is to abandon abstract and material-focused understanding of music and turn to Gehalt (German). At that moment I am referring to the concept of gehalt-aesthetic turn, by German philosopher Harry Lehmann. Regardless of alternatives, many musicologists agree with Lehmann on the diagnosis of fall of material-focused music. I will not attempt to explain, in a direct way, what I mean by using the notion of „composer”. However, in the context of other attitudes – „composer” – is certainly the one, that is most academic and musical-material oriented. Nevertheless, Lehmann’s idea, criticized by many commentators, is so far the only reasonable proposal of overcoming the pseudo-postmodern stagnation, which is present in such a clear way in works of Polish composers.



At the beginning of the 21st century can be noticed an extensive use of various media, such as video, electronics, by artists associated with a widely-understood musical field. In my opinion this situation has its origins in the 1950-60, period of the early activity, of the Fluxus movement. The term intermediality comes into use in texts and works of an American intermedia artist, one of the Fluxus initiators – Dick Higgins. As mentioned at the outset, reasons for adopting new media (video) into music can be traced back to the activities of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s.-60s. However, one can notice a relatively fast move of the Fluxus experiments on the ground of broadly defined visual arts (performance art, video art, etc.). Greatest reason for this phrase were problems with the recording medium.*

Lehmann Harry, Muzyka Konceptualna jako katalizator zwrotu treściowo estetycznego w nowej muzyce, in:
„Glissando”, no. 22, 2013.

Anti-musical Fluxus work are intended to depreciating, liquidation, embarrassment or provoking musical institutions – because that is, how they were intended – it is hard to perform them in public. The problem is actually, that this kind of conceptual music, currently, did not have any well-functioning recording or transmission medium. A typical feature of a fine arts is a museum, on the field of music – we can point as an analogy – repeated performance, radio transmission, CD recording. Conceptual music cannot be played in such a way. Finally, in the era of a digital revolution, conceptual music got, so far missing, available recording media and distribution channels.*

After all, somehow we identify artists, such as: La Monte Young, George Brecht, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik also with a musical avant-garde (despite their shift into the visual arts). It seems to me, that their artistic activity could serve as an inspiration for many artists, especially in terms of combining different media. At the beginning of this section I am using a notion of a “interdisciplinary artist” – since present attitudes are no longer limited to the different medias (like the Intermedia or multimedia notions are emphasizing medial heterogeneity), but are also combining different disciplines, e.g.: directing and composing. En example of interdisciplinary attitude might be Simon Steen Andersen’s opera Buenos Aires, which was written and directed personally by Simon. As an another example, one can mention his other piece Black Box Music, which is based on the concept of balancing between music and theatre, trying to bring music to the boundary,  behind which begins the theatre.

Simon Steen-Andersen : Black Box Music (2012)

That is why I am using „interdisciplinary”, instead of an oldish „intermedia” or „multimedia” (I will return to mentioned notions in a moment). Video as an integral part of works by Jennifer Walshe, Johannes Kreidler, Stefan Prins is not a result of collaboration with visual artist, but rather a result of their own activities. Very often we are dealing with a self-made video, rather than collaboration of composer with a group of producers, cameramen, etc.
An interesting example can be The Total Mountain, a 45 minute performance of Irish composer and artist Jennifer Walshe. In The Total Mountain we are dealing with a video projection, fully realized by Jennifer Walshe. During the lecture, just before the premiere of the piece in Donaueschinger Musiktage (2014), Walshe mentioned a certain assumption – in the context of recording video – all clips are recorded with an iPhone. Walshe also indicated an extensive use of music, as a medium, by artists not directly related to the musical field; which rises (in her opinion) an argument – that composers should use self-made videos in their own compositions.

Jennifer Walshe : The Total Mountain (2014)

Another factor, that is quite common for artists like Walshe, Kreidler, Steen-Andersen, Prins, is a lo-fi aesthetics, that is for example recording video material with a smartphone, producing videos that are mostly running on YouTube. In a sense, this is also the opposite direction of technical perfection, which we are being taught at the academies, during recording classes in studio. How often do we hear: „it’s not Art”?

Johannes Kreidler : Split Screen Studies (2012)

Johannes Kreidler is using video as a medium in most of his pieces. In Split Screen Studies (part: Mass Extinction) Kreidler is using self-made video – recording on the roof of a building in Berlin. It is a quite interesting example, because of its references to Lachenmann’s opera: The Little Match Girl. Kreidler ironically refers to a scene, in which the soloists go rattling teeth on the stage of the opera-theatre. Kreidler moves this situation into the real world – cold winter in Berlin, since warm and cozy environment of the opera house was completely unnatural for him.

Let’s go back for a while to the difference between three notions: intermedia, multimedia and interdisciplinary. Let’s focus on a very common problem – misunderstanding and misusage of the first, two notations: intermedia and multimedia.
First of all, not a situation when several medias are listed, but most of all, what occurs between them describes the notion of intermedia. In case of multimedia, we are talking about a simple combination of media, in which, media retain their identity (painting is painting, music is music). In some sense, multimedia,can be understood as an embryonic form of intermedia – as a prelude to the more complex relationship between media. Eric Anderson: „In the multimedia work, different media components retain their status and criteria for evaluation. We can easily point values, such as: good picture, great photography, properly composed and professionally performed music, etc., while in the intermedia work, mentioned values disappear, giving place to a newly created ones.” In the case of the „interdisciplinary” notion we are somehow dealing with analogous problem of distinguishing between multimedia and intermedia. The effect of the „interdisciplinary” is also a new quality, appearing „in between” joined disciplines.



Creator’s status was once reserved for elite group of artists. Yet, still at the music academies, we are training elite skills, e.g. mastery in renaissance and baroque counterpoint. Nowadays, thanks to widely available channel of distribution (Internet), but also unlimited access to the software and hardware, the boundary between what is professional and amateur has been blurred. Along with new media, appeared a group of amateur artist, largely, having its origins in the phenomenon of Phandom. Here is a quote from a book Dwa Zero. Alphabet Nowej Kultury: „the key features of the surrounding culture are: digital technologies, rising popularity of amateurs, participation and interactivity, openness, convergence of media, new possibilities for remixing and archiving.”*

*Filiciak Mirosław, Tarkowski Alek, Dwa zero. Alfabet nowej kultury i inne teksty, Wydawnictwo Słowo / obraz terytoria, Warszawa 2015.

Thanks to fans, „remix”, probably the most common technique of creation nowadays become so popular. At the same time rising popularity of amateur creators influenced the concept of an artist, which undoubtedly requires reconsidering and redefinition. Moreover, in the case of fans activities, we are dealing with a specific relationship between creator and fan, which forces fan to create himself! American media scholar Henry Jenkins describes fans as an avant-garde of the contemporary culture: „They popularized the basic technique of creation today – remix; it is them, who participate in culture, who are promoting attitude based, not only on a passive consumption, but also based on processing and circulating new content. From this perspective, every quotation, sampling, cover or remix, can beregarded as an expression of fans passion for others creative output .”*



As already mentioned, in my opinion, the concept of a contemporary artist requires redefinition. In this case, one should consider several aspects:
• renaissance of the conceptualism in music, what results in going beyond purely sound-horizon, accepting (subsequently – adapt) non-musical elements. Once again referring to the Lehmann’s concept, we are dealing with a gehalt-aesthetic turn in contemporary music, and conceptual music itself is only a catalyst in that process.
• Digital revolution, interdisciplinary – creators (amateurs and professionals) having unlimited access to software and hardware.
• Phandom – rising popularity of amateurs as probably the most popular group of creators of the present time. As a result – remix, as a basic techniques of creation.

Contemporary creator is primarily a conscious artist. This may be a PostInternet artist – using Marisa Olson’s term describing an artist, whose works are a critical analysis of the impact of virtuality into reality, as well as an artist, who draws experience from reality in an „analogue” way. However, in any case, it is a conscious person, whose analytical and intellectual attitude, somehow ends and substitutes 19th century-like, inexplicable power of inspiration and romantic vision of artist.