Vol. 24 Issue 1 Reviews
5th Annual KlangArt "New Music Technology" Congress

Osnabrück, Germany, June 10-13, 1999
Global Village –Global Brain–Global Music

Reviewed by Martin Gieseking (Osnabrück, Germany) and Dr. Albert Gräf (Mainz, Germany)

When international musicians and scientists of different disciplines come together in Osnabrück to report on their research, and concerts are performed by Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream in the evening, then it is time again for the biannual KlangArt Congress and Festival. The 1999 edition of KlangArt, which took place June 10-13 under the direction of Prof. Dr. Bernd Enders and Dr. Joachim Stange-Elbe, was the fifth since 1991. The main theme this year was "Global village–global brain–global music," which of course refers to the famous metaphor of Marshall MacLuhan. This set the framework for a large variety of different subjects in the realm of music technology, presented by more than 40 internationally known experts in the field. With the much discussed topic of globalization, the organizers picked up the thread of the two previous KlangArt congresses, "Digitalization of the media," and "Digitalization of music aesthetics." And, for the first time, it was also possible to follow all lectures live or on the Internet using RealAudio.

Global Music
After the introductory addresses by representatives of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology, the German Music Council, and the University of Osnabrück, the congress started with a keynote lecture by Thomas Troge from the Public University of Music in Karlsruhe. In his talk, entitled "Global Village, Global Brain, Global Music: Reality or Fiction," he criticized the predominant euphoria towards global connectivity–different cultures coming together–and the globalization of music. He discussed the potential risks these trends may incur: "If there is something like Global Music (or a trend in this direction), is this actually desirable, or is it rather a threat to the countless regional and national music cultures?" Further, he asked whether the conception of the "Global Brain" is not just a superficial illusion created by the omnipresent media, which in the end lacks the necessary effort to develop the abstract concepts needed to include extra-European, or non-Western, traditions.

Other speakers, such as Simon Emmerson or Ian Whalley, presented less pessimistic, albeit still critical, views of the influence globalization has had on intercultural efforts. Different cultures have different conceptions of aesthetics and the arts which become apparent when, for example, non-Western musicians come in touch with unknown music technology or, conversely, when Western musicians become acquainted with African or Asian musical instruments. However, as Jobst P. Fricke noted, this examination of foreign culture may actually lead to an expansion and further development of the respective music and its environment.

Besides these intercultural questions, another main focus of the Congress was on the impact of technological progress and world-wide connectivity on musicians, composers, and enterprises. After Oliver Vornberger’s comprehensive talk on current techniques for transmitting and presenting audio-visual data, including virtual realities, there was a lively discussion on proprietary versus open audio and video formats. The predominance of some proprietary compressed formats guarantees the corresponding enterprises a big market share as these formats become increasingly popular in the Internet. The same kind of gold-rush mood is currently unfolding in the realm of virtual libraries and publishing houses. The integration of pictures, video, and audio in hypertext documents, together with the immediate global availability provided by the Internet, opens unforeseen possibilities and markets to these traditional domains. Some impressive examples of this kind of application could be seen in Bernd Enders’ presentation, including the Internet transmission of a hand-written score following along the playback of the music, and a scientific publication prepared for multimedia presentation using video and sound. An interesting question in this context related to the recognition of musical motives in scores, of interest for musicological applications, but also for detecting plagiarism.

Copyright, Distribution, and Media
With regards to plagiarism, there is no doubt that the issue of copyright protection has become one of the main concerns when considering the impact of the global network. Bernd Schabbing discussed the problem of illegal copying of digital media. The ease with which CDs, CD ROMs, and DVDs can be duplicated and spread, flooding the market with pirate copies, is forcing governments and institutions to strive for an international copyright agreement. However, in the face of widely differing legal views, it remains questionable whether such an international law can be implemented in the near future. This was also stressed by Alex Merck, editor of the specialist journal ProductionPartner, who then discussed the impact of the Internet as an alternative distribution channel for music, a development which has been triggered by the spread of compressed audio formats, most notably mp3. In fact, similar problems arise in the context of the new digital radio format, DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), which also uses a compressed digital audio encoding based on the MPEG format, and is capable of distributing accompanying multimedia data services as well. This medium was considered in the technical talk by Albert Gräf, who also discussed some of the planning problems pertaining to DAB broadcasting, which is expected to replace current analog radio in Europe and in other countries world-wide in the future.

The Internet as a distribution and communication channel for music was also discussed by Karlheinz Essl, who showed how he used worldwide connectivity for compositional purposes. "By documenting the respective state of the artistic work and reflecting on it on a website, the hermetic process of composing ‘in splendid isolation’ mutates to a transparent process which everybody can look at." Besides the development of closed compositions, the Internet is also a platform well suited for realizing "works in progress," in which multiple musicians and artists from other branches work together and continuously develop a composition without ever arriving at a final result. Such online forms of art also call for their own distribution channels, which make increasing use of web browsers as front ends, including the presentation of scores. In this context, new questions concerning aesthetics have been raised from different perspectives (Georg Hajdu, Eric Lyon/Hisagazu Igarashi, John Palmer, Thomas Noll/Jörg Garbers, Norbert Schläbitz).

A comparatively early experience with performing a concert worldwide was reported by the well-known composer and conductor, Eberhard Schöner, who gave a talk on the significance of "anima" for the new global medium. In his ground-breaking project, Mr. Schöner conducted a live concert in which musicians from Japan and Germany communicated and played synchronously over a satellite connection. One of the main technical obstacles of this performance, which dates back to 1985, was the latency period, just as it is in live performances on the Internet today.

And More
Given the large number of diverse topics covered by the congress, we can only summarize the other subjects very briefly. One important theme was centered on the new possibilities of soundscape compositions using environmental sounds, presented by Hildegard Westerkamp, Barry Truax, and Nye Parry. Other interesting talks were about novel forms of performing music with interactive instruments (Joel Chadabe), and computer-based composition and analysis (Christian Spevak, Ioannis Zannos, Hae Jeong Yoon). The participants could also learn about the history of music technology in lectures given by Hans-Peter Haller, Christoph Reuter/Wolfgang Voigt, and Hans-Joachim Braun, while new concepts in music theory were discussed by Guerino Mazzola, Joachim Stange-Elbe, and Heiner Klug. More than in past years, a major thread of the congress was concerned with applications in the realm of music education. Some typical topics in this area were music education in primary school (Bernhard Müßgens/Tillman Weyde), using sequencers (Bernhard Cronenberg) and the Internet (Peer Sitter) in music classes, and a review of multimedia software for music education (Reinhard Kopiez). Jøran Rudi and John Fitch presented synthesis/recording programs for educational purposes, Karl-Jürgen Kemmelmeyer discussed experiments using MIDI and computer, and Martin Gieseking gave a talk on the design of graphic user interfaces for music education software.

Congress Concerts
New to this year’s KlangArt were the concerts, which provided concrete demonstrations of the artistic works described in accompanying talks, and which complemented the festival events such as the Tangerine Dream concert and the impressive "Amorphic Robot Works" by Chico MacMurtrie. Mark Bromwich and Julie Wilson Bokowiec presented their "Bodycoder System," with which the dancing artist can manipulate audio-visual compositional material that is presented during the performance. The 20-minutes dance performance of Ms. Wilson Bokowiec gave an impressive demonstration of the system’s capabilities. The second part of this concert was made up of André Ruschkowski's "virtual sightseeing tour SALZBURGTRUM," which was concerned with the "complexity of human spatial perception and its interaction in the town of Salzburg." Without the accompanying talk, however, one could not gain much from this performance, and the supporting video was not particularly meaningful. The live computer performance by Karlheinz Essl and the piano concert by Jan Beran on the following evening were rather more intriguing.

Since the first congress in 1991, KlangArt has always been a forum not only for established researchers but also for the new generation of academics. Thus, as in preceding years, postgraduates had the opportunity to present their research in short talks called "paper sessions." The joint dinner enabled the participants to establish contacts with international guests in a pleasant atmosphere, a non-virtual experience which, despite major advances in technology, the Internet still cannot provide. The closing event was the panel discussion about the main theme of the congress, presented by Guerino Mazzola with Simon Emmerson, Bernd Enders, Niels Knolle, Alex Merck, Norbert Schläbitz and Thomas Troge. Interested people with a connection to the Internet had the opportunity to follow the discussion and participate in it using the web-based chat client of the university. As expected, opinions were divided into two streams. On the one hand, the skeptics primarily saw the disadvantages globalization has for regional cultures and moral concepts, and described the efforts to define new forms of art through the global network as fairly immature patchwork. On the other hand, most of the speakers emphasized the positive possibilities the global net offers for future music culture. Norbert Schläbitz made an attempt to give a new definition of the work of art in a virtual community.

In spite of this year’s theme and the different visions of globalization offered by the Internet, the congress showed once again that it does not reduce itself to absurdity by not taking place in cyberspace. Rather, we find that the new technology only has a supplementary effect which opens up fruitful new areas, and, despite many anxieties, only rarely contributes to the immediate and complete removal of proven concepts and personal contacts, whether in music or more generally in the social life of humankind.

The complete congress program and the abstracts of the talks can be found on the KlangArt homepage (http://www.musik.uni-osnabrueck.de/veranstaltungen/klangart).