Writings from Roland Kayn

Roland Kayn wrote a number of articles and manifestos detailing his thoughts behind his work and methods of composition. Some texts remain in German, but there are plans in the future to translate his remaining writings into English.

In recent years manners of working within the compositional process have increasingly come to the fore which cannot be comprehended algorithmically, because the elemental volumes only adopt their direction of flow at the moment of their acoustic implementation. In the instrumental area, this is most evident in the score of "Engramme" for 15-60 available players (Publisher: Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Milan, 1973), that being a tendency that stands in extreme opposition to the progressive demythologising of current music-making. Since the performer and the consumer no longer play a decisive role with regard to the future use of the music, it is no longer a matter of accuracy, which, for example, is effortlessly provided by a computer. In other words, computer- aided designs from the outset are hardly suited to discovering virgin compositional territory, because these, even if uncertainty factors are taken into consideration, can be better utilised for subsequent analysis. Since music is largely produced from the perspective of sociological anchoring, it is incomparably more difficult for other music that is not made from this perspective to reach the concealed, hypothetically existing audience, especially since the mediating concert agent, orchestra, conductor and soloists are excluded from the relation of composer/listeners (electronic).

The creators of musical artwork today must fulfil the obligation of adequately incorporating technological means into their actions, and to dispense with the still given situation of being court jesters with regard to committees, commissions, councils, cultural representatives, and ultimately to those within politics. This requirement can currently only be met in the seclusion of a free studio for electroacoustic music. One such place for realising this work was available at the Rijksuniversiteit in Utrecht from 1970 to 1984. Residue material that was discovered by chance in the archives, and which suddenly gained currency under other listening conditions, served as a starting point for the composition TRANSFLUXION. Carried by extremely slow-running sound modulations, there arose the task of integrating the torso-like structure into an overall context, which was to approximate to the floating, sliding over aspect of a phase change, such as occurs in the range of infrasound.

In hindsight, the result was a sound phenomenon which yielded certain transition probabilities at undefined times, which, primarily evaluated on a purely abstract basis, gradually congealed into a presentation reflecting the transition from life to death – i.e. that probable situation in which everything inessential remains behind, and the "breathing of the inner ego" turns into a floating state, and only a barely perceptible vibration remains. This interpretation is not intended as a poetically romanticised comment, but is intended to describe a physical, non-reflectabable situation.

The sound world of TRANSFLUXION is similar to a kind of message in a bottle which no longer has a recipient, and perhaps only reaches someone who has the appropriate decoding antenna, and who is able to adjust his "receiver" at the right moment, whereby the correct wavelength is a precondition – circumstances which are not created by rationality, but by means of resonant capacities.

The origin of the piece can be derived to a large extent from the viewpoint of the current conditions within mass communication: media researchers are in agreement that the vapid entertainment in radio and television, along with that offered by the visual and audio media manufacturers is due to causal circumstances, but that these are ultimately manipulated by the media itself. From this it may be plausibly derived, as per the view of progressive thinkers, that the consequence may well be a dictatorship of the discerning. However, the latter will turn out to be erroneous when, and this will be a reality in the foreseeable future, the vertical, centralised power structure of the media's consumer offering has been abdicated, and communication has gained ground (two way communication) on an individual basis, via satellite-fed, digital terminals and FS-phone networks, as an integral part of a new means of communicative connection – in place of radio and television.

For a creative homo sapiens this now means nothing other than that he is not to be oriented backwards in being fed with images and sounds via the media – starting with objects that have been created for royal courts and in emulation of this, extending to the briefs of local cultural representatives – but in looking forward must make concrete his aesthetic longings.

In this respect he is now no longer helped by the conventional music industry, with its cumbersome and expensive management (publisher, conductor, orchestra, ticket sales, press). He has to deal with the constantly changing studio technology of electroacoustic origin in order to arrive at any innovative results, and must also use the new communications networks.

This point of view has led to an "environment", as it were a "house music" – musica nuova reservata – because the media offering is tantamount to a total degeneration and strangulation of that which is enjoyable – really only comparable to the much-cited environmental catastrophe that can now be understood as a situation remotely-controlled by fascism and Nazism, if we think of the exaltation of the machine, of noise, and the automobile's total takeover beginning in the early 1930s.

Thus, a music that is to be developed in stark contrast to this, that attends to the workings of biological systems with the control and regulation that is intrinsic to them, in that it transmits this system orientation to electronically autonomous processes, in order to – as is the case here – arrive at a communication game in the field of physical and perceptual mechanisms, taking into account the feedback, but omitting the attachment to traditions and to today's market mechanisms – only obeying itself, because: electric current has no memory, does not adjust itself to the present, and is therefore to a large extent legitimised to release improbable phenomena.

A short signal sequence served as substantive initial basis for the piece's generation process – approximately described as a chain of fanfare-like pulses – which, fed into a recurrently regenerative, autonomously controlling system, led to a quantity of elements of mostly invariant groupings.

The resulting overall summation of complex formations from superordinate units with their subclasses, were transferred into a floating state between positive and negative feedback, in order to achieve a distribution of input variables that was as wide-reaching as possible. These results were stored on tape during the process and then grouped into three sections AàBàC, where B and C appear as derivatives of A.

The second phase of the realisation was designed in such a way that the reafference principle could be applied, in order to utilise the basic pattern for controlling a reflex arc. This closed function loop, which was voltage controlled, enabled access to the possible n,n? … =x approach to the object in real time, whereby disturbances arising during the process were integrated into the acoustic event.

The silent moments occurring between the individual phases are a consequence of the autonomously deactivating system; they were left in the context as a characteristic side effect. Set at maximum values, dynamic trajectories (amplitudes with meshed rise and fall times) served as the defining parameters for controlling the whole process, giving the process its essential profile.

– Written for a sound storage medium publication (1990; revised 1996 – not published).

From the evolution of innovative composition – qualitatively considered – not as evinced by the fashion trends of serialism, aleatoric or the minimalism of Indian-American origin – has arisen really only one perspective in the second half of our century under the heading of innovation that can be regarded as stable when set against the common isms, and that is cybernetics.

It is generally known that artists active in the sister arts of music – electronic art, video art – have seized upon these new methods, much earlier than in the field of music. The rudiments of computer science seems to be lacking in illumination, in that it does not, as was long erroneously assumed in musicologist circles, mean only the transfer from one place to another through “channels”, but rather the processing of information, its differentiation and distribution in an electronic switching system. Seen this way, development even in the mid-nineties was at the beginning of an evolution, whose progress still cannot be predicted at the present time. Due to critical perception, in the seventies at Rijksuniversiteit’s Utrecht Institute of Sonology, a thesis gained in importance which showed that much more innovation output occurred, specifically in the analogue area of electroacoustic systems, with their integrally determined diverse variations and relatively large instability in mutual networking, than was the case with digitally controlled systems.

In this respect, heuristic processes using this technique, which can be organised according to the principle of the “trial and error” method – not equipped with target-oriented directives- essentially offer aesthetically higher quality results.
It can be considered an unlikely fact that the unpredictable suddenly and literally arises in practical studio work, as happened with the discovery of CYBERNETIC SERENDIPITY. This involves an Object trouvé, which experienced its concretion via a very complex, electronically autonomous system containing no directed command pulses.

Since the process cannot be traced back, documentation on sound storage mediums takes on particular importance, especially since corresponding details cannot be disclosed, thus completely abdicating traditional authorship.

This “music” thus exceeds the empirical category of music and perhaps contains something of that which the composer Franco Evangelisti fittingly forecast, in his book “Vom Schweigen zu einer neuen Klangwelt” (From Silence to a New World of Sound) (Publisher: Edition TEXT and KRITIK, Munich 1985), with the expression “… arriving at something that suddenly can no longer be called music”.

Cybernetic music, whether vocal, instrumental, or electronic, is above all that which is no longer “composed” and rehearsed. It emerges from the play of interconnected feedback loops that set a process in motion. In this, certain data take on particular significance: directions, electrical signals that are oriented toward an information-processing memory storage (man or machine). In contrast to the conventional discharge process, this union of partially recursive systems generates a kind of ascending process, which can be fully autonomous. Just as chemo-technical processes, viewed with a microscope, can give rise to repulsions, expanding surface formations of elements, diffusions, rhythmic pulsations, color displacements, and, in specific interactions, reach new constellations (reactions), so in the electro-acoustic domain heuristic techniques can discover similar processes– in which the composer, however, completely loses his original function. He now merely decides whether to intervene, guide, and regulate, or whether he is prepared to accept that which emerges as an auto-generative process. It is well known that music as a “time art” is made possible only by the the air that surrounds us; regarded purely on a physical level, it consists of nothing but the movement of air molecules into random or determinate positions by means of mechanically or electroacoustically generated signals. Among the first examples of this category of music is Galaxis, a multiple sound-structure for variable instrumental ensemble (Moeck-Verlag, Celle, 1962) and, in the electroacoustic domain, Cybernetics (Studio di Fonologia, RAI, Milan, 1969). Since then I have primarily been engaged in developing expanded cybernetically generated projects of an electroacoustic nature (for example, Simultan, Makro, Infra, and Scanning)– a music in which technological and humanistic aspects are brought together, untethered from traditional performance practice and sociological contexts.

– English translation kindly provided by Thomas Patteson

Translated from the original German ‘Sozio-, technologische- und aesthetische Aspekte akustischer Innovation am Beispiel eigener Werke:’ Kybernetische Musik, gleichgültig ob vokal, instrumental oder elektronisch erzeugt, ist zunächst jene, welche nicht mehr “komponiert” und eingeübt wird. Sie ensteht aus dem Spiel miteinander vermaschter Regelkreise, die einen Prozess in Gang setzen. Hierbei kommt bestimmten Daten (Anweisungen, elektrische Signale), gerichtet auf einen informationsverarbeitenden Speicher (Mensch, Maschine), besondere Bedeutung zu. Aus diesem Verbund, teils rückgekoppelter Systeme, erwächst eine Art Aufzugprozess – im Gegensatz zum herkömmlichen Ablaufprozess -, der vollkommen autonom sein kann. So wie es etwa bei chemotechnischen Vorgängen, mikroskopisch sichtbar gemacht, zu Abstossungen, sich ausbreitenden flächigen Formierungen von Elementen, Diffusionen, rhythmischen Pulsationen, Farbverschlebungen und unter spezifischen Einwirkungen wieder zu neuen Konstellationen (Reaktionen) kommen kann, lassen sich analog hierzu, speziell im elektro-akustischen Bereich, mit heuristischen Verfahren Prozesse aufdecken, die den genannten weitestgehend entsprechen, wobei der Komponist jedoch seine ursprüngliche Funktion vollkommen verliert. Er kann lediglich entscheiden, ob er eingreift, steuert und regelt bzw. bereit ist, zu akzeptieren, was als autogenerativer Vorgang in Erscheinung tritt. Musik als “Zeitkunst” wird bekanntlich durch die uns umgebende Luft real erst ermöglich und beinhaltet letztlich – rein physikalisch gewertet – nichts anderes, als ihre Moleküle mittels mechanisch oder elektroakustisch erzeugter Signale in zu bestimmende oder zufällige Positionen zu überführen. Zu den ersten Modellen einer Musik dieser Kategorie gehören “Galaxis”, Multiple Klangstruktur für variables Instrumental Ensemble (Moeck-Verlag, Celle 1962) und im elektroakustischen Bereich die “Cybernetics” (Studio di Fonologia, RAI, Milano 1969). Das seitherige Hauptengagement galt der Entwicklung weit aufgefächerten, kybernetisch generierten Projekten elektroakustischer Provenienz, wie u.a. “Simultan”, “Makro”, “Infra” und “Scanning”, einer Musik, bei der losgelöst von der herkömmlichen Aufführungspraxis und dem soziologischen Kontext technologische und humanistische Aspekte zusammen zu bringen waren.

“Erweiterungen und Grenzen des Instrumentalklangs”
– geschrieben für das Nachtprogramm des NDR, Hamburg 1959
– veröffentlicht in “Horyzonty Muzycky” (poln.), PWM Krakau 1966
“Struktur und Klang in der Elektronischen Musik”
– geschrieben für das Nachtprogramm des NDR, Hamburg 1961
– veröffentlicht (gekürzt) in Rivista “La Biennale di Venezia” (ital.)
Heft 44/45, Venedig 1961
“Musik und Technik”
– geschrieben 1962
– veröffentlicht in der gleichnamigen Internationalen Enquête der Zeitschrift
“Slovenska hudbà” (tsch.), 1. Quartal Prag 1963
“Random or not random”
– geschrieben für das Nachtprogramm des NDR, Hamburg 1964
– veröffentlicht in “Horyzonty Muzycky” (poln.), PWM Krakau 1966
– veröffentlicht in “Nutida Musik” (schwed.), Heft 7/8
Sveriges Radio, Stockholm 1967/68
“Kybernetische Prozesse in instrumentaler und elektronischer Musik”
– geschrieben für die “Semaine de la musique experimentale”, Université Libre, Bruxelles 1969
– veröffentlicht in “collage” (deutsch), nr. 9 Palermo 1971
“Aspekte der Generierung aesthetischer Information im akustischen Signalraum”
– geschrieben für das Symposion “Computer + Kunst”, Amsterdam 1971
– veröffentlicht in”Duitse Kroniek” (deutsch), Nr. 2/3, Amsterdam 1971
“Stellungnahme zu Anton Webern”
– geschrieben für eine Umfrage von Hans Peter Krellmann
– veröffentlicht in: Hanspeter Krellmann “Anton Webern” (Zeugnisse), Rowohlts
Monographien, Rowohlt Taschenbuch-Verlag, Hamburg 1975
“Komponieren zwischen Computer und Kybernetik”
– geschrieben für das “Radio-Essay” des SDR, Stuttgart 1976
– veröffentlicht (gekürzt) in “MELOS/NZ”, Nr. 1, Mainz 1977
“Über sich selbst” I
– ein Gespräch zwischen Frans van Rossum und Roland Kayn, aufgenommen von der NOS, Hilversum, Oktober 1978 für das “Radio-Essay” des SDR, Stuttgart, 15.2.1979.
– veröffentlicht (gekürzt) Beiheft Schallplatten-Kassette “INFRA” COLOSSEUM SM 1481, Nürnberg 1981
“Über sich selbst” II
– idem
– veröffentlicht (gekürzt) Beiheft Schallplatten-Kassette “TEKTRA” COLOSSEUM SM 1482, Nürnberg 1984
“Soziologische-, technologische- und aesthetische Aspekte akustischer Innovation am Beispiel eigener Werke”
– geschrieben für Tonträgerveröffentlichung (1990; revidiert 1996)