Listening in Code: Process and Politics in Interactive Musical Works

Master’s thesis, MIT Comparative Media Studies, 2016


As everyday musical experiences move further into software platforms, an interest among musicians in taking fuller advantage of computational media produces a strand of interactive, software-based musical works I call open mediational music. This phenomenon stands apart from other types of creative work centered on music and interaction by valorizing the listener’s responsibility for instantiating musical works. It also advances an agenda of openness with respect to interactivity as a principle of new media. I center four case studies on a set of interactive musical works that exemplify this phenomenon: Reflective by Reiko Yamada, Thicket by Morgan Packard and Joshue Ott, Jazz.Computer by Yotam Mann and Sarah Rothberg, and Baggage Allowance by Pamela Z. Each of these works takes shape out of unique motivations and in different forms and settings. Collectively, they advance a notion of platforms as objects of critical awareness and propose listening as a model for mindful participation in algorithmic environments. Illuminating the distinct claims that sound and software hold on one another as creative domains, open mediational music invites listeners to rehearse a conscientious engagement with the sites and conditions of computationally mediated cultural encounter.

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