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Chapter 9: Live Sonic Arts


The genre of live sonic arts has had many names: live electroacoustic music, instrument and tape, mixed works, and more recently live electronics. In the early 2000's there was great excitement in the air as computers became fast enough to spectrally transform sounds in real time. Applications like C-Sound, PD and Max/MSP seemed to offer composers an unprecedented range of techniques for realising their creative ideas, but few could have predicted just how prescriptive the language of the domain would be. Dennis Smalley came close in stating "By having that visual and sonic focus, you are orienting the listening of the piece. It's going to be centered on the performer, what the instrument does, what sounds the instrument makes. And there's no sense in trying to deny this. You've got to go with it. You can't say, "Well, I'm just going to have a tape piece, and I'm going to put a performer in it." That never works. If the performer appears subsidiary, people say, "Well, why's the performer there?" Let's say there are rules that come with the genre, and if you try and go against these rules you're likely to fail. That's one of the difficulties here." (Austin & Smalley 2000). Now, two decades later, we are beginning to see some quality works emerge.