Switch ContentsQuestions Concerning Music Technology

by Agostino Di Scipio

12. Technology and the ethics of music composing

How could a composer never ever interrogate her/himself about her/his own tÈchne and still presume to get her/himself and her/his followers any kind of relationship to technology (whether free, in Heidegger's sense, or else)? A reasonable answer would seem to be that the work of art reflects a particular view of technology and a more general worldview in its aesthetic, expressive qualities, independently of the processes by which it has been created. However, this answer can be regarded as an obvious manifestation of the assumptions implicated in a standard notion of technology. To subscribing to it would be to disregard a novel criterion available in evaluating and undersanding eletronic art: the observable coherence between the worldview emerging in the objects the artist creates and the worldview embodied in the process of making those objects, i.e. in the artist's tÈchne. The making and the existing of a work are both bearers of meanings, visions and (socially, culturally, politically relevant) stances. It is hoped that the visions and stances born by the former and the visions and stances born by the latter are mutually consistent.

Composers who leave the realm of their own tÈchne untouched and unquestioned implicitly support technological determinism as they accept and publically state - albeit silently and perhaps unconsciously - that technology is a decontextualized entity or process to be exploited in the service of autonomous artistic purposes. I've tried to show that doing so they actually let a wrongly presumed extra-social factor transform their - and our - life and being.

Finally, the very claim that the domain of tÈchne is and should be external to the domain of artistic creation is suspect. "If we choose to leave something untouched by technology, is that not a subtler kind of technical determination?" [Feenberg, 1991, p.10 (his emphasis)]. If we choose to consider art as an enrichment of our overly technologized and impoverished life (like Heidegger, the humanists and the technocrats propose) are we not using art as a kind of supertechnology? Can we bound the technical sphere of art making and leave it unquestioned, if this bounding is itself an instrumental act? As a matter of fact this would be a way to solve a problem - the problem of preserving human creativity and spontaneity from the evils of technological understanding. And yet it could only reinforce technological undestanding and contributes to the marginalization of artistic endeavors in the social context.