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Composition vs. Documentation

[Full article published in eContact! 11.2 — Figures canadiennes (2) / Canadian Figures (2)]


Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, Session 1: The State of the Art
Friday 8 August, 09:00–10:30. Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
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This paper addresses the fine line that exists between musical composition and documentation. The issue of musical composition vs. documentation is an especially interesting topic for electro-acoustic music works that focus on soundscapes and narrative strategies. In two of my own compositions, 48 14 N, 16 20 O and Aboji, the negotiation between wearing the hat of the composer vs. the reporter is of primary importance in the compositional stage and may perhaps be regarded as a source of friction partially driving the creative compositional process and development itself. The former piece adheres closer to a soundscape-type work whereas the latter a more narrative one. However, both pieces share the balancing problem between composition and documentation. This brings up interesting issues concerning a sound object’s inherent musicality, its original identity and the degree of its modulation, careful preservation and “destruction” of found sounds, as well the informational dimension encoded not only within fragmented speech samples but also in non-speech sound objects. In both compositions, an underlying narrative is implicitly and explicitly presented. The narrative dimension along with the more musical dimension is intertwined and interlaced via various compositional strategies, including referencing, presentation of idiosyncratic / abstract / fragmented materials and memory, background and foreground issues, and timbral inharmonic change techniques to smoothly link sections within a piece. A plethora of issues surrounding the friction and balancing between composition vs. documentation and the composer vs. the reporter are detailed.


Tae Hong Park holds B.Eng., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Korea University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University. He has worked in the area of digital communication systems and musical keyboards at the LG Central Research Laboratory in Seoul, Korea (1994–98). His current interests are in composition and research in multi-dimensional aspects of timbre and DSP. His music has been heard in various international locations; in venues, conferences and festivals including Bourges, EuCuE, ICMC, Reflexionen Festival, SEAMUS and Transparent Tape Music Festival and has been played by many performers, including the Brentano String Quartet, California E.A.R. Unit, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Surplus. He chaired the 2006 ICMC conference, is Vice President of conferences for ICMA, serves as managing editor for Journal SEAMUS, and is Assistant Professor at the Tulane University Music Department heading the Music Science and Technology Program. He is the author of Introduction to DSP: Computer Musically Speaking to be published later this year by World Scientific.


Paper originally presented at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium 2008, August 2008.

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