Considering Compositional ‘Spaces’ as ‘Heterotopias’: ‘Music and/as Process’ Symposium

I presented the following at the ‘Music and/as Process’ Symposium in Huddersfield last summer.  Although my research has developed since then, this presentation is still relevant to my current perspective on music’s relationship with society. More than anything else, though, I am fascinated with Michel Foucault’s article ‘Of Other Spaces’. His concept of ‘Heterotopia’ opens up  a perspective on society that resonates with my own ideas about composition. Art is invariably a social event and we must acknowledge this in our quest to explore its mechanics.

An awareness of Foucault’s ‘Heterotopology’ can potentially guide the compositional process and expand the existing perspective of semiotics that music and society are inextricably linked. In semiotics, music acquires meaning via the relationships between musical features and its connection with society; this perspective can be applied to the treatment of compositional ‘space.’ Abstract and concrete compositional ‘spaces’ can be explored via Foucault’s ‘Heterotopology’ which defines different societal ‘spaces’ (‘heterotopias’) in relation to one another.

In this presentation, I apply Foucault’s ‘Heterotopology’ to my interpretation of compositional ‘space’ which I regard as a topological network of concrete and abstract ‘spaces’ that are defined via the relationships between them. I demonstrate how this perspective guides my compositional process with an example of my own work: before the score and sonic realisation of a composition, there is a piece that is time-independent and multi-dimensional within the abstract ‘space’ of pre-compositional thought. Although not absolutely realised within the finished composition, this abstract ‘space’ is topologically connected to all constituent ‘spaces’ of its concrete existence, and an application of Foucault’s ‘Heterotopology’ can demonstrate a potential connection to societal ‘space.’

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