Piotr Tkacz-Bielewicz: If you could choose a year that you were born in – which would that be and also where?
Maciej Śledziecki: Oh, wow, that comes really as a surprise…
Marion Wörle: Definitely not much earlier in history, maybe a bit earlier or later. Because in regard to human rights it’s not better if you go back deep in history. It’s always a problem, especially for women. Where to go, where to live – and you are not allowed to study, not allowed to vote, not allowed to live alone. So, for me, it’s really hard, I can’t go deep back in history, sorry (laughs).
MŚ: And also with future we don’t know–
MW: If Russians bomb the world in two pieces.
MŚ: Or our environment is coming to an end. So I think we stay where we are. Sorry for a boring answer.
PTB: That’s a pity! (laughs) But maybe you do all the time-traveling that you need with your music, so that might be a solution.
MW: Yes, it’s a kind of a spaceship.
MŚ: This time-traveling in mind gives us some distance to what’s happening at the moment. It’s the only way to make a statement about the present. Because if we jumped into whatever newest technology – it’s changing so quickly that when you do something with it it’s already too late. Once a project is done, the technology has already changed. I guess this retro-futuristic approach helps us to gain distance to make a statement.
PTB: There are so many instruments already, so why this urge to invent new ones?
MW: The fact that there are so many possibilities can especially be a problem, because you don’t know what to choose. Like sitting in front of your laptop and having access to all the instruments as software. But that’s not so promising and fulfilling, and mostly it’s not what we are looking for. I mean for us creating instruments comes from specific projects and from meeting particular people. When we started we didn’t know where it’d end. So many things happened during developing, thinking and working on the machines. In the beginning we didn’t think that we would be building machines for ten years, we thought we would do it for one year and then someone would build something else. When you start working on something in the beginning you never know where it’ll take you. It always turns out to be completely different than we have thought.
MŚ: Also, as we come from different backgrounds, machines were like a pivotal sphere where we met – Marion’s electronics and my interest in instrumental music. We have thought it’s a beautiful way to bring it together, there are acoustic sounds with digital control. Coming from this we had, I’d say, a phase of fascination up to a phase of sickness with instrument building. When we dealt so much with that it became a kind of danger that we would be instrument builders and not musicians anymore. So at some point we decided to stop building – we weren’t always successful and sometimes would go back to this sickness. But we don’t build so much anymore, we have a set up that we love and those modular percussions that we can attach to different instruments, so we are pretty flexible. Also, we are coming back to working with various instrumentalists–
MW: Playing previously existing instruments and with singers, vocalists. There was also a phase where we didn’t work so much with our machines but with musicians, and combined them with electronics. It’s all part of the game.
MŚ: Also, when we work with instrumentalists or singers we try to incorporate what we have learnt while working with machines. For example, in our robot opera we used several techniques first developed when working with machines but applied that to the RIAS Chamber Choir and adapted it to their singing. It’s an interesting turn.
PTB: What is your relation to those machines – are you like scientists, conductors, researchers or maybe virtuosos?
MW: It’s definitely a lot of research… A scientist, I don’t know, probably more of a technician, especially when we build them. But a conductor… I mean, we are composers, they don’t do anything without being given information. Also a coder and programmer.
MŚ: I think it applies to all the people working with such a specific setup, that the composition process already starts when thinking about what materials to use. Many improvisers have very individual setups, and their materials belong to their creative process. The same is true for us.
PTB: In improvisation there is this narrative about building your own instrument but in the sense of deconstructing an existing one, like with tabletop guitar or in fact any kind of preparation. Maybe it’s parallel in reverse to what you are doing.
MŚ: Yeah… What I find fascinating are those things that you miss. There is this accordion that we built and when you play it – it doesn’t do any of the things that humans would do, it can’t interpret a melody or a composition. So either you build a very sophisticated software that would do it for you, mimic the human way of playing, or you do it by hand, moving all the little notes, so it sounds like a human being would do it, or you just say: ok, this is not what this machine can do, let’s think about it differently, what it can do without any of those skills. So, one thing that we came up with after a while was to use electronic music strategies with those machines, for example pulse with modulation on accordion, later on organs – notes that are longer and shorter, so the space between them is either getting filled or empty. This is very fruitful because you are getting waves of sounds that aren’t possible to get from a human player – we tried that with them, saying: move from staccato to legato very fluently, it’s extremely hard to do it in one tempo. We used this on the last piece of our record. It’s fun to find those things that are idiosyncratic.
PTB: While thinking about your activities, I have a number of associations. I’m curious if there was someone or something that was an inspiration for you, even if at the beginning only?
MW: Studies of Nancarrow for sure, also Ligeti because he did many interesting things with rhythms, gnawa music from Morocco and Japanese court music when it comes to harmonies, Tenney also. But in a way you are influenced by so many things when you create that it’s not only those few composers, it’s a lot more.
PTB: I was wondering about a conceptual aspect, I thought about Nancarrow, which is kind of obvious in this context, but how about Varese?
MŚ: No, we hadn’t thought about him.
PTB: I recall that he stated something along the lines that he has this new music in mind but is waiting for the machines that could make it possible to appear.
MŚ: Aah, nice. You know, Nancarrow said at some point that if he had known that electronic music would appear, he wouldn’t have made all the effort.
MW: He wasn’t so keen on preparing punch cards and waiting for months before listening to his ideas.
PTB: He wasn’t also so keen on working with humans.
MW: (laughs) Yeah, he would have been perfect for computer music.
MŚ: But for us, conceptually speaking, it’s a thing that grew out of our biographies and in a way it happened that we became those machine musicians and it stuck and we love it. The conception of this record was to get more into rhythmical stuff but bent as much as possible while still keeping all the elements on a grid so it’s not falling apart. It has a grid but it’s totally flexible all the time.
PTB: Is it possible for you to perform this album live?
PTB: So what would be the ideal setting: club, derelict industrial space, open-air?
MW: All those might be possible. We once did it in a big museum which worked very well, another time in a club and it also worked. It’s better when it’s dark, because we have our lightning system, and with a nice PA of course. So I think it’s not so good for open air, but both museums and clubs are good. I mean, with clubs the problem might be with a view, because it’s better when people can see something. The best is when they are around us.
MŚ: It becomes a mechanical campfire.
PTB: So, in this club, were people dancing or moving with the rhythms?
MW: No… maybe it was also because it wasn’t late. It could work maybe when we are in a line-up of a festival and perform at, let’s say, 1am, when people are already in the mood.
PTB: But that wasn’t your aim?
MŚ: No. It was this fascination with weirdness of the rhythms and mathematics behind it that gives you a sense of movement, but it’s not dance music necessarily.
PTB: I’m still hopeful that what’s possible nowadays on a dancefloor is broadening.
MW: I can easily imagine that one of the pieces could be put in a DJ set and work in a club.
MŚ: Hmm…ok! (laughs)
PTB: Another kinda obvious influence is the futurist movement. What was really striking for me was that some intonarumori were based on a mechanism of hurdy-gurdy, which is a traditional folk instrument. So even when trying to come up with sounds never heard before, Russolo turned to tradition and used an old mechanism, which I think says a lot about a relationship with the past and imagining the future. That could also be called retro-futuristic. How is it in your case: do you start with existing instruments that you change, develop, extend, or with an idea for a sound that you want to achieve and then it happens to be possible via adapted accordion?
MW: It’s definitely an idea about a sound but also an idea of what’s a way to create it and then it’s working very fast back and forth.
MŚ: Sometimes it’s like: ok, we have the accordion already, and what we hear that should be in there too, and we build it.
MW: Yeah, with the accordion it was a cooperation with Gerhard Kern who built it. That’s one of the instruments we didn’t build ourselves, and it was also greatly influenced by him, because he suggested that he had parts from a different instrument that could be put together and we were thinking how to create it and then he built it. But it’s a tricky instrument when it comes to the sound. We always thought the sound was not so easy; we tried a lot of things and worked really hard to create the sound we like. Because of this accordion we invented these super short notes that are hitting the tone very fast, so it’s not like bang – bang – bang.
MŚ:But then it goes further. When you start working you try different things. For example, the last piece on the record, with the accordion, we thought: this is good, but the next mechanical step is a microphone. So, we decided that we needed to record each note, every waveform, separately. That amounted to seventy tracks which we stacked together and then in the studio we had sixty channels that we could distribute in the room. Then we got a really clear sound, which would not have been possible if they were all played together. So on this record we went also in this direction – to use the studio as another machinic instrument.
PTB: And you got an orchestra from one instrument, that’s pretty manic! (laughs)
MŚ: (laughs) Yeah, but it was fun nevertheless.
PTB: Are those instruments capricious, do they need a lot of care?
MŚ: At home it’s like with plants – the ones that survive stay (laughs).
PTB: (laughs) If it dies, it dies.
MW: There are some instruments at our workshop that we intend to repair for years but never got around to it.
MŚ: So the fragile ones unfortunately didn’t make it…
PTB: Natural history of instrument evolution (everyone laughs). Which reminds me about the concerts at the Nowe Epifanie festival, dealing with early music, under the name Mass Extinction of Instruments. That’s a really interesting approach, because thinking about what you are doing in a broader perspective – there were so many instruments invented, some of those ideas were pretty great, at least in the opinion of the inventors, but so many of them are forgotten nowadays. It’s fascinating that there are so many sideways in the history…
MŚ: You know, mechanical instruments were very popular in the 19th century and up to the 20th, there were huge factories and there was a year that more automatic pianos were sold than traditional ones in the USA. Because it was something that you could put in every bar, it was loud enough and you didn’t have to pay a player. Then the invention of loudspeaker and amplifier killed it in five years, the industry was gone. It’s really interesting with this maker culture, it’s coming back in a new form. We have been doing that for ten years and we saw that coming and going in this period. Like we were talking about club music, there are some people who might use little solenoids to add to their sets–
MW: Like dada machines.
MŚ: Yeah. I mean, when we started working with automated organs, there were responses like: incredible, you can actually play organs from a computer! And now it’s slowly becoming a thing, ah, ok, it’s MIDI-fied organs, we know (laughs) and this is a good thing.
MW: Yes, it changed a lot.
MŚ: Also now there is like a scene of people who play automated organs around the world, there are networks forming, which is great.
PTB: It seems like organs itself are becoming a trendy thing, like a top instrument, very complex, very revered, associated mostly with sacral space. I have to admit that for me much of this new organ music sounds too safe but maybe the point is that it should be experienced live.
MW: Definitely, it’s such a big difference. When it comes, for example, to pieces by Kali Malone, it’s hard to judge them by just a recording. If you play with the phenomena appearing in space, you hear them only there.
MŚ: When we talk about organs with someone, we are often asked about the spiritual aspect and we answer that, of course, organs are mostly in churches and so on, but we are not interested in this aspect. You know, there is a tradition of organ music that is not sacred music and the church actually didn’t want to have organs for a long time because it’s such a powerful and ecstatic instrument. I think this is an interesting tradition to dive into. It’s not sacral, it uses this instrument but it’s a huge, powerful machine. It’s a wonderful acoustic synthesizer that you can use now with the help of a computer to get sounds that weren’t possible before. This is the main thing that we are interested in.
MW: Yeah, it’s not the spirituality of catholicism.
PTB: But, you know, when you go to a church, you might even close your eyes but you are still there. I grew up going to church but gave it up many years ago, so for me it’s a bit problematic, especially considering all the things going on in the Catholic church now (and even more especially in Poland).
MŚ: I can totally understand that.
PTB: But it’s interesting that there are also other strategies. Just yesterday I listened to For Aeons by Miłosz Kędra, where he aimed to put this music associated with church in a new context with the use of electronics. So, in a way, queering the organs. I’m doubtful how successful that can be but I really appreciate the effort.
MŚ: Yeah, organs have this hypnotic quality that you could dive into–
PTB: That’s why the church wanted them in the end!
MŚ: (laughs) Yes, possibly… the church – it’s a big topic of course.
MW: It’s a challenge to compose a piece to make people sitting there forget that they are in church. (laughs) Sometimes it happens, they don’t think about organs anymore. We present pieces by various musicians and afterwards people often say: wow, that didn’t sound like church organs. I mean, it works, there are so many possibilities.
MŚ: There is also a big number of organs in concert halls. We played at Stavanger Concert Hall or Orgelpark in Amsterdam for example, and it’s a different context then. You are free of those associations. Also, people who are into this are allergic to the term „church organ”–
MW: It’s a „pipe organ”. (both laughs)
PTB: There are a number of ways in which machine instruments could be controlled. For example Pierre Bastien does it bricoleur-style, all by hand, but you use computers from the very beginning. Why is that, apart from precision it allows for?
MW: I was a computer musician before and Maciej played the guitar, then he got a computer too and then it somehow came together, because we both worked with a laptop as an instrument. Then we met an instrument builder Gerhard Kern, his instruments were MIDI-driven so that was already the direction, they were controlled by a computer only. We never thought about building instruments that could be played by hand. Sometimes the furthest thought was: should we include it as like a hitting surfaces with a stick? But we always decided not to and let it be like a system for itself, without interaction.
MŚ: For me, having this guitar background, it’s a bit difficult because there is all this performativity when playing the guitar, moving, feeling the instrument. So now, sitting in front of a computer and from time to time doing a little thing here and there sometimes feels awkward I have to say. It’s like I’m not in the zone of really playing an instrument but I’m also not a static performer. For me it feels safer being behind the computer. When we agreed on that, we started working, tried different ways of interacting with the machines, some improvisation or having software improvise. Sometimes we play concerts like this but in the end we always come back to this point: let’s create compositions and play them. Because somehow we feel that to make them improvise really well, you have to make such a high standard of code. We have huge admiration for great improvisers, the other thing is that most of the fun of improvisation comes from a social interaction between players and well…
MW: It’s not really possible [with the machines].
MŚ: It’s far more interesting to make a simulation of that with machines.
MW: So we ended up with preparing and programming nearly everything before. We would only interact when something is not working, to fix it or to play something else.
PTB: I have a seemingly out of the blue association but it makes total sense for me: Kraftwerk.
MW & MŚ: Yeah, yeah.
PTB: When you talked about sitting in front of a computer and doing almost nothing… (laughs)
MŚ: Yeah, but do you have this association when listening to our music?
MŚ: Exactly! (laughs) What’s interesting on a very broad level is that we have this conception of the machine which is almost like a cliche. That it is a totally straight thing, going in a rhythm. That’s a very simple way of thinking, but if you go to a deeper level, think about terminology, like what is „automatic” and what is „subconscious”, and say „that’s what people do automatically”. Then we get into a field which is interesting, so the subconscious is mechanics or human automation. So,with music you can get to a part where this machinic cliche is… you can go beyond that and get to a field where it’s more about something dreamy.
PTB: But even with Kraftwerk it’s not so obvious, they had pieces like „We are the robots” or „Man-Machine” and their fascination with bike or Autobahn is something striving for sublimation or unification of those two entities which were at the opposite sides of the spectrum. But it turns out a fusion is possible.
PTB: Are there any limitations of this computer-control approach? Anything that you would change with the benefit of hindsight or are you happy with your total control?
MW: We also work a lot in the field of music theater and there we collaborate with diverse people: actors, dancers, human players and lightning systems or electronic music. There are such different amounts of control because, for example, a choreographer can act a lot by himself, and this machine you control from the first to the last second, and also the lighting system – but there is a lot of openness to other compartments of the piece. So it’s not about total control but it’s always good to know what we’ll have in the end, we are not diving into something [unknown?]. I mean, for us the result is always clear beforehand. But it’s not about total control – when there are other people involved. With the album it was different, of course.
MŚ: There is also a process of improvisation or exploring involved–
MW: Yeah, before we record there is a lot of improvisation.
MŚ: Non-control, you know, seeing where it can go, what are the limits. Mechanical limits is one thing–
MW: The amount of MIDI notes.
MŚ: Or physical limits–
MW: Screws that fall off because they can’t do a given thing for ten minutes.
MŚ: And there are also perceptual limits – how much information you can process at the same time. Maybe machines can do this but it’s too much for you. I mean, when Nancarrow needed six months to prepare his punch card rolls, we can create that within minutes, so we have to be aware of this. I think that in a way our approach forces us to make a plan before, it’s also a strategy of limiting stuff.
PTB: I’m wondering, do you ever dream about a music theater piece realized only with the use of machines, or do you prefer to have this uncertainty factor tied to working with other humans?
MŚ: I think we like to work with other humans…
PTB: Still… (everyone laughs)
MŚ: I mean, we now have this man-machine trilogy that is coming to an end in September in Deutsche Oper. The last part is going to be for a chamber choir, two dancers and a robot orchestra, which is very strong. In this, as well in smaller pieces, we always think about making room for everything and it’s all connected: lights with the notes being played or performers have certain algorithmic movements that they are allowed to do. So it’s becoming kind of a mechanical organism. But I don’t think we would be interested in creating a piece only with robots.
MW: No, no, no… When it comes to theater, it’s really good to have performers on stage and to work with people.
MŚ: We experienced a strange thing with our organ pieces – we go to a venue earlier, prepare everything and if all is ok we could basically let the composition play by itself. But it makes a huge difference when we sit at the organs and are like the first listeners.
MW: Also, people like it; when we ask them, they say: oh, it makes a difference. They like a human being sitting there, even without touching the instrument, but to experience the composer being present.
MŚ: It becomes a weird sitting performance – we don’t act like we would be doing something, just sit and listen. It can be really demanding…
MW: Yeah, it’s hard – harder than performing. (MŚ laughs)
PTB: It’s a kind of meditation even, to stop, to limit yourself. (laughs) Thinking about that all now, I recall all those tired jokes about laptop musicians checking e-mails during their concert, which I really never understood – ok, so it’s prepared in advance, I don’t care, and in this black box there could a million things going on at the moment, which are controlled with a slightest movement of a finger, we don’t know that. So, one thing is, like you said, that people like to experience that presence, maybe it’s a leftover thing from the romantic era, that the artist was a medium, transfering or translating energy from wherever. Another thing is in the vein of: ok, I paid for a ticket and I want to see someone making an effort, actually doing work for me, it’s my leisure time, I’m enjoying myself and I want to see someone getting tired after playing for an hour on some instrument.
MW: But also you have to observe the controlling system all the time, because something can always go wrong. Even adjusting the sound or working on it and sending it out – it’s already a lot. So there is always much happening, but in a very tiny space.
PTB: Do you believe in the idea of progress in music or art in general?
MW: People need to express themselves in all possible fields and that’s something that should never stop, that’s one of the best things that humans can do. It adds a lot to what already happened and you realize that a particular piece is from a certain time. Not always, but often there is something specific. It’s so important and it influences everything. It’s not about what is better – it’s not a question. It’s about what we need or want now. I think it’s always good when people dig into what’s possible and create.
MŚ: I totally agree. I don’t believe in progression – that it’s getting better, but in transformation.
MW: But I definitely believe in the necessity of creating and that it’s really important.
MŚ: We spent last summer in Japan and discovered court music there. That’s a tradition that partially migrated from China and there is an office that declares what is acceptable in this music – it was founded around 600 BC. We don’t even know how music in Europe sounded at that time and this music is so old that its office already existed back then. And you listen to this music, like you said about this mass extinction of instruments, it happened with it also, because the court got smaller and the music got a bit reduced, but you listen to this music and think: wow, this is super adventurous.
MW: It was a really big inspiration, now when I listen to it – I can hear it’s old, but it’s not a problem. It’s totally clear it’s an ancient tradition, but it sounds… weird, because it’s not a tuning that we are used to.
MŚ: And not the tempos.
MW: Yeah, and the chords, the melodies, the timing – everything seems so exotic.
MŚ: I think it has to do with natural religious ideas. There are some parts where everyone is supposed to play at their own tempo. It gets completely anti mechanic (both laughs), like a jungle of sounds and it’s beautiful. It’s interesting when people have ideas with the means that they have. I think people earlier weren’t less intelligent than us; they had different means at their disposal and they were geniuses that found in them something that was fantastic and that was the beauty of it.
MW: I think that in human genes there is a certain amount that is driven by creating. Because generations back there were creators and they don’t know why. It’s also like being like a robot, you just realize your whole life you have been creating something – like; why am I creating all the time? There is a force that makes you create, so ok, it has to be done, let’s do it! But there are others who can’t even imagine how to create a piece of music. They ask: how is it possible, I don’t know. So then you think that for some people it’s a miracle.
PTB: I wasn’t necessarily thinking about „better”, rather „more advanced” because I get a sense there is this notion nowadays. Which I’m not sure holds true – even in medieval music there were 24-voice parts motets and scholars claim there were even some with 48, but got lost probably because they were too complicated to be performed. Like you said, it could be put: music that is in tune with its own time.
MW: Yeah, technology changes a lot and availability makes a big difference.
MŚ: I think there is this phenomenon in instrumental practice that what was unplayable, say, 100 years ago, is like a standard now. Something has been postulated and someone can practice it and do it better. So there is an advancement in a way, but it’s a difficult term. For sure there is change and transformation, advancements in some fields but if the music itself–
MW: Currency, movement, more like a river… and it’s never the same, maybe a river is a good [metaphor]…
PTB: I had a long conversation about them with Annea Lockwood, so yeah – the river is good. (all laughs) Thinking about those unplayable things, maybe machines are the solution (another difficult term). Because for singers in the future it might be harder, I recall reading that due to pollution lungs are smaller than in the past, so it might not be possible to perform all those demanding baroque arias.
MW: Oh wow, this is interesting.
MŚ: Never heard about that.
PTB: That was in the context of opera, maybe it’s not such a factor in other types of singing, but still – some opera repertoire might go extinct (laughs).
MŚ: Come on, it’s a cheap excuse. (all laughs)
PTB: One last thing: AI. There is a lot of discussion about how it’s making human professionals in various areas obsolete and now artists are also under siege. First text-to-image was more prominent but there are also various tools for text-to-music coming – so, do you feel safe or are you already negotiating with your machines?
MW: (laughs) I still feel safe because AI alone won’t arrange everything, set it all up or build something more than the code itself. I think cooperation is still very important. Maybe it’s also about something more than just creating a piece – it’s about then creating another piece and how to build up over time and be there, creating a personality, something you want to follow and you want to be a part of… I don’t know if humans want to be part of the code, maybe it’s not enough. It’s hard to imagine how it could happen. I mean, sure, musicians can use those codes, combine it with something else, then, if everyone uses them, it becomes too similar and you have to change… It’s fascinating that so much is happening in so little time. We started working on a piece with GPT3 three years ago – now it’s a different story. You never know what is coming.
MŚ: There are several things. One is the economical factor, I think it will be hard for jobs that consist of basically doing standardized, default activities, they will be very soon over. I mean, at the beginning of the century music students were still doing jingles for phones, apparently it was a big business (laughs), but it was gone very soon. Potentially a few film music jobs might be gone in the coming years, already now you can create film music by AI.
MW: There are libraries with loads and loads of atmospheres and sounds.
MŚ: Yeah, but also having AI actually compose, find the cues – eventually it might be not worse than the most mediocre composers working in the field. Another thing is: cars are faster than humans but we still enjoy competing and running–
PTB: I wonder why. (laughs)
MŚ: (laughs) Well, when I say „we” I don’t mean each person… Player piano can perfectly copy the style of Glenn Gould or any other virtuoso, it can take data–
MW: But since when can it do that? I mean, disklavier can do this for so many years and human pianists are still around, loved by audiences. Maybe there we can see that with extinguishing it’s not so quick, that there is a chance left – they will need us, hopefully. (laughs)
MŚ: It’s a bit of a different game. The last thing is: we were talking about advancement and technology, think how it was when photography appeared – Malevich did the black square reacting to it. Probably when AI gets into the field strongly and we become obsolete, we need to find some kind of reference to the black square.
MW: At the beginning, jazz musicians thought that when they got recorded and music released – they wouldn’t play live again because people only need records. There are examples from the past showing it’s not so simple. Also, the cinemas are still there, those black boxes where people go and watch a movie. It’s about communities.
MŚ: There is no denying it will change a lot but we need to adapt.
PTB: Sure, I purposely asked in such a simplified way but all of this is very complex. For example, AI is often trained by people, sometimes not in good conditions (that’s another part of this story). I’m thinking about this being part of the code – you know, some people enjoy listening to a playlist programmed for them, not even programmed but algorithmically generated. I remember talking to a friend, from the field of arts, that at work, in the open space office of course, there had to be some music on, something that eight people sitting there could agree on. So they put on some internet radio, everyone enjoys the music but my friend realized that at the end of the day she doesn’t have a clue about the artists she has been listening to. So I wonder what’s the gain for the creators in this situation…
MŚ: Yeah, but the thing is: is it a question about art or about economy? Economy-wise, it’s going to be a huge thing for the whole society, for example lawyers and surgeons are under threat too at the moment. All this will possibly end with better AI, so we will have to find different jobs or different ways of compensating people and letting them live. Basically, the whole idea of automatization was that we don’t have to work so much.
PTB: But many people are horrified with this idea! (laughs)
MŚ: (laughs) So, what do we come up with then, how do we distribute [money?]. This is the economical question but the artistic one is a different thing. You talked about playlists, but let’s say you have AI that you ask: today I want to listen to something enthusiastic and push me to new heights, invent something for me.
PTB: But it’s already kind of happening, Brian Eno had an app, dunno, ten years ago and way before he wrote something along the lines: at some point future generations will be baffled that in the past we have been listening to the same piece of music again and again. Because he was into generative music, so for him it was obvious it would happen like this. Another question arises then: what do we do with the concept of an artwork or a masterpiece, being something many people can relate to? Let say you have a piece, so a given data set, but through an app it’s adjusted by the data of your mood.
MŚ: Sure, it’s possible.
PTB: Then how do we talk about music?
MŚ: Yeah, it becomes more like… it’s an extension of this kind of track, flow of natural music. On the other hand I think there is still a bit of nostalgia, people listen to the Beatles, to a song that reminds them of something. This all is happening at the same time.
MW: This is exactly the thing – so much is happening at the same time. Because that suddenly changes completely what people have access to, how they listen. But with listening to Spotify or radio I think it’s okay not to be constantly aware of what you are listening to. Because it’s like music is in the air, it’s also ok, you enjoy the music and don’t think about how it was created. But at some point you are fascinated and then you want to know.
PTB: It’s still ok if you enjoy it – worse if not and you can’t change that because it’s in the air. Your city is under a dome (for environmental reasons) and it’s everywhere and you can’t escape.
MW: Oh, this is horrible! I mean, being somewhere with a wrong radio station – I can’t stand it, this is like pollution.