Edmund Campion: Human / Expression / Emotion / Technology / Machine / Me
Lisa Wymore: Hello everyone, we're so glad you're here. Welcome to Letters and Sciences 25 class, Creativity and Practice. Today we're livestreaming and recording the event, and we're so excited to welcome Ed Campion. I want to just acknowledge that this event is cosponsored by Berkeley Arts and Design, the Center for New Music and Audio Technology, and Cal Performances.
And just a quick plug from Cal Performances, this evening there's an amazing group, Colin Currie--Colin Currie Group, Synergy Vocals, a Steve Reich Celebration, and it's going to involve "18 Musicians," and they're going to be playing some beautiful works, so we encourage you to go see that performance this evening, and it's partly why we have Ed here today, to really perk up your senses around music and how we think about the human in connection to our technology, the human in connection to our machines. Cal Performances co-sponsorship is part of a program called Illuminations, and this event is entitled--part of the Human Machine series, so check that out on Cal Performance's site. They'll have a bunch of other events connected to this theme and topic.
But I'd like to introduce Ed now. His talk is titled, up on the screen, "Human/Expression/Emotion/ Technology/Machine and Me." And Ed came up in the age in the 1970s, a time when recording technologies and new electronic instruments were transforming the ways musicians make and perform music. In this discussion today we will engage Ed, who's the director of the Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, and trace reoccurring stories of human technology, disruptions--and disruptions that continue to upend and transform music and music making in our current moment. Ed is currently Professor of Music, Composition, and Director of the Center, of CNMAT.
And his music explores the relationships between sound and space, creations that often involve the careful mixing of acoustic instruments with emerging computer technologies. He has been active as a performing artist, major software developer, and collaborating artist for over 25 years. He's also a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and has composed for the Contemporary Gugak Orchestra, an ensemble of 15 musicians performing on ancient Korean instruments. In 2015 the ensemble Intercontemporain co-commissioned Campion and audiovisual artist Kurt Hentschlager for a 25-minute piece called "Cluster X."
He has worked in multi-media pieces for the Philharmonie de Paris and many other compositions and awards have been given to Ed that I won't go through in detail, but his entire biography can be found on the Arts and Design website, we'll be sure to share that with you. We're just so excited to have you here, Ed, and in our class on Thursday we explored more from the visual perspectives of film and interactivity with projection, sort of themes around how technology extends our biological body through expanding how we interact in the world with the virtual and the real and extending what it's capable of, looking at different way projection can enhance the body. We also looked at the ways technology transforms the body with looking at artists that even do very radical allowing of their body to be inhabited by technological machinery or mechanisms and changing the actual tissue of the body of the human.
And then also another theme of our class on Thursday was looking at how the machine and human coming together can be part of an immersion strategy, where we work to collaborate with our technology to better connect ourselves to others and to innovate new ways of using existing technology as well, thinking about ways we subvert or change, you know, technology that can be found in just the consumer marketplace and artists that have utilized those strategies. And also CNMAT has built a lot of open source software and systems that are utilized by many artists, and Ed's going to touch on that a bit and that ethos of the sharing and open exchange of technological making with art. So, welcome, Ed, we're so happy to have you. [audience applauding] Edmund Campion: Let's see, can everybody hear me okay? Okay, so now you know I'm a composer, I'm an artist, I live in 2022 just like you. About to turn that year again.
I see it's week 12, everybody's got really droopy eyes. Like, "Can we--can we please have a break?" But no, Berkeley doesn't let you have a break, you have to stay with it all the way through the book-- I heard that. So, hello, everybody fine? My main point today--I like to fly without notes, the reason I do that is because I'm a musician, I'm a performer.
In order to do that I have to connect with you, I have to talk to you, I have to share with you a few things. I'm not a scholar, I'm a performer and a composer. I've been doing this for 30 years, it was a dream of mine all of my life when I was a kid, when I turned--hello? Okay, little tech there.
When I turned to my high school years, something extraordinary happened in this country that blew the top off of music, and that's what I want to talk about in the first part of my discussion. In the second part of my discussion I want you to look at a few pieces, very short, that I've done. So, this is going to be a rapid flyby of a lot of different materials. Stick with me, and I think that you'll find at the end of what we're doing that you know something about sound and music that you didn't know before. And furthermore I am hoping that you will know something that you cannot find on the web. So, it is something personal in that regard, and there is my slash--use of slashes for the title.
And I just want to point out there that those aren't just random slashes, that's more like a URL. You know what a URL--that's the basis of the internet, right? So, do you know what URL stands for? Mina Girgis: Uh, yes. [Edmund laughing] Edmund: I knew that you would, that's why I was-- Mina: It's the unified record locator, or universal. Edmund: That's close, that's close.
Uniform. Mina: Uniform record locator. Edmund: Uniform record locator, and I am the uniform record locator for the day, okay? So, I am going to control your minds with my slides. So, here we go.
Surrounding all of this is the topic that I know the best, which is music. But the purpose of where we're going in the next few minutes is not me, it is we. It is Professor Greg Niemeyer, it is Professor Lisa Wymore, and we are headed into a conversation together. We have worked together over the years in different capacities and as colleagues for decades now.
We know a lot about what goes on in UC Berkeley, we are all practicing artists, and we have all had to deal with the emergence of technology and huge cultural change. What I'm going to show you in this first part of the talk has to do with the cultural change that I experienced when I was a teenager in high school that blew my socks off and changed me and me want to devote my life to music, and which I did. On with the story. Music. Let's listen to this together, and then I'd like-- there's some microphones in the house, I'd like to get some comments from you.
I'm going to play you something, I want you to pay attention to the two men who are performing here. And I want you to think about-- just observing what they are doing, and try to make some clear observation, and let's hear from you what you observed here. They're making music, I would say or I would guess. [high-pitched, undulating flute music] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: Okay, let's have the microphones. So, Mina, I'm afraid to ask you, because we're only going to change positions, right? You're going to give us a lecture about what we're doing. That's not what we're doing here.
So, somebody, just tell me something you noticed, anything about what was going on there. What did you see, what were they doing, how were they doing it? And you can use that microphone, just--yes, right here. speaker 1: It seemed like one person was leading, and then the other--like, the one with the higher--or the instrument that makes the higher notes was leading. Edmund: Absolutely, so there's communication going on. But what are they doing, exactly? Like, what are they communicate--how are they making those determinations? Lisa: Use the mike, please.
speaker 2: They're breathing together. Edmund: Oh, absolutely. And did you notice that there was something special about their breathing, that they were not stopping as they played? That's really hard to do, right? They were drawing air through their nose and continuing to push air into a piece of technology that they're holding which is well over 5,000 years, and forgive if I'm--don't have that correct, that's the arghul, right? And that's from the pharaonic Egyptian time.
And here is something similar to that, just a simple reed tube, right, with some holes drilled into it. That's a piece of technology, and these guys are breathing in this way that is circular, so they're able to draw the breath in, hold it into their mouth, and keep the sound going without pause, endless. And did you notice that the fellow sitting next to them with the tea, of course, having--he was really moved by it. And I'm thinking, that's really interesting, because he's probably one of the musicians, and he's played this stuff a thousand times, and he's sitting there, like, grooving on it. And you're wondering, how is that possible after a lifetime of playing the arghul, that you would have this listening experience, okay? So, anything else that you notice? One more thing, anybody. Blurt it out.
What about this thing that they're holding? Obviously, there's some--there's a piece that goes in here, and the source is the mouth, right? Anything else? Okay. speaker 2: They're achieving trance. Edmund: You already spoke. speaker 2: I didn't say that. Edmund: What about the sound itself? Did you have any feelings about the sound that was being made? I mean, it was very bright, it was very nasally, it was-- it was--yes, Greg.
Greg Niemeyer: It was free and unbridled. Edmund: Yeah, it was floating, right? And you could--yeah, you could sense it in the other guy's emotional response to the sound. He went...
Ah, when he came down, he went like that, you know. It was there, right? So, music has this effect, maybe not all music, I don't know, but this music definitely does. So, Deirdre Loughridge is a professor at Northeastern, talks about 40,000 years of music technology and has a course called, "From Bone Flute to Autotune." Okay, and we go back 40,000 years, all the way down here on the left side is the bone flute. Forty thousand years old, it's just, well, maybe human bone with some holes drilled in it, okay? An instrument, a device. That device is an extension, in some way, of the human body, okay? And so, going back to the arghul and the gentlemen playing, you can see it's not in the technology, it's in the body, okay? The technology is just this little--this thing doesn't do anything, okay? But it takes a lot of knowledge on different levels.
For example, check this. [loud, trilling flute music] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: All right, how many of you think that that's a good musician? Raise your hand, okay. I think I do, all right.
There's something else. What is his instrument? speaker 3: It's a straw. Edmund: It's a straw, a plastic straw. Which are no longer allowed, by the way.
But, yes, he has one, and, yes, he has carved into it a few holes, and the thing is beautiful. Why is it beautiful? It's not the straw, folks, okay. It's not the straw. It's the human, all right? It's the human.
Now, I'm going to make some statements, they're probably crazy, probably wrong, it doesn't matter. That's the great thing about being art--artistic and artful. You know, you don't have to really have a methodology.
Here it is, musicians own their sound in body and action. Take it or leave it. Nuanced and interlaced vestiges are communicated directly to the listener-viewer's body, okay? Listening and making--and experiencing music is not simply a mental activity, it's a physical activity, as F. Murray Schafer said, that sound is touching at a distance, it's about sensing distance and feeling things, okay? The act of hearing is immediate compared to that of visual interpretation.
We can turn away, I can turn away from you, I do not see you anymore, but I cannot turn away from sound. It engulfs me. The performance becomes a shared experience. Okay, performance is one of our topics, guys. You know, why do we go to performances? And I can tell you, if you go this evening to hear the Steve Reich, the Colin Currie Ensemble playing the "Music for 18 Musicians," you're going to be stunned by it, okay, that's all I'm going to say, stunned. This is one of the seminal figures of the 20th century composers, okay.
The piece "Music for 18 Musicians" transformed people's lives, including mine. I hope I can show up. Through empathy the listener becomes the performer. Oh, that's an interesting idea, right? And it's true. Whenever we see a sporting event, we don't just feel it, we run with the player or we shoot the basket.
We occupy the body of the athlete, and we do so in sound. Sound is a direct communicator, it's very intense and deeply layered. For a period of time the listener occupies another space within the human umwelt; Greg? Greg: Environment.
Edmund: Thank you. How many people know what an umwelt is? Something out out of biology, right? Umwelt is an interesting one, because we take all the senses we have, hearing, touch, smell, all of these things have limits, constraints, lengths of possibility, and we combine them, and we create our reality, our world, and that's a human umwelt. But the bat and the dog and the bee and the flea all have seriously, completely different umwelts, okay? What I'm saying here is that when you experience performance, and when I mean--when I say performance here in this topic, I mean great experience of sound. When you experience that, you are injected into another's umwelt. This happens with art as well. This happens when we go into an art exhibit and we're transformed by what's there, we're transfixed.
But here's the cool thing, we can leave, right? It's not so science-fictiony. Because we don't want to become Kim Kardashian, right? But we might like to occupy her umwelt for, like a minute. I don't mean that provocatively.
Sorry. [low drumbeats, increasing in speed and volume] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: The three drummers, the physicality in this new addition, which is the extension of baton, right? The extension of the arm, the addition of energy, right? The object, the instrument, the technology, right? A rock, a stick, whatever it is, right, "2001." [sings theme of "2001: A Space Odyssey"] Okay.
The greatest music synthesizer we know, the human voice, okay? So, let's leave technology, go back to the voice just a second. On the left is the singer Yma Sumac; on the right is a sound spectrogram analyzing her voice as she sings. How do you read this spectrogram? Well, it's done in frequency over on the right hand side there, right this way, 500 Hertz to 4,000 Hertz. You know, humans can hear from 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz. But notice it's just in this small range that the energy of the human voice exists. Not coincidentally, that same energy is where human speech is most audible.
So, let's watch the energy unfold, and you will see one thing. Human singing voice is not a single note or tone, it's a complex mixture of noise, tone, upper frequencies, lower frequencies, et cetera. [Yma Sumac singing in foreign language] [singing in foreign language] [singing in foreign language] [singing in foreign language] [singing] [singing] [singing] [singing] [popping lips] announcer: Our thanks to Yma Sumac of Peru for her perfect performance. Edmund: Okay, so what did you--what did I say? Do you have any questions, quick questions about what you just saw? Do you understand what you just saw? Okay, that's important to go forward. So, the human voice is a complex thing.
I'm going to suggest that everything I'm going to talk about from here on out has to do with that fact. And I want to point out again that it only occupies a small region of the frequency space that humans, our umwelt is much wider than that. But the musical umwelt, so to speak, is only this wide.
It's very small, in fact. Lisa: Quick-- Edmund: Are we running out of time? Lisa: No, I have a question for you. In people who study music like you do and scholars of music, when does--when is something considered, you know, vocals or singing as opposed to, like, making sounds with her, you know, your voice or your tongue or your other parts of, like, when does it--when is--is there a distinction between vocal singing, and when does it become body music or instrumentation, or is there any different categories? Edmund: We've got some more slides, but I think that the short answer is that there's a difference between singing and making noises, and we saw that Yma Sumac, when she made noises, she--that the energy was everywhere. It was like a wash, like a waterfall.
But when she sang, we saw these bands of frequencies, and those are due to the fact that you have the glottal frequency generator, and it's making harmonic sounds. And so, wind instruments like this are also harmonic, and as well as string instruments, they all exhibit harmonic qualities. But percussion instruments are by nature quite percussive. What I'm pointing out here is that the human voice can do it all, and it does. And now I would say no one sees the difference.
I mean, you listen to Kendrick Lamar very carefully, you listen to someone who understands noise as much as singing, as much as speaking, it's all one thing. So, the human voice and breath provides a model for extensions of performance outside the body. [speaking in foreign language] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [chanting in foreign language] [chanting in foreign language] [chanting in foreign language] Edmund: So, literally the voice is transformed into a talking drum, okay? This extension of instruments out of the voice into the world is a pattern that occurs globally. [speaking rapidly in foreign language] [speaking rapidly in foreign language] [speaking rapidly in foreign language] ♪♪♪ Edmund: Get the idea? Everything defined through the human voice there.
The instrument itself is speaking. Technology, tools emerge from human activities, they have been transform--I'm going to speed up so we can have this conversation completely intact. Tools emerge from human activities, they have been transforming and screwing with us since the beginning. But tools can then take on a life of their own and even remake the toolmaker, right? So, it's not a one way street, I didn't make this and then I was done.
No, it came back, it remade me, and then I remade it, and then it remade me, and before long we've lost track of this, and I've became, you know, a modern day clarinet. I was making this PowerPoint, and then PowerPoint started throwing up these suggestions to me. Rewrite your--you know? It was an AI kind of thing, right? Here's your 12 choices for design, right? Everybody's seen that? So, now it's like from the top to the bottom. They have been screwing with us on the bottom.
I don't know, I read the other way around, but then the technology goes in a circle. This one seemed to work, yeah. It's circular, right? We have technology, we build, we emerge from human activities, and then it screws with us, and we didn't know that the little Blue Twitter thing was going to now rule existence.
Okay, we didn't know that. Part two. First, any other--any quick questions about that? All right, we're get--we're getting somewhere, maybe. Enter the composer, Edmund Campion, Director of the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, back to the future in the '70s forward.
This is the crux of the deal, okay, this is the day that you get to see something that you've never seen before, right? Something that happened to me in a pre-internet space of time that you know nothing about. You may read about it, but you don't know it. I'm going to--I was there.
I was in the room. In 1971 I was an aspiring musician starting high school. It was at a moment during the late stages of the Vietnam War when the great musician Edgar Winter recorded and performed this song.
[soulful piano music] ♪♪♪ ♪ You know I've heard it said there's beauty in distortion ♪ ♪ by some people who withdraw to find their head. ♪ ♪ Now they say that there is humor in misfortune. ♪ ♪ You know, I wonder if they'll laugh when I am dead. ♪ ♪ Why-- ♪♪ Edmund: Vietnam protest song, sounds like music, doesn't it, right? It sounds predictable to us, we recognize it, we may even, if we know something about styles, we may go back to New Orleans, we may go back to gospel, we realize the blues, we realize all these influences. Seems like music to me as I was taught it.
I would not have dedicated myself to music because of that, even though I do love it, okay? So, so what happened? The next year, in 1972, the ARP 2600 Synthesizer was released. There were only 100 made, Edgar Winter got one. What happened? Next year. "Frankenstein" is released, the Edgar Winter Group, 1973. [distorted, synthesized music] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: Little Eddie Campion, what do you want for Christmas? Mom, I want an ARP 2600. If I get one of those--I got to have one.
In fact, I did. It was broken, but I did manage to get one, and I was able to DIY it to work. And that--and I became really part of the generation explosion. Ha, I used the PowerPoint suggestion.
These phenomenon transformed the music-making during the '60s and '70s were largely due to the arrival of new tools and attitudes towards technology. Not entirely, we saw the war, we knew it was disruptive just like our current moment in a lot of ways. It all coincided with the most influential years as a young musician for me personally. I mistakenly thought this was what music was about. I thought that's what music was. It was the space of transformation and research and change, and it was the--it was people like Edgar Winter that completely blew my mind, because one year they were doing this, and the next this.
Let's go back and let's listen to Herbie Hancock. [jazzy piano music] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: I'd call that jazz, would you? Yeah, would you call it jazz? I'd call that jazz. That's starting to hit jazz. This guy, this young, 24 year old's right on top of it, right? King of jazz in 1964. What was he doing after 20 years of this technological assault? Here, he released "Rockit" in 1983. [rhythmic synthesized music] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: It ain't jazz no more. ["Rockit" continues] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Edmund: Sorry. Yeah, transformed, okay.
In the '80s the groups like Kraftwerk invented new aesthetics to meet the arrival of the utopic embrace of the technological in music. This is an interesting one. [sparse electronic melody] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [singing in foreign language] ♪♪♪ [singing in foreign language] ♪♪♪ Edmund: Kraftwerk eventually rid themselves of the human, a logical conclusion of their experiment involving the full embrace of utopic technologies for music. ♪ We are the robots ♪ [bouncy electronic melody] ♪ We are the robots ♪ ♪ We are the robots ♪ ♪ We're functioning, automatic ♪ ♪ And we are dancing mechanic ♪ ♪ We are the robots ♪ Edmund: Today pervasive technologies envelop and even define the musicians.
For most, like Beck, human machine connection is key to the work that they do. Not gonna play the whole thing or we'll run out of time. Just look at the setting and what surrounds the musicians. [discordant layers of music] ♪♪♪ speaker 4: Ready? speaker 5: Yeah. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ These toys are all lifeless ♪ ♪ The armor's worn off ♪ ♪ The shadow-- ♪ Edmund: What has the tectonic shift in music/technology/ human/machine left of the 65-year-old pre-internet composer Edmund Campion? We're almost done. You notice in the Beck that technology is now hybridized completely? It's integrated with the human again, whereas with the Kraftwerk there was a separation, there was an acknowledgement even to the point of a kind of hilarity in a way that it was so extreme, it was kind of funny, you know, to us.
It wasn't funny to them, I don't think, at that time. But anyway, they're still playing out there. But what about this guy, you know? How--or what about any artist? And that's what I want to talk to you guys about, at least one of the points. So, here I am at a New Media Center in New York City cooperating with Claudia Hart. I'm playing the piano, and there's a whole lot going on, and suddenly it's all media, it's all stuff.
It's "Rockit," you know? [multiple voices echoing and overlapping] I'm sure those are not the right words. I'm sure those are not the right words. I'm sure those are not the right words.
I'm sure those are not the right words. I'm sure those are not the right words. I must be Mabel after all. [echoing] I will have to be Mabel. I must be Mabel after all.
I must be Mabel after all. I will have to be Mabel. [echoing] [repeated] I will ever count this blessing. Ever count this blessing. Ever count this blessing. Ever count this blessing.
Ever count this blessing. [echoing] No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I've made up my mind about-- Edmund: Wearing our rip-offs of the Oskar Schlemmer.
Everything is borrowed from history in that piece, everything is mixing together in a total hybridity, and here's the key word: collaborative. We are collaborative now, and we are sharing our art-making amongst ourselves and within ourselves and with you. The listener is now an interactive participant, right? All of these things have come in our lifetime, and I'm not going to show that one. We're online, we're in VR environments. ♪♪♪ Edmund: We're mixing data of dancers--professional wrestlers and ballerinas. We're hybridizing new creatures online with dancers.
♪♪♪ That's Claudia Hart, by the way. And now I go back to where I started, which is I'm interested in ancient technologies because of this very reason, okay? These things are where it comes from, and it still is the thing. It takes a human being, it takes the processing, it takes an idea. It doesn't take a piece of reed instrument, necessarily.
I could use a straw, but I have to practice, right? So, I went to Korea, and I brought back-- [high-pitched melody] Edmund: This is a little-- instrument-- but it's just a decorative thing. Take a look at it, and think of it like a ship that goes through time, and it carries with it not just an instrument, but a lot of messages, okay? Just pass that around, try not to drop it. It's like a--it's a--you know, coffee table piece.
Anyway, I composed for that. It took me two years to do that. I wanted to learn these instruments, not because I have a special connection to Korean culture, it's because I was invited to do it, and also, I really want--I really understood these things as special forms of technology.
And they were just as important to me as MIDI controllers or sensors on my body or any of these things. So, here's "Natural Frequencies" with Professor Greg Niemeyer, Ken Goldberg, and Ed Campion in 19--in 2015. We took over the Carillon with data from seismic information coming live from the Geologic Center--what? Greg: Seismograph from the Geography Department. Edmund: Geography Department provided the data. Greg: Yeah.
Edmund: And we--Greg did the lighting, Meyer Sound did the sound, and we had live performance. So, now I lost my-- [no music] Hmm, sound went away. Well, that's probably a cue. Because you can see, it's totally multimedia. So, finally, we're here. Lisa Wymore, Greg Niemeyer, and Ed Campion are artists who do, what? Lisa: Play.
Edmund: Thank you. Lisa: Greg Niemeyer's going to come up and join us in conversation. As those who are out in watching the stream--Greg Niemeyer's a professor in our campus and he's my co-teacher in this class, and, yeah, we're going to join the conversation now. And I will be monitoring the Q and A as well.
All right. I think we're on, is this working? Yeah, all right. That was so great. Thank you, Ed. It was bringing me back, the Kraftwerk, and the Herbie Hancock.
And I was thinking about being a kid. Edmund: --Later? Greg: That was a beautiful song, thank you. There's so many themes that came up. One of them that came up was appropriation or appreciation of different musical traditions, and there was so many moments where you brought in music from different cultures and from yours.
How does that work for you? What are the dynamics for collaboration across cultures? Edmund: Well, I don't want to disparage the idea of identities and cultures and all of these discourses, but my primarily connection to all of them is through the materiality of sound. And I connect immediately to what's going on in that materiality, and I learned how to do sound, and I learned, really, about that human quality from that. Certainly that was not something that came from the conservatory education. Lisa: Right, and maybe through the study of the materiology too, you--as we were talking about artifacts, we were talking about what is in the archive and what we leave and make in the world, our materiality is an extension of who we are and our culture.
And so, in coming in contact and working these technologies in their material forms, you can gain so much information in exchange at that level. Edmund: Yeah, what was it that I--how would I-- give me a second to put that--I'm not sure. Maybe another question. I had my mind somewhere, it had something to do with--yeah, when I was 17, I looked at, you know, Herbie Hancock, the 1964 one, and I said, "I got to do that."
And I studied my chord progressions, and I did all this, and I realized at some point that I was just mimicking a cultural identity. Like, I was not a jazz musician, I had no reason to be doing that. And that's when I discovered this idea of sound and materiality and exchange, and what I would call really it comes down to research. And that's what I was saying when--in the '70s what happened to me was I got blown away, because I thought, that's it.
I don't have to be a rock musician, I don't have to be a jazz musician, I don't have to have a genre at all. I can be a researcher musician, I can look in the material, and I can find something on the edges of that umwelt, which, hopefully, if you were to come to one of my performances, which you can in February if you look around at the Cal Performances, you can come, and you can experience a little bit of, you know, Ed Campion's umwelt. And you might say, "I'm getting out of here," but that's okay.
It's me, you know, it's the sharing. Lisa: Well, there's something I really resonated too, what you were talking about, how technology changes our bodies and we then transform technology, and I just--I just got taken back to being a kid, lying on the ground at my house, listening to Jean-Michel Jarre. And it was just, you know, you talk about music touching you, I don't know why that electronic music just really--there's something about the frequency or what's going on there that really spoke to me too. I had a--kind of a waking up moment around that and got very much into how technology influences us, but particularly, and what I shared on Thursday, more digital, more visual. But is this how the body fits in there was always a great question.
Edmund: Well, it's the nature of sound, I would say, because when you--we know that when you look at a painting, great painting, you have to be with it, right? You have to enter it and be with it pretty deeply. But sound, you can enter on any number of levels. You could walk by it, and it's still engulfing you. It can be how you do the dishes or do your studies, which I know it is for a lot of people in this room, you need that sound. But it can also be something that directly mainlines to your emotional states, right? It can be, like, the ride of your life if you know how to listen.
So, that's what I--I think that's the big difference, it's immediate, and the art world has always depended on--it's a thinking space. You know, it's always dependent on deep thinking about what is Egon Schiele doing there, exactly? It's not just the picture of the woman or the prostitute, right? It's something else. Like, what's going on, or what did Van Gogh do, what is he doing? Lisa: Or in relationship to the artists before. But music does that too.
Edmund: Yes, it does, it does. Lisa: It's referencing and commenting and situating itself in its milieu and how it is different and evolving. Edmund: Yes, it does, and we often don't think of Van Gogh as a researcher. We think of him as a crazy painter who's invented something wild and crazy. No, he's a researcher thinking about color and thinking about the meaning of a material that he's working with.
He's serious about the research, there's no question. Greg: There's huge gaps that we experience as we--the way the world looks and the way we experience it and-- Edmund: Well, the way we're told about it. Greg: And the way we're--yeah, but it's supposed-- we're told it's all about, what it actually is doing, and those gaps we've tried to bridge through creative research sometimes, and then when we find a connection, sometimes we can present that in an audience. You know, one sound that I heard that I'll never forget was the sound of tons of rocks being dropped in the middle of the night while a dam was being built deep in Kenya, and that's because the dam is being built 24 hours, 7 days a week, and so, so these people are working there, are bringing rocks to fill the dam, you know, up, and it's a huge operation.
I was standing in the middle of pitch black night, and all around me were these 20-ton trucks moving those rocks around and dumping them and loading them and people screaming and yelling at each other, saying, "Put them here, put them there," in a mix of Chinese and Swahili, and it was quite an intense experience, because it was the screaming of the world, it was the screaming of global capital, it was the screaming of, you know, rocks being pulled out of the earth and the world being changed to fit our needs and very much to the detriment of the people who live there. And so, that sound is the sound of injustice as well, and so that sound has been haunting me and propelling me to keep making me work. And it's a very uncomfortable sound sometimes. And so, I was wondering if there's any sounds such as--thinking of purpose, you know, any sounds that propel you and inform your purpose. Edmund: There are, but you fell into the umwelt of the machines and the rocks and the whole thing. And everything you thought about makes sense with that sound.
It spoke. Greg: It spoke, but it didn't speak something that I wanted to hear. It wasn't nice, no, it was not nice. Edmund: It screamed at you.
For me, I'd have to say it was nice. It was going to a concert of a group called Weather Report in the 1970s and hearing Jaco Pastorius occupy a stage for 45 minutes with a solo bass. And he just played, and there were 500 people, and we were all crying. It was--it was one of the great moments of my life.
And, again, at that age I thought, this is what music is, right? We'll be doing this every week for the rest of our lives. Nope. I was--I--you know, I happened to hear something that day.
Lisa: It's so interesting looking at your two examples that they're both working with what we would call machines, in a way, the human and machine of the cello and the human and the-- Edmund: Bass. Lisa: Bass, sorry, and then the human with the machines, the bulldozer. Both had different intentions for use but are totally emergent with us as humans transforming our environment for purposes of sonic beauty or experience or being moved in an emotional level or using the human and the machine to change something that is going to affect some kind of market system or monetary situation or supposed need for water, but maybe it's not for the community. But that's interesting because of this topic of human and the machine just to see the interplay that we have with our machines, but they have totally different--there can be such different intention for them, and yet they impact us so deeply. Edmund: It's completely recursive now. We're circling-- we're circulating.
Lisa: But do you think--I think it's always been recursive, don't you think? Edmund: I do, I do, but it's different because of the AI thing and because of what we're getting back from the machines and how we have to defend ourselves now from them. And so, the idea of my Center, Center for New Music and Audio Technology that I direct, the idea of its origin cannot be the idea of its continuation. We are not providing--you know, we do not have a utopic vision, Kraftwerkian vision of what technology will give us in music, we do not. What we do have is a sharing aesthetic, an aesthetic of making things that we share with the world both as artistic artifacts, but also as tools that others can use, and they're free. They're not involved in trying to build, you know, a commodified entity that we will then make more of what we already have.
We really want a--we want to show that there are limits--there are extensions of the envelope to what is possible with music. And here's, I guess, the, you know, the inversion of what I've been saying. I actually believe that what happened to me in the 1970s is what music is about and what art is about. We must change, and even though we might like Beethoven and we may think Beethoven is fantastic, which I do, it's not going to be sufficient to deal with what we need to do now.
We have to deal with the stuff in front of us, and that stuff is technological, it is media driven, and now it has--I wouldn't say sentience, but it has something going on, and we have to be careful about it, and we have to deal with it. We can't say, oh, it's all wonderful. It's not. Lisa: Is that what's sort of driving sort of the CNMAT's--because I'm an artist that works a lot with off the shelf kind of technology, or somebody's made it for me and we're going to--my company and I will build something with that. As opposed to CNMAT, I think it's really about building something new, not worrying if it's going to be sold or not and really sharing it. But it's a--is there something about that, a freedom? I mean, because I have a sort of a freedom too of using a technology that wasn't intended, like using camera systems not for gaming, but for different practices in my art making.
But there's something about that, the interplay between things that are already built and made and artists kind of subverting them or artists in CNMAT trying to actually stay out of that whole market driven system and build something new. Edmund: Hard to know what--we're a community, people do different things in a community. But I can say from my own point of view that I have the capability of making a lowrider like a Chicano, you know, but I'm not a Chicano, you know. I could do it, I could build a car, I could reposition it, I could add hydraulics, and I could make all kinds of physical modulations. I could repeat the patterns of that work, and that would do nothing for me, ultimately. That would be a-- Lisa: Because it's not part of your culture or what you're doing.
Edmund: Kind of like a genre or something, I could do a genre. Greg: That would be an appropriation, right, it would miss its purpose. Edmund: But it wouldn't mean anything, you know, except it would be kind of offensive maybe to some people, but-- Greg: You can do your own thing, though. Edmund: Yeah, but in the case of CNMAT we're talking about a DIY kind of thing in which you get to extend your fingers the way you think you want them to be, right? You get to extend and build objects around you, hybridized technologies that are really, really peculiar to your artform. And that is the key, I think, and that's something similar. It is identity, it is culture, but it's a very different thing from the--the lowriding culture, the Chicanos where there's a lot of identity, group identity.
I think CNMAT is a diffuse set of individuals who are doing very different things, but they are bound maybe by this one thing, that you're going to invent something, and you're going to invent something, so. Lisa: So, less so about building--well, I guess the culture that's being built is a culture of individual expression through the technology that's being created. Edmund: Yeah, and also, it's destined to failure for most, because one person cannot be a full cultural identity.
I mean, by occupying the world of jazz, one is assured to get that level, right, to occupy that genre. But if you have no genre, you are only occupying your research. It's very independent, and so what you can get maybe are little--what the French say the "étincelles," you know, the little sparks, you know.
And we like to go and find sparks, and we can't really claim that I'm always sparking, folks, because I'm not. Greg: There's--different times need different sounds and need us to listen to different new things, like you said earlier. And to be able to hear those things, sometimes we need to have a new aesthetic that is attuned to new things, or else sometimes we need to have new instruments that are able to amplify new kinds of dynamics and bring them to the foreground. And in doing so we can give ourselves but also others voice and help others find voice themselves, to express things that never were quite expressed before.
Edmund: Just think of the saxophone. Greg: Yeah. Edmund: Out of the 19th century, this amazing invention, maybe one of the greatest inventions of all time. This thing is so loud, right? And now it completely transformed the world-- many genres of music.
But--and that's still potential, I believe. Instrument building is really where it's at. That's what we call new luthier, and they might involve technologies and combinations, or it also might involve just physical things. Greg: Let's see if we can work with some questions, yeah? Lisa: Yeah, I just have one more comment to talk about with that last piece you were showing. It kind--it--we touched upon it with Ralph Lemon's work and his sort of theater of many things, of video and sound and singing and music, and it reminded me of kind of this total theater that the--was talking about, and these moments where I think people--well, I guess it's always been going on in different cultural places, artistic places, but bringing in all the multiplicities of ideas into one location, and the--and not differentiating if it's music or theater or dance.
It's just all experiential, and in some ways, some of our practices in the Metaverse and things are doing that too, these sites for this complexity. Edmund: Yeah, but we don't know what it's for yet, right? And the artists are always the first people to sort of arrive and try things out and push edges, and then, you know, it begins to unveil itself. And also, we are kind of watching over it in a way to keep--to point out when things go wrong, you know, with this stuff. We're like the first--we're the canaries in the coal mine. Greg: Where we dive in and see what it says it's doing and experience what it's actually doing and try to explore the friction between the two. Edmund: And yeah.
Greg: So, yeah, let's see if there's any questions, thoughts that you want to share as we're hanging out here, chatting about the trauma of technology and how it can make and unmake our worlds. Any thoughts, questions you want to ask? Bring it to the foreground. Mina, you have one? Mina: Yeah, I just-- Lisa: Oh, hang on, one second, they're going to bring the mic for the folks online, thank you. Edmund: That instrument out there somewhere, maybe you can just leave it at the door if--yeah. Greg: I think you're keeping it, you seem a little happy with it. Edmund: You were just going to see if I was going to remember.
Mina: Thank you so much, this was really a great presentation, and I really enjoyed the way you told this story of your uniform record locator. One thing I've been trying to wrap my mind around, and I've heard different explanations over the years, was why some people cannot connect to some of the electronic music or the more, like, that transformation that you pinpointed. And from my point of view as an ethnomusicologist, the different between the arghul players from Egypt, the straw player from Bulgaria or Romania, somewhere. Edmund: It was hard to say. I think that's the highlands, the Scottish highlands. Mina: Scottish, okay.
And Herbie Hancock's first piano, jazz piano piece compared to his second one and many of the other later pieces. The only way I could explain it is prosody, like, a connection between language and music. And with electronic music the possibilities are endless. They almost can lose that connection. But I'm wondering, how do you understand or appreciate that distinction, and is there an art of keeping electronic music connected to that linguistic origin that you can help us appreciate? Edmund: Yeah, that's just such a deep question.
You know, that's a whole field, I think. The--I mean, if we think back to the "Frankenstein" thing with Edgar Winter, we can see that they didn't know what they were doing. You know, they just got this thing, and he was--geh-geh-geh! [Edmund making discordant noises] You know, it's-- Lisa: I think there's something interesting--oh, go ahead.
Edmund: But just to put it clearly, I think there--from an ethnomusicology sort of perspective, perhaps, I believe when any sound comes to a person, it's always in--dealt in relationship to the cultural position from which they receive the sound, right? And so, it's very easy and very natural for people to have a bad valence--you know, negative valence on any kind of sound, whether it's electronic or anything, like your noisy one, right? You had the negative valence, but you recognized something rich in that thing, right? You still faced it, right? Now, an artist knows how to do that, but another person would just get out of there, "I got to get away from this, this is terrible." Or the same thing with electronic sound. I don't think it's necessarily things in a circus, but I just--one point is the loudspeakers are the enemy, okay? Loudspeakers do not--you know, it's not Herbie Hancock playing that piano, it's the loudspeaker generating frequencies that give your brain the image that it's Herbie Hancock playing the piano. The piano is not--that's electronic sound, and it always comes out the loudspeakers in exactly the same diffusion pattern. It's not changing. Whereas an instrument like this, when you lift your fingers off the holes, the sound completely changes its directionality.
It's an acoustic phenomenon, and that's part of its beauty, and this is lost with loudspeakers. Lisa: That's what I was going to pick up on, the sense of loss. I think that some people are very attuned to that, that there's something that's gained when we use digital technology or other forms of technology beyond just kind of analogue or from our bones or something like that or made from skins and hides and things that come from our world, this natural place. Not that--technology comes from our world too, but it's mined and highly processed. And it begins to, I think, it allows to do really interesting things, but it also compresses, and we lose part of our humanness, maybe.
And I know that I have that feeling too, but I enjoy-- I don't know, there's something about the frequency or the way that the machine talks to me that I am open to or that I like. But I can imagine other people would find that that loss is too deep, or resonance between something deeply felt in the body and something that's been so manipulated, it's just too far of a divide. Edmund: I was just pointing out that the age of electronic music is basically done, and that we're moving towards this more functional hybridity in which maybe human beings begin to be those electronic machines themselves, and that the-- that that recursion, that cycling is changing the whole way we even think what music is. And so, maybe the loudspeakers will go away, and it'll all become human again, but it will be, I don't know, like a "Star Trek" episode.
Lisa: Those supercomputers in our pockets are really changing us. We can do one more question, I think. Greg: Look in the Metaverse. Edmund: That's right, I forgot I had this thing in my head. Greg: Armless, legless kind of ways of walking about. I don't know about that. Do you have a question?
Ed: Yes, I--did you want to-- Greg: And how are we doing on time? Lisa: We're going to--this will be the last question, and then we'll wrap up. Ed: Is it working, hello? Hi, guys. Sorry that your students haven't been able to ask any questions, but everything student evolved over time-- Greg: Go for it. Ed: Well, the word resonance comes to mind. And especially with those men having coffee and playing the loog--was it? Greg: Arghul. Ed: Arghul. I was there, you know.
They took me a place. That wasn't a cultural appropriation in my own private, that was a resonance in me, and with the Indian music as well, or, oh, yes, this is, yes, yes. And so, I'm thinking about a resonance with a transistor.
We have this new thing, the transistor, and everything's made out of this, everything's just capacitors, transistors, and there's also--there's multiple things of repulsion and desire, you know. You hear this jarring, what you're doing, breaking the third wall, saying no. You're not supposed to say no in improv, your whole piece is about no. I just wrote a piece about no too, it's so cool. But humans's revulsion against this, the rocks, you know, the sound of these rocks destroying the villages by the water coming up and swamping them out, this result, revulsion and desire.
When you--you did the Herbie Hancock one and Herbie Hancock two, two's like-- an impressable age there. You can go through the sound point from voice and pop into desire. You know, I really like motor music, you put a bunch of motors together and mic them, and I love that.
I don't know why, it's an awful sound, but I love it. So, you know, I'm with you when you say the end of electronic music and the discrepancies, speakers. Of course, we're all listening to speakers now.
My voice is mediated by speakers and the spatial distribution is lost, you know, but if I'm not over here--or anyway, whatever. But there's a resonance with all this stuff, and-- Edmund: If you'll let me, that's amazing. Ed: I just wanted to--yeah. It's a harsh--
Edmund: Well, resonance is a word that we all keep close to our hearts. It is so key, and it's one thing that electronic sound often misses. It's a continuant, it has to be generated with energy, and resonance is something that hangs. And it hangs psychologically, and it hangs when the drummers, the three Japanese-- it's all about resonance. Ed: I forgot to mention one really important word, and that's feedback. If you have resonance and feedback, you have kind of an intelligent system.
And, you know, and the feedback of seeing this thing in the machine or this sound from the Middle Eastern instruments and going there, I mean, it's like a tropism, we're walking around in a cave, we're feeling the wall. Oh, yeah, that's the exit, I smell the air. There's a resonance with the air, then the feedback is walking to the air, leaving the cave. And we're walking through this blind cave, we don't know where we are or we hear sound, and we like it, or we don't like them, and then we like the ones we don't like, and that's the feedback, and I--that's--that creates intelligent systems, so maybe hyper feedback, hyper resonance, and the feedback of creating intelligence, I think, is quite-- Edmund: Absolutely, Ed. You're amazing.
Ed: Oh, never. Edmund: Ed has come--I think has attended over 10,000 lectures at UC Berkeley, and I'm not kidding. Thank you, you had something to say.
Lisa: I think we're going to wrap up on that beautiful note of resonance and thinking about that, thinking about what resonates for you, and that's going to be part of your assignment too, you guys are going to be picking music and songs that have meaning for you and hit you with the feelings. Greg: Thank you so much. Lisa: Thank you, everyone. Edmund: Thank you.