why i stopped writing “pieces”

as far as i can remember, it was on a flight to Singapore in summer 2013 that for the first time i was contemplating deeply the initiation of CompositionCloud. it seems difficult to describe now the exact image i had back then, presumably because the image was too obscure to be recorded in my memory. what i can accurately recall, however, is that i was imagining an infinite, never-ending project, a work in progress that could encompass and connect everything i would find musically interesting.1

in addition, i was also driven by the need to resolve what seemed to me an inherent contradiction between my view of art (and music) as something ungraspable and indefinable, and the necessity of bounding ideas (often fetishizing them) when they are to be turned into “pieces”, a term i use for denoting artistic artifacts that pretend to be complete, autonomous, and timeless. my main concern was, accordingly, to find a framework that will keep artistic artifacts open, related, and temporal.

to clarify, let us consider the following questions:

we experience art.

  • must we know what is the “piece” we experience?
  • must we know when it began and when it will end?
  • must we be able to distinguish between what is part of it and what is not?

often, we tend to say yes. we want to know what is the “piece” we experience, when it began and when it will end, and what is part of it and what is not.

but what if we answer “no” or “not necessarily”?

of course, in order to experience art, we must first be aware that there is art to be experienced; something has to be shared.2 nevertheless, we do not have to know exactly what it is (we can speculate), or when it began and when it will end (we can wait). we might also be confused in regard to what is part of it and what is not, but we could still experience art if we recognize that there is something artistic in what we experience (a banal example: an uneducated listener listening to an orchestra tuning up before playing a “piece” as the “piece”).

with the above in mind, i searched for ways to realize (or to begin realizing) the infinite, never-ending project i was imagining.

at the time, however, i was busy with other things. after summer 2013 and before CompositionCloud, i continued writing “pieces”, notably: Prism, the electronic part of Concertino, Stains, and “Just Representations?”. only in December 2014 i began to work on the project, and only in March 2015 i really found how to do so. what i found was a methodology that shifted my focus from “pieces” to ideas: instead of writing “pieces”, i add new ideas to CompositionCloud, develop existing ideas that are already part of CompositionCloud, combine existing ideas into new ideas, extract new ideas from existing ideas, and share ideas.

regarding the latter and considering the aforementioned condition for experiencing art, that is, “something has to be shared”, the term art piece could be redefined as that something that is shared:

art piece
any (artistic) idea or complex of (artistic) ideas that is shared in social events, via social networks, or by any other social means.

(placing the adjective artistic in parentheses represents my view of art as something ungraspable and indefinable.)

ultimately, rather than “pieces”, sharing ideas is intended to create “openings”. receivers are invited to enter CompositionCloud through these “openings” and explore it (and eventually even contribute to it).

(so is this text.)


1 in the end of 2014 i discovered that a project motivated by similar ambitions was realized by John Cage for some time between 1953 and 1956. here is a description of Cage’s project by James Pritchett: “Cage’s plan was to compose many independent pieces for various media, each of which could be played as a self-contained work in its own right, or could be performed together with any number of the others. Such an open work could be added to constantly — since the ensemble would not be fixed at any time, the total need never be ‘finished’, but would remain a work ‘in progress.’ This large-scale project occupied Cage at various times during the period of 1953 until 1956, at which point he dropped the plan altogether and moved on to other concerns. In the course of these three years, however, Cage produced a number of pieces which represent partial realizations of his original plan. These are: six short pieces for a string player (1953), an unfinished work for magnetic tape (1953?), an unfinished work for voice (1953?), 34′ 46.776″ for a pianist (1954), 31′ 57.9864″ for a pianist (1954), 26′ 1.1499″ for a string player (1955), and 27′ 10.554″ for a percussionist (1956).” (http://rosewhitemusic.com/piano/writings/ten-thousand-things/) (back)
2 experiencing art completely voluntarily without anything being shared (if that is possible) might be an exception to that, or at least a limit to be explored. (back)

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