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Sonic Arts Network



Peer reviewed



This is an historical research project tracing the influence of ‘pataphysics on music from the 19th century onwards. While the presentation format of the research may be unusual (in keeping with the subject-matter) there are a number of important new findings, for example the world’s first silent composition, a new piece by The Soft Machine and Hugill’s ‘Nicholas Through the Mist’ (2003). Hugill’s paper ‘Technologies musicales imaginaries: une etude’, given at Université de la Sorbonne, Paris, in 2005, explores these further. Although ‘pataphysics began as a literary idea in the plays and other writings of Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), it has also had a considerable impact on both visual arts and music. Much of this comes from anti-reason and the primacy of imagination that have dominated some of French intellectual life since the emergence of Dada. This has led to a rise in absurdism, conceptual art and, more recently, counter-cultural tendencies that are in experimentalism, digital arts and electronica. The author has had privileged access to certain pataphysical materials and explicit permission to reproduce some of them for the first time. There are three main musical traditions that emerge: fine-art influenced experimental music (Allais, Duchamp, Bryars, Matta, Salley); ‘left-field’ popular music (Vian, Lennon, Soft Machine, Gullibloon); and music influenced by literature and literary techniques (Etienne, Hobbs, Inigo, Drever, Battier, Hugill). These traditions interconnect and influence one another in various ways. One particularly interesting aspect is the experimental use of technology, from the early music machines of Grainger and Dubuffet, through tape composition by Soft Machine and Luc Etienne, to the contemporary electroacoustic manipulations of Battier, Inigo, Hugill and the rest. This CD/booklet has been extensively reviewed in Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Copies of the reviews are enclosed with the CD submission.


RAE 2008, UoA 67 Music


Hugill, A. (2005) Pataphysics. London: Sonic Arts Network, 2005


Research Institute

Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)