Collaborative Ethics

by nathanbontrager

Today I came across a fantastic piece of tape music by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, “Hibiki Hana Ma” (“Reverberation – Flower – Interval”).  With just one listen I can’t say whether I see the name as a reflection of a tripartite form although for an 18-minute electronic work it possesses a great sense of musical direction, not always a common occurrence in music of this kind.  Xenakis wrote this piece for the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka and to truly appreciate its greatness it would be necessary to hear it on an 8-channel system as originally intended.

While listening I found myself wanting to respond to the various textures and gestures with improvisation.  Improvising with tape is nothing new, however, in my experience tape parts are designed with collaboration in mind.  Would it be disrespectful to a composer to take an extant tape piece and use it as material for improvisation?  Certainly an element of flattery exists in this yet one also senses an attitude which hears this not as a singular composition but an “interesting” background setting for live interpretation.

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