Networks in and Around Music


















Report on the 16th International Symposium of the DVSM (Dachverband der Studierenden der Musikwissenschaft), Berlin (Germany), October 3-6, 2001

by Nico Schüler

The 16th International Symposium of the DVSM (Dachverband der Studierenden der Musikwissenschaft), a conference on "musik netz werke" [music net works], took place in Berlin (Germany), October 3-6, 2001. The goal of the conference was three-fold: (1) to discuss the topic "network(s)" and its effects on musicians and researchers, (2) to focus directly on specific art works that are somehow part of a network, and (3) to discuss new methods of music research and their inter- and intra-disciplinary character. The organizers of the conference, musicologists and musicians from Berlin (Miriam Graf, Lydia Grün, Sylvia Möbius, and Malte Stamm-Gadow), asked questions such as: How does a network function as an organizational structure between musicians and recipients (listeners)? How do network-artists understand themselves? What are current artistic and academic answers to questions about new ways of the appearance of "networks"? (See specifically the conference website at

The first main part of the conference, "network - multimedia music," was about music and internet as well as about networks of communication between musicians, composers, and the audience. The German-Canadian composer Michael Oesterle (Montreal) and the violinist Clemens Merkel (Montreal) presented the composition "l'hiver monastique - 70 consolations harmoniques pour violon," which consists of numerical permutations of melodic (harmonic) patterns that are combined with rhythmic patterns. The result was an "almost endless" composition for solo-violin with always changing musical contexts. The composition was also discussed during the conference, and composers as well as the audience experimented with a multi-media installation, in which three computers played different patterns of the composition at the same time, creating even more possibilities of variation. Hereby, the dimension of the musical room was explored by the audience changing their location in the room.

Other presentations on "network - multimedia music" included lectures on virtual internet studios (Martin Ullrich, Berlin), on digital music productions and compositional work with the internet (Franco Jennewein, Stuttgart), and on copyrights of music with regard to the internet (Frederic Döhl, Berlin).

The second main topic of the conference was "networks of musicians - (inter)urban communication". Hereby, the network between composers, performers, and audience was the focus of discussions and presentations. Ildar Kharissov (Berlin) presented a paper on intercultural networking and the presentation of new music in the media, specifically with regard to the composers Frangis Ali-Sade and Sergej Newski. Both composers brought "oriental" and "Western" music styles together, either by using specific musical material, compositional techniques, or instruments. Kharissov showed how a publisher presented the music by Ali-Sade in the media, including listening strategies, and, thus, even influenced the presentation of the music by the composer herself. Kharissov also showed how such "networks of public representation" are being established (specifically with regard to the composer S. Newski) by using criticism and self-representation by the composer.

Other conference presentations on (social) networks included papers on socio-economic networks and trans-commercial forms of music reception in Berlin's club culture (Sabine Vogt, Berlin), on Elisabeth von Herzogenberg and the Brahms circle (Antje Ruhbaum, Berlin), and on the Jewish music scene in Germany (Ariane Handrock, Potsdam). The latter paper presented research specifically on the social-historical background of the Jewish music scene, on historical performance practice, and on marketing of music by Jewish composers.

The last group of presentations was on specific compositions or on methodological problems of music research. Ekaterina Sedova (Cologne) spoke about Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Helikopter-Streichquartett" as an example of creating a complex network between musicians, (the sound of) the helicopters and the audience. Valerio Sannicandro (Essen) discussed composing as a semiotic process with a network of inner and outer dimensions. Axel Volmar (Berlin) presented research on networks in electronic music, and Julia Schneider (Berlin) and Anne Schreiber (Berlin) on a specific project on "network art" (see John Dack (Middlesex, Great Britain) spoke about Pierre Schaeffer and the continuing relevance of Schaefferian thought for performers and audiences of electro-acoustic music and for new music in general. Finally, Nico Schüler (San Marcos, Texas) presented a methodological paper on networks in intra- and inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural research, specifically on 'perspectivism' in music research.

An interesting composition project was realized during the conference, for which composers from all over the world submitted musical ideas and musical material (through the internet). Everything was brought together as a network-multi-media composition. Another concert presented the sound installation "Kommunikationsinterpolator" by Daniel Plewe, Sascha Kranz, and Daniel Teige (Berlin), which emphasized electronic modification of the music produced by the three musicians who were "communicating" with specific musical material. The last concert of the conference featured "Living Particles" by Ralf Schreiber (Cologne).

All in all, the conference was not only extremely interesting, but also very successful and full of high-quality presentations. Most importantly, the main goal of the conference was not to present "complete results," but to provide a platform of discussion for everyone interested in any part of the broad topic "music net works." Through many deep discussions, all participants, not just the presenters, became an important part of the "conference network" ... which continues to exist as an internet discussion platform that can be joined by anyone interested in the topic (

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This report was originally published in New Sound.

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last revised: 3-20-2003