The Persistence of Material

November 2018

In the field of music composition, the assertion that “material progress” has long exhausted itself is now a half a century old, and yet many composers continue to invest and commit many if not most of their creative hours knitting away at their material or researching techniques and tools to further this rigorous engagement. And this is despite the very plausible and justifiable abdication from this preoccupation via alternative foci: very bold conceptual statements, ventures into the visual realm, as well as the incorporation of found objects into the work for instance, all of which offer flight from the time and obsession spent tediously fashioning and sculpting musical material. Why the persistence with this time-consuming preoccupation in an age of automation and efficiency? Is it an aesthetic relic of the past held onto by the “well-trained” practitioner, proof of one’s credentials? Is it a means to retain depth or autonomy through rigorous discipline? Is it an attempt to grapple with and wrestle with continuing technical and technological advances that actually do open up possibilities for new material or new treatment of material? This exploratory seminar brings together practitioners asking similar questions—though from very different perspectives and certainly outside the field of music composition: architecture, art installation and textile design, poetry, philosophy, literature, and musicology—with a diverse collection of music composers to discuss, debate, and exchange ideas on the persistence of material engagement, fascination, enthusiasm, obsession, as well as critical evaluation, in the creative process.