Technology and the instrument

Dack, John ORCID logoORCID: (2002) Technology and the instrument. In: Musik netz werke - Konturen der neuen Musikkultur. Grün, Lydia and Wiegand, Frank, eds. Taschenbuch, Germany, pp. 39-54. ISBN 393312798X. [Book Section]


The chapter ‘Technology and the Instrument' is an expanded version of a conference paper Dack presented at the Humboldt Universität, Berlin. Other contributors to the book are German and the overall subject was the use of technology within both ‘popular' and ‘serious' music.

Dack's chapter drew on both his experiences with the design of new interfaces in the Lansdown Centre and his research interests in French electroacoustic theory with an emphasis on a definition of the ‘instrument' based on Pierre Schaeffer's concept of the ‘pseudo-instrument'. Schaeffer insisted that sound sources in general are not necessarily instruments. This contrasts with commonly held (but naïve) views that computers, mixing desks, turn-tables etc. can be regarded as instruments due to their functions as recording, playback and/or transforming devices. For most contemporary practitioners, therefore, the use of technology prevents an investigation into the ‘ontological' basis of the concept ‘instrument' resulting in the use of unhelpful, simplistic metaphors. By using the concepts of ‘jeu' (play), ‘registers' and ‘timbre' Dack applied Schaeffer's more refined model to contemporary digital technology and demonstrated that the notion of ‘instrument' could only be formulated and defended rigorously if composers and performing musicians transcend the physical objects with which they are interacting and instead create ‘virtual' sources via perception. Consequently, concepts such as ‘timbre' (which is of fundamental importance to all musicians) can be re-appropriated and differentiated from spectral and dynamic evolution. Schaeffer's model also challenges the validity of applying the term ‘instrument' to equipment such as samplers. This chapter, therefore, encourages a re-examination of analogue terminology and its associated modes of thought when applied to contemporary musical/sound art practice based around digital equipment.

The relevance of these researches into virtual ‘instruments' are becoming increasingly urgent with the current popularity of laptop, and circuit-bending ‘performances' within Sonic Art practice.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Electronic and Digital Arts cluster
A. > School of Science and Technology > Computer Science
Item ID: 463
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2008 16:30
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:11

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