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9 - Digital Voices: Posthumanism and the Generation of Empathy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2019

Nicholas Cook
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Monique M. Ingalls
Affiliation:
Baylor University, Texas
David Trippett
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

This chapter investigates digital technologies that variously assist, enable or simulate musical praxis. The first section sets up an opposition between the idea of the digital tool that augments human agency, and the machinic automatism predicated on the idea that reality is fundamentally number (dataism) and ticks along without the need for human consciousness. This gives rise to the idea that mechanical automatism is also intrinsic to human agency, a strand of posthuman thought on which the rest of the chapter turns. Accordingly, the second section shows how posing algorithmic composition as an expression of the posthuman is problematic. The final section focuses on the synthetic voices of digital assistants from online service providers that generate empathy at the price of a surrogate ‘conscience’. Accommodating this within a humanistic model is possible, but a closing case study of Tod Machover’s futurist opera, Death and the Powers (2010), raises the prospect of what might be called a ‘dark ontology’ of the digital.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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References

Auner, Joseph. 2003. ‘Sing it for Me: Posthuman Ventriloquism in Recent Popular Music’. Journal of the Royal Music Association 128 (1): 98122.Google Scholar
Bostrom, Nick. 2009. ‘The transhumanist FAQ’. In Readings in the Philosophy of Technology, edited by Kaplan, David, 345–60. 2nd edn. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Hayles, Katherine. 2012. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nierhaus, Gerhard. 2009. Algorithmic Composition: Paradigms of Automated Music Generation. Vienna: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stoppard, Tom. 2015. The Hard Problem. London: Faber.Google Scholar
Torpey, Peter A. 2012. ‘Digital Systems for Live Multimodal Performance in Death and the Powers’. International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 8 (1): 109–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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