Dissertation Index

Author: Austin, Michael L

Title: The Phenomenological Impact of Interface on the Analysis of Digital Music and Sonic Art

Institution: University of Texas at Dallas

Begun: June 2010

Completed: June 2011


The experience of an artwork is just as important as any other constituent element of the work, particularly in contemporary digital music and sonic art. While theorists analyze a piece to find out “how it works,” the actual experience of the work in question is often disregarded in favor of a score and an abstract conception of the “object” being analyzed; further, the system within which, or for which, the work was created has an enormous impact on the experience of the musical or sonic artwork, but it, too, is not often acknowledged.

This dissertation investigates the experience of music and sonic art and examines how interface relates to that experience. I make a case for the phenomenological analysis of contemporary music and sonic art, offer a new inclusive definition of interface as it relates to works of these genres, and propose a pragmatic, hybrid analytical technique for phenomenological investigation. Further, I address issues of the experience of temporality, energetics, interaction, and other relationships within a medium (and among media) in selected works that have hitherto been considered “un-analyzable” because they lie outside of traditional analytical paradigms.

Keywords: interface, phenomenology, digital music, sonic art, hermeneutics, multimedia, video, Unités Sémiotiques Temporelles, Reich, Finer


1.1 Introduction
1.2 Overview
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Musical Hermeneutics
2.3 Music as Thing
2.4 Music as Play
2.5 Music Scholarship and the Hermeneutic Circle
2.6 Music Scholarship and the Power of Prejudice
2.7 A Hermeneutic-Phenomenological Approach
3.1 Interface
3.2 Definitions and Characteristics
3.3 A Short Account of Interface and Its Long Musical History
3.4 Taxonomies of (Musical) Interface
3.5 A Short History of the Computer as Musical Instrument
3.6 Composition for Computers
3.7 Interface and Sound Synthesis
3.8 Interface and Live Performance
3.9 Toward a New Definition of Interface
3.10 The Interface as Interpretive Frame
4.1 Tools for Analysis
4.2. Epoché
4.3 “How it Works”: Judith Lochhead’s Challenge to Analytic
4.4 Unités Sémiotiques Temporelles
4.5 Analyzing Hierarchical Structures of Time and Motion with USTs
4.6 Hierarchical Structures in Schenker’s Method and USTs
4.7 Linear, Multiple, Moment, and Vertical Temporality
4.8 Musical Spaces
4.9 Cultural Contexts and Extra-Musical Associations
4.10 Scientific Approaches
4.11 Analyzing Digital Music and Sonic Art: A Hybrid Approach
5.1 Three Tales, Act III, Scene I (“Cloning”) [Steve Reich/Beryl Korot]
5.2 Specifications
5.3 Background
5.4 Analysis
5.5 Conclusion
6.1 Pianographique (Graphic Piano)
6.2 Specifications
6.3 Background
6.4 Analysis
6.5 “U Have Been Disconnected for Flooding” [Michael Austin]
6.6 Conclusion
7.1 “Score for a Hole in the Ground” [Jem Finer]
7.2 Specifications
7.3 Background
7.4 Analysis
7.5 Conclusion
8.1 Summary
8.2 Contributions
8.3 Implications for Future Research and Pedagogy
8.4 Concluding Remarks

APPENDIX A Unités Sémiotiques Temporelles
APPENDIX B Interviewees from Three Tales, Act III, Scene I
APPENDIX C Score for “U Have Been Disconnected for Flooding”
APPENDIX D Contents of Multimedia Supplement



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