The Wondrous Delight of Profound Ineptitude
For fixed media


It is difficult to define the role of a piece of art that attempts to convey a specific message. Is it a reflection of the mind of its creator, an attempt to work through issues of personal relevance? Or is it an attempt to influence the perspectives of those who experience it? The latter runs the risk of deteriorating into propaganda, neither inspiring those who already share the perspective, or swaying the minds of detractors. And propaganda can make for intensely mediocre art. In this, as in most things, a balance between the two may prove most effective. Of course this is a personal exploration of issues so often on our minds these days- the war in Iraq, the behavior of the current administration, and so on. It seems especially important to emphasize right now: if you share these perspectives, you are not alone.

During the buildup to the war in Iraq, a group of composers at the University of Texas at Austin staged a protest. For this demonstration we stood at a busy intersection and held signs requesting that drivers honk for peace. It is the resulting honks, as well as several shouts from passers-by, that make up the second half of Wondrous Delight. The first half is largely concerned with the juxtaposition of synthesized sounds and recorded sounds. Among the recorded sounds are samples of various instruments such as acoustic bass, piano and oboe, as well as recordings of crowds at several larger anti-war protests. All the sounds used are modified in some way from the original. The most common, and perhaps the most interesting form of modification can be described as windowing: a particular sound may evolve continuously and gradually, but we are only allowed to hear short windows of this evolution. Thus a long gradually changing sound is converted into many short, choppy, discontinuous ones. For example, a sound might last for 30 seconds, begin with a very low pitch, and sweep steadily up to a very high pitch. We, however, only hear several windows of this progression.

Wondrous Delight recently won first prize in the ASCAP/SEAMUS Student Commission Competition and grand prize in the Digital Art Awards, Digital Music Category in Tokyo, Japan, and was a finalist in the Pierre Schaeffer International Competition of Computer Music.