- Golo Föllmer, Netzmusik: Elektronische, ästhetische und soziale Strukturen einer partizipativen Musik
When Golo Föllmer started the research on which this book is based, he was faced with a problem. It was 1996, and there was no way of knowing if Internet music was just a fad. Then there was the problem of how to deal with the new sources, including those on Web sites that could well have disappeared into thin air by the time the book was published. The answer was to treat this book like a node in its own net, with supplementary material to be found both on the author's own Web site and the sites of many of the projects discussed, but also and most usefully on the CD-ROM documentation produced in 2004. The result is that this survey is comprehensive but digestible, and will appeal to the different requirements of interested amateurs and serious researchers. This brings us, though, to another problem he faced—The academics: on the one hand the media theorists, full of discourse on social practice but short of analytical interest in the music; on the other hand the musicologists, for whom the exact opposite may be said to apply (with the additional problem that musicologists generally find little of structural interest in this music, adopting the attitude that it is, as Mr. Föllmer puts it, merely "a listening experience with a mouse attached" (p. 3). Thus, this book is not only one of the first to address the subject of net music thoroughly and scientifically, it also comes into the still underrepresented category of books dealing with music as, in the first instance, a part of human social life.
Ten years on, it is clear that the idea of the Internet, and of networking, has been as significant for theories of human social relations as it has been for the actual ways in which we communicate. This is also very much the starting point for Mr. Föllmer, whose interest is in understanding how musicmaking can function under the conditions of the net. He suggests that there are two overriding paradigms that define how a particular net music project evolves: the compositional paradigm, that is [End Page 100] closely related to traditional ideas of author and work, and the communication paradigm, in which the focus is less on the music created as on the diverse processes of creation, recreation, and interaction made possible or made apparent by the technology. In both cases, three interrelated levels (adapted from Christiane Heibach's work on Internet art) are always implicated: the electronic or technical level; the aesthetic level (the point of interaction—for example, the screen in the case of Internet art); and the social level of realization and of the interaction with the user.
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This book is divided into four parts, each of which lays a slightly different emphasis on these three aspects. The first is theoretical and technical, and includes reflections on how earlier musical utopias predicted by John Cage, Alan Turing, and Bertolt Brecht may or may not find realization in the age of the networked computer. Unlike radio, for example, a networked computer not only receives but can also send: It is thus not only a medium, but simultaneously an instrument. It has at least the potential to promote a specifically interactive form of exchange, as typified by some installations and projects that only come to life when triggered into action by the user. And, one might say, like other forms of technology it has led to an art theory whose basis is not the works themselves, their genesis, or interconnection, but the possibilities of the creative technology itself.
It is at this point that Mr. Föllmer proceeds logically from the theoretical...