Philosophy vs. Fact

I just watched Tae Hong Park’s (formerly of Tulane, now of Georgia State) paper presentation at ICMC. He presented on his Matlab program for the analysis of electroacoustic music. It was the same presentation he and his grad students presented at SEAMUS.

He was completely brutalized afterward during the question session by people who disliked the “hard” data that his program revealed. one of the questioners actually yelled to Elainie Lillios (the chair of the session) so that he could get his two cents in. It was quite heated and a bit shocking, considering the laid back atmosphere of the other papers.

On further retrospection, I feel like this attack really highlights something that I am just starting to witness firsthand. Europeans are much more philosophical in their approach to music, while Americans tend to be more analytical. A lot of the European papers have been about some philosophical aspect, like our perception of time or the phenomenology of music.

To those others, Dr. Park’s work represented a cold calculated look at music, so typical of American music theorists. They didn’t want a program telling them what to hear, or trying to transform their perception upon hearing the work. To Dr. Park, his work revealed aspects of the music that he had never heard or considered (such as a dog barking in Poemé Électronique). Ultimately, the argument boils down to empirical data versus mathematical proof.

It is interesting because the composer in me loves the philosophical musings, but the analyst in me wants cold hard facts.

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