My umptillion-pitches-to-the-octave microtonalist cohort Brian McLaren sends me a link to a wonderful article on the deficiencies of “Computer Music” by composer Bob Ostertag. Ostertag does a concise job of explaining the snobbishness of those who divide off the “real” electronic composers from the composers “who merely use electronics”:
…it is a phenomenon seen time and time again in academia: the more an area of knowledge becomes diffused in the public, the louder become the claims of those within the tower to exclusive expertise in the field, and the narrower become the criteria become for determining who the “experts” actually are….
The cul-de-sac these trends have led “Computer Music” into is a considerably less enjoyable place to tarry due to a technological barrier that is becoming increasingly obvious: despite the vastly increased power of the technology involved, the timbral sophistication of the most cutting edge technology is not significantly greater that of the most mundane and commonplace systems. In fact, after listening to the 287 pieces submitted to Ars Electronica, I would venture to say that the pieces created with today’s cutting edge technology (spectral resynthesis, sophisticated phase vocoding schemes, and so on) have an even greater uniformity of sound among them than the pieces done on MIDI modules available in any music store serving the popular music market.
Ostertag, who burst onto the scene with All the Rage – a Kronos Quartet piece integrating recordings of a 1991 gay riot in San Francisco – is a good enough composer to trust on such opinions.
Also, based on comments I’m compiling a list of schools whose electronic music programs (or at least certain faculty) make no elitist distinction between scratch-built and commercial software, and that will allow and teach the latter. So far, apparently, they are
Mills College (I shoulda known)
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Missouri Kansas City
University of Cincinnati
University of San Diego (not to be confused with the University of California at San Diego)
University of Wollongong (Warren Burt chimes in)
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
I’m adding to the list as I get further recommendations (see comments – apparently the Australians are a little more open-minded than academic Americans), which will be helpful for all the requests I get about grad schools, and even undergrad schools. Mills College is where we’ve always had the most success sending our freedom-loving Bard students, and I always hear great things about the faculty there, who have a long tradition of musical liberalism.