An opening reception, to mark an exhibit of graphics by Herbert Brün, was held in the library at the School of Music at the University of Illinois on May 3, 2007. Herbert taught in the Music Department at the University of Illinois from 1963 to 2000, while composing music for instruments as well as for computers. He composed over 1,000 works of graphic art, about half of which are still in Urbana; a small selection form the exhibit. Presentations on the graphics were offered by Susan Parenti, Mark Enslin, and Philip Schuessler. Exerpts of their presentations follow.
Herbert composed over 60 pieces of music, as well as additional hours of music for theater; he also composed 1,056 computer graphics. Of that number, only seven are duplicates–the rest are what is called ‘unique’ (though that’s a selling word) “unique”. Herbert was wary of the term “computer graphics”, as if the computer generated the graphics. The formulation he preferred was “ink graphics, drawn by a plotter, under control of a computer, programmed by a composer”. (It takes more time to be thoughtful!) In the 1980s Herbert gladly hung his graphics in the Music Library of the University of Illinois, where they floated like mirages high over the bookshelves. Now, in 2007, they return.
One of the first formulations I was offered by Herbert Brün when I attended his freshman composition class was “composition creates a context in which a false statement turns true” … I was an 18-year-old, and I met this statement and the person behind it. Among several notions that this sentence lights up, is the notion that composing a piece of (say) music is related to making statements. This, unfortunately, is a controversial thought.
Making statements was not an emphasized part of my upbringing. So how could a piece of art make a statement? An answer that was explored by Brün and by students in class and in work was: by analogy. An analog is not that to which it is analog. You have two things: one is analog to the other. They are not the same thing. They have a relationship that is: analogy… Brün added a twist to this, which is: while you can make analogies to things that already exist in the world, you can also make analogies to things that don’t exist in the world, yet.
One of my interests with this project is to consider that analogy can be more than the usual one-to-one correspondence between two similar things. I’m intrigued with Herbert’s idea of considering this graphic as an analogy to something that doesn’t yet exist. Creating this process of analogy is for me very interesting… to transform this into a musical medium is part of the challenge. How to translate it into musical terms?