Saturday, March 18, 2017

The 45SIS, No.4, 2017: Guerino Mazzola

Antony Gormley, Rhizome III (1999)

Dear Readers,

[#a general remark#] I am very proud to present the fourth installment of The 45SIS (45 sentences, infinite sounds) featuring this time Prof. Guerino Mazzola. Guerino Mazzola is a Swiss mathematician, musicologist and jazz pianist. He graduated at the University of Zürich in Mathematics, Theoretical Physics and Crystallography and completed his PhD in Mathematics in 1971. In 1980, he habilitated in Algebraic Geometry and Representation Theory. In 2000, he was awarded the medal of the Mexican Mathematical Society. In 2003, he habilitated in Computational Science at the University of Zürich. Currently Currently he is Professor at the School of Music at the University of Minnesota. Since 2007 he is the president of the Society for Mathematics and Computation in Music. The 45 SIS is a questionnaire consisting of 45 sentences to be completed. This feature tries to close or at least bridge the gap between contemporary philosophical theories and contemporary sound-production by asking their most important contributors. The public reception and perception of sounds/music seems to be stuck in a weird consumer-convenience and commodity-oriented approach since ages. But music and sound are and should be more than this: an excess of the minimal and the maximal: the invisible and the secret, maybe. Over the months and years a serious encyclopedia of debatable positions in the aforementioned field will be build up by giving leading artists and theorists a space to present themselves without further commentary by the editor. 

[#the portrait#] I discovered the works of Guerino Mazzola (CV, see abovea few years ago in a moment of discontent with the various canonized and often way to specialized theories of music lacking either analytical rigor, historical depth, or real experiences as performers or as listeners. My interests circled back then mainly around the problem of how to formalize music (in all its dimensions) and of how to find and define valid quality criteria after the highly conflictual post-Schoenberg-Webern-Berg event cluster Cage-Young-Varèse-Xenakis-Nancarrow-Scelsi-Partch-Feldman-Messiaen-Stockhausen-Nono-Boulez and the respective effects on the increasing tensions between free form music (eg. Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor), electronic music and classical score bound music. But the most difficult and most decisive problems or questions remained unsolvable for me despite various attempts with different theories: how can the different phenomena or paradigms called music be theoretically reunified and recalibrated without regressing towards random Geschmacksurteilen ? And what are musical thoughts (breaking with the lazy habit to regress towards "Begriffslosigkeit", "Unaussprechlichkeit" and "blumige Sprache") and/or what is formalized in and as music ? You can imagine how lucky I was to have discovered Mazzola's seminal work The Topos of Music. Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory and, Performance (Basel Boston Berlin 2002) that offers one of the deepest, innovative and most interesting reformulations of musical theory today, helping to interrupt and/or overcome false tensions or divisions, miscanonized hierarchies and constricted eurocentrisms finding new answers to the very difficult questions sketched above by introducing new concepts and mathematical models. Prof. Mazzola presented a short sketch or very plastic image of his theoretical project in a youtube video posted in 2014. Here he says:"Music is like a dancer. It moves continuously and touches the stage floor in discrete points. The musical score represents the discrete trace, while gestures represent the continuous perspective . Correspondingly, a mathematical theory of music needs two approaches: a discrete, and a continuous one. The discrete approach is algebraic. It is framed by the topos of presheaves over the category of modules. It comprises models of harmony, counterpoint, rhythm or melody, and it presents classification theorems of local and global musical structures. Alexander Grothendieck called this the Mathematics of the New Age. The continuous approach works with gestures in the topos of presheaves over topological categories and uses algebraic topology, differential geometry, and homological algebra. It describes musical performance and gestural creativity and complies with Yuri Manin's vision of new foundations of mathematics built upon homotopy categories."(quote youtube). You can follow the unfolding of this immense project in a very impressive number of seminal publications since the 1980's. I quote the CV given on Prof Mazzola's homepage at the University of Minnesota, because I am a little afraid that I might forget or leave out something important, here one can read: "Mazzola has profiled the European school of mathematical music theory since 1980 and has written six books on the subject, among them The Topos of Music, published by Birkhäuser, and proposed by the American Mathematical Society as the mathematics book of the year 2005. His French book, La vérité du beau dans la musique, is about the philosophy of music and was published in 2007 by Delatour. Mazzola’s approach to music includes sophisticated mathematics of topos theory, but also classical tools from group theory to homotopy theory. His book Flow, Gesture, and Spaces in Free Jazz - Towards a Theory of Collaboration was published in 2009 by Springer and applies mathematical gesture theory to free jazz. His book Musical Performance was published in 2010 by Springer; it is the first comprehensive treatment of performance theory, including philosophical and empirical approaches, qualitative methods from musical ontology, and quantitative methods from differential geometry and their implementation in the performance software rubato. His book Musical Creativity was published in 2011 by Springer; it is co-authored with Joomi Park and Florian Thalmann and describes creativity in a tutorial for students, a theoretical part and a number of advanced case studies. His book Computational Counterpoint Worlds, co-authored with Octavio Agustin and Julien Junod, and his book Computational Musicology in Hindustani Music, co-authored with Soubhik Chakraborty et al. are published in 2014 by Springer. His next book, The Topos of Music II: Gestures, to be published in 2016 by Springer, and co-authored with René Guitart et al., will present latest developments in musical gesture theory and its philosophical implications. It is planned as a follow-up of The Topos of Music. Co-authored with PhD Students Maria Mannone and Yen Pang, a first introduction to Mathematical Music Theory: Cool Math for Hot Music, is published by Springer Fall 2015."(quote: Prof. Mazzola's homepage University of Minnesota). Not to forget his most recent one under his supervision (co-authored with Maria Mannone, Yan Pang, Margaret O'Brien and Nathan Torunsky) called All About Music: The Complete Ontology: Realities, Semiotics, Communication, and Embodiment published by Springer in November 2016.

[#discography/links/contacts#] I highly recommend to take also a deeper look into his discography (click here). For the titles of the Computational Music Series edited by Guerino Mazzola and Moreno Andreatta (click here). Here you can find Prof. Mazzola's Minnesota Homepage (click here), his personal Encyclospace Site (click here), and the very interesting affiliated research platform (with articles, soundfiles etc.) called Glass Bead (click here), his youtube channels you can find (here and here).

[#the presentation#] The white font shows the grid of my 45SIS-questionnaire, that will remain unchanged for each featured artist. This makes each contribution at once singular and comparable. The answers by each featured artist or scholar in this case Guerino Mazzola always be presented in green font.[SKG]

This is The 45SIS, No.4
brilliantly completed
by Guerino Mazzola

[1]“Music” and “Musician” are concepts about human communication.

[2] I dislike the term “Sound-Art”, because it neglects the structure that music adds to sound to become an art.

[3] A Sound Artist becomes an "alternative truth": sound per se is not art.

[4] Inventing/finding sounds is not an alternative tool for creating music.

[5] Thinking in music forced me organize, not only invent sounds.

[6] The obvious tensions between classical systems of musical notation and composition, sound-sourced field-recordings, free-improvised-real-time-composition, and technology based sound processing can be solved when rethinking creativity beyond specific technology.

[7] Composition is encoding gestures, not only writing abstract symbols, the latter being "paper music".

[8] The main theoretical aporia, existential tension or trigger that keeps me producing and/or made me produce (and/or: writing about) sounds is the art of making organisms that are expressed with sounds.

[9] The immense scope and variety of musical inventions forced into canonized music history and its basic distinction of music and non-music in the XX.Century (say) since “Arnold Schoenberg” and the counter-explosions of new underground music paradigms, non-europeans traditions and playing techniques since the 1940’s has neglegted the afrological extension of musical creativity that is a logic of the gestural making.

[10] Time, Space and Volume need to be extended: we need complex time (real + imaginary).

[11] A musical instrument is the interface technology between the musician's body and the body of sound.

[12] The musical encounter of my dreams would be a music theory that complies with scientific quality, not just rhetoric surface, such as Schenker or Schoenberg.

[13] The point zero is now: all Eurological variants have been tried out, it is time to rethink the musical presence in complex space-time.

[14] Sounds should work as invisible sculptures of intelligent gestural utterances.

[15] Sounds(capes) should ?

[16] Sounds and destruction are related if you forget about the music which organizes sounds.

[17] The human voice will not disappear if lived as an inner human gesture.

[18] Listening is imagining the musicians' sonic space.

[19] The commodity factor of New Music is the abstraction from listening, being replaced by talking, not understanding, by those who have no musical dimension at all.

[20] Programs and algorithms are useful as preliminary tools for musical structuring, and experimenting, but not to replace human substance.

[21] Names, words and titles of compositions are funny ornaments.

[22]Duplication, sampling, sound-sourcing and manipulation are only interesting if embedded in a musical logic.

[23] Replay-Machines help listening again and again…….

[24] Knowledge that is scientifically valid interferes with musical creativity.

[25] The materiality of sounds is only relevant if it expresses human gestures; counterexemples: abstract electronic sounds.

[26] To connect sound and psychology is ok, for mp3 technology, for example, but not as a foundation of musical creativity.

[27] The eye, the ear and the brain are abstractions of the gestural body, not its foundations.

[28] Sonic processes can realize Adorno's mimesis if organized as an art of the making.

[29] Life and Death are very different: death is the most trivial thing, silence is not death if you use it as a carrier of thoughts (Miles Davis!)

[30] My deepest musical experiences are audible thoughts in performance.

[31] The distinction sound/music/noise is essential, see my previous thoughts.

[32] The gestural creation of music is subject to a constant underestimation of abstract music theories created by non-performing scholars.

[33] Live performances should be interfaces between the creative making and the creative listening.

[34] Sounds can travel from hand to hand, ear to ear, through space and time, but do not make sense if done so without a gestural intelligence.

[35] The so-called composition 4’33” was not the first of this type (Alphonse Allais 1897: marche funebre pour un grand homme sourd) is a window to people who talk about music without understanding anything.

[36] Privacy, Secrecy & Sounds don't relate to each other.

[37] Singularity, originality is now a big challenge for all musical genres that seek for extensions.

[38] The total liberation of sounds must be a consequence of the total liberation of music theory from the outdated old approaches; have a look at mathematical music theory, for example.

[39] Free form music or sound leads into a music where the musicians have the full responsibility.

[40] Cryptic minimalisms and techno are musics for living deads.

[41] Outsider sounds is a question where you stand: inside or outside, better move!

[42] Electronics, electro-acoustic, Modular Synths or interstellar travels are all tools for musical creators, not for infants.

[43] Sounds must be organized in time-space manipulations that express musical insights.

[44] The severest misconceptions about me and my sounds, my music, and my theories are given by people who listen only to themselves and their prejudices.

[45] The sentence(s) I wanted to see published for an eternity is/are this one about the artistic existence of a performer:

The performer
in his 
beautifully determined 
displays a 
balanced dancing 

Antony Gormley, Rhizome I (1998)

Cordial thanks 
for your contribution,
Prof. Guerino Mazzola !