The ontology of music is a lively and much debated branch of metaphysical philosophy. Most of the available literature focuses upon works of the Western classical tradition, however; as a result, the various challenges posed by tape compositions are either marginalised or ignored. Coupled with this is the familiar claim by some musicologists and philosophers that such works cannot be described as being music; one such philosopher, Linda Ferguson, claimed that tape compositions are ontologically distinct from scored musical works and, as a result, are “in search of their metaphysics” (Ferguson 1983). This paper will address such claims through an investigation of the ontology of tape music. It will be argued that such works share their metaphysical status with scored compositions and that the various differences can be ascribed to the “extent, depth, and saturation of their work-determinative properties” (Davies 2004: 26-27). Ultimately, it will be noted that there are some significant differences between these two art forms. Tape music is not “in search of its metaphysics”, however; it is merely lacking an accurate philosophical assessment.
The author, Adam Stansbie is a Senior Lecturer in Music, Sound and Performance at Leeds Metropolitan University. He completed his first degree at the University of Leeds and is currently completing a PhD in Electroacoustic Composition at City University, London, under the supervision of Professor Denis Smalley. Adam’s musical works have been presented at festivals and concerts throughout Europe, Asia, North and South America and Australasia and have won a number of international awards; these include a Residency Prize at the Bourges International Competition, France (2006), First Prize (Category A) in the International Acousmatic Competition ‘Metamorphosis’, Belgium (2006) and First Prize in the Destellos Competition, Argentina (2010). In recent years, Adam has worked in various prestigious European studios (including the IMEB, France (2007,2008), Musiques et Recherchés, Belgium (2009), VICC, Sweden (2010) and USSS, UK (2010)); during these placements, he has sought to integrate his creative practice with his written work on the ontological and phenomenological status of electroacoustic composition and performance.
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