Aesthetics of Failure: Artefacts and Compositional Process
If we assume that sound design is to control variables to achieve the outcome, we can perhaps flip this model over and look at the ‘negative’ space to construct our piece. This negative dialectic stance is about freeing the process from traits previously attributed to it. A process of rough realisation that the parts are sublated into something greater. A process of haphazard, arbitrary, and chaotic undertaking, but with its own methods, aims, and care.
The tone colour and and the unique quality being produced by such a process can perhaps be illustrated by what most people are familiar with in the clicks of the broken hard drive, pops of the unreadable data, buzzes of the loose wiring, white noise, punctuated by (a)rrythmic repeating tumbling patterns.
These artifacts expose the technology, cold mechanical robot-like and give voice to the hidden element that we try to anthropomorphise and is now revealed in its omnipotence/impotence. Deus or ghost ex machina. If timbre is thought of as the quality of a sound and its colour, then by thinking about the harmonics and frequencies produced we can reflect on the fundamental character of that technology.
Thinking about failure as a process brings us into another question: it is generally believed that we must be in control of all aspects of the creative process. This is true to an extent, but as agents of chaos we can embrace new formed patterns from these ‘errors’ and mistakes. Ultimately, this process will engender a structure that will take us away from rigidity and into a new way of seeing/hearing. The unexpected result of a malfunction provides us with a way of thinking, a new path for exploration. We can escape our own rigid set-in-stone techniques and open up a new avenue for exploration.
This approach gives the impression of a deconstructionist project where a new form emerges from distortion and dislocation of elements characterised by unpredictability and controlled chaos, from the fragmenting of constructs and the apparent dissociating from harmony, continuity, or symmetry.