Imagine a world without Richard Wagner or Arnold Schoenberg. For those who had known them personally, this was most probably a life-long fantasy. But nevertheless, their input in the world of music was, and I do not use this word lightly, objectively significant. As much as it is driven by a disgust for their personalities, these composers' infamy has in fact deepened their music's legitimacy. Their respective proclamations of genius and mastery were not inconsequential, no matter how deluded. In fact, their aim to assert their self-worth has been fulfilled precisely because of this delusion. They believed in their claims’ legitimacy. And consequently, this belief is our first frame of reference when discussing them. Both these men exemplified the narcissistic personality traits. But, despite our general distaste for the condition, it is this which made their successes and triumphs so apparent. And given their importance in the history of music, we can only thank narcissism for this. This is an odd thing to say, and even an odder thing to put into writing. But the aura of mysticism and palpable emotion that their personalities have created among the music community, is something quite unlike many other composers. Through proclaiming their importance, our dispute of it consequently assumes it is a legitimate claim. Through dictating their genius, our distaste for it signifies an acceptance of its existence. We can only thank their characters for the passion it has brought to music, not to mention their musical advancements. And this calls for larger discussions about the links between the artist and the art, between analysis and interpretation and between fact and history.
In March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic begun its aggressive spread, artists from all around the world gathered their creative energies to respond to and deal with the new realities that dawned upon them. Asked to 'write an ensemble composition for 3 or more instruments or devices' as part of a composition module, Louis Dutton, a second year Goldsmiths University music student, completely unnecessarily coded his very own computer programme able to trace the virus' movements across the globe. Driven entirely by passion, and evidently not by the actual brief (which required little more than writing an atonal trio on Musescore), this project resulted in a fully functional programme able to musically represent the spread of the pandemic by procedurally generating notes whose pitches were dictated by geographical location. This was driven by the input of live data from the virus' latest death rate statistics. It is important to note however, that even though live data is fed into the programme, the programme purposefully exaggerates the data for dramatic effect. It is more of a projection than an accurate representation of reality (even though this would also be possible). I want to reassure you that as of August 2020 there have not yet been one million deaths worldwide! The video below is from Goldsmiths University’s Youtube channel as part of their "Pure Gold" festival.