In a paper with John Ferguson, we outline an argument for a sonic creative practice we describe as a post-digital avant-garde. Building upon Andrew Hugill’s (2012: 7) suggestion that digital musicians ‘move perpetually from the known to the unknown’, our overarching argument acknowledges a culture of constant change. We seek to embrace and celebrate the inherent instability of music technology and suggest that appropriate methods for managing the dynamic nature of this condition might foster the development of a post-digital avant-garde. We are interested in Cascone’s (2000) notion of ‘post-digital’ as an approach to creative work that embraces technologies, be they digital or analogue, software or hardware – including their faults. This practice is underpinned by a disposition of self-determination, yet simultaneously a community-oriented approach that values sharing. Amongst those practices that can be considered post-digital, we include our own live coding and instrument-building activities.

The paper argues for a fostering of experimental practice in music technology teaching programs. We argue for continued (or increased) inclusion of experimental practices in creative arts education. It draws on the maker and DIY movements in the early 21st century as evidence of a reaction against increased abstraction from control over music making practices. This trend is identified as inherent in ‘digital’ culture and was reacted against as ‘post-digital’ in ‘glitch’ culture in the 1990s. The tradition of experimentalism can be traced back through avant-garde movements in arts practices, especially prevalent in the 1970s.

Ongoing innovation in culture relies on encouraging experimental practices and a tolerance for the inevitable failures and lower-quality early prototypes that are required to enable new and exciting developments in the arts.

Music technology studies, and creative technology studies more broadly, should be encouraged – the paper suggests – to embrace exploration of the materiality of electronic and other media as a way of reconnecting with the potential and preciousness of resources in a resource-constrained world. Making creative and efficient uses of these technologies for artistic expression is not only a path toward sustainable innovation but pedagogically engages students with the foundational building blocks of sound making and makes them less reliant on commodified tools and techniques.

Read the full paper for more details:

Ferguson, J., & Brown, A. R. (2016). Fostering a post-digital avant-garde: Research-led teaching of music technology. Organised Sound, 21(2), 127–137.
Cascone, K. (2000). The Aesthetics of Failure: “Post-digital” tendencies in contemporary computer music. Computer Music Journal, 24(4), 12–18.
Hugill, A. (2012). The Digital Musician (Second Edition). New York: Routledge.
A Post-Digital Avant-Garde