Something Or Other with Music – Composition Programmes for Sound Artists
On the “Job Net” profile of the German Federal Employment Agency, the work of the composer is described as follows: “Composers convert musical ideas into scores. Following the specifications of their client or their own inspiration, they develop sequences of notes and tone and sound combinations”. Long gone is the idea of composition as the composition of only chamber or orchestra music. In the past few decades, the composer’s job description has expanded. And conservatories and universities have responded to this change. For budding composers there are now many new possibilities to study composition. Common to all the new courses is that they have to do with sound, but they also include neighbouring arts and questions of business and management.
Mainz - SoundArt
SoundArt is a programme at the University of Mainz that was launched in the winter semester 2009/2010. The University catalogue describes it as follows: “The course of studies is based on the latest developments in the understanding of intermedial music and art, which have marked the past two decades. Here trends in New Music, electronic composition, sound art, audio-visual art, radiophonic art and Ars Acustica are focussed into a thematic unity”. The aim of the programme describes the placing of the composer in the current work world: “As a freelance artist with an independent artistic personality and skills, you are qualified to realise artistic works that find professional resonance in the art market, at museums, art galleries and the relevant festivals”.
Trossingen – Music Design
Brand new in the university landscape is the programme in Music Design at the Trossingen Conservatory. “Sound in the blood?”, asks the website: “The programme in Music Design breaks new ground in the fields between art and science, music and media creation and technology, and theory and practice. Music Design views work with ‘sound’ (that is, everything that can be perceived acoustically) as part of a total multi-media and multi-sensory experience. It draws on the elements of (composed) music, language, sound and noise”. Being able to read music, incidentally, is not mandatory for this programme. The future music designer works wherever music can take place and is needed.
Berlin – Audio Communication and Sound Studies
The subject of Audio Communication at the Technical University of Berlin has been geared increasingly to the technical aspects of the ways in which music is conveyed to the recipient. Audio Communication is part of the programme in sound editing at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and constitutes, along with seven other subjects, the Master programme in Audio Communication and Technology. “The subject of Audio Communication treats the production, transmission and reception of music and other audio content in acoustical and electro-acoustical systems.” It deals, for example, with question of the design of virtual acoustical realities (binaural technology, sound field synthesis) and their use in music and media art.
The programme Sound Studies at the UdK in Berlin “provides entry into the professions of sound designer and sound consultant in the areas of sound art, new media, music, journalism and architecture.” Both programmes show how fluid the transitions have become in this general field. Technology is no longer merely a tool, but has become itself an object of artistic exploration.
Weimar – Electro-Acoustic Composition
Media in all forms have become an integral part of compositional work. It could be said that media have themselves become the new musical instruments for which composers write. In Weimar, this is done under the rubric of “electro-acoustic music”. The Studio for Electro-Acoustic Music (SeaM) was founded with goal of “expanding the courses offered at both institutions to include the subject of electro-acoustic music and sound design. SeaM thus offers open and diverse opportunities for the production of electro-acoustic music – often in interdisciplinary contexts (multi-media) – and for the exploration and development of new artistic subject areas.” It offers these opportunities as a supplementary course for post-graduates with artistic ambitions.
Potsdam-Babelsberg, Munich: Film Music
In view of the fact that the production of films requires special uses of sound in various forms, the School for Film and Television at Potsdam-Babelsberg offers courses leading to qualifications in the corresponding compositional techniques, which also include non-linear forms of composition such as are used in computer games. “Digital music recording and mixture, sound design and programming in pop-related styles on the one hand, and business aspects on the other, are also essential parts of this programme.”
It has also long been recognised that the medium of “image” in connection with sound is not confined to film and television. This may be seen in the replacement of the programme Composition for Film and Television at the University of Music and Theatre in Munich by the already operative parallel programme Composition for Film and Media.
The programmes sketched here are only some of the new offerings available to aspiring composers, but they show one thing clearly: the market for composers has become a fluid medium. And what is astonishing is that the reputedly ponderous and inflexible tanker of the universities has responded to this with unusual alacrity. This has occurred especially away from the strongholds of composition schools, but that too is soon bound to change.
The author studied musicology, philosophy and psychology at the University of Gießen. He has been a freelance editor, journalist and radio writer since 1996.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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