Listen To: ‘Platform,’ Holly Herndon’s Electronic Masterpiece

Listen To: ‘Platform,’ Holly Herndon’s Electronic Masterpiece

Adriana SaboWednesday,27 May 2015

Women in electronic music have become a popular topic over the past few years. There are numerous web sites, platforms, pages and festivals, celebrating the female artists that choose to “tamper with technology,” as it’s still understood, it seems, as something that interests men. Women in this field are still often viewed as something quite peculiar. If we, as women are connected to our bodies and thus, to nature — many will still say — how come we are also able to exist in the artificial world of technology and electronic music? So unfeminine. This attitude is precisely why promoting female composers of electronic music is so important. Among these women who take no notice of stupid conventions is Holly Herndon, an amazing artist who draws her inspiration from Pierre Schaeffer‘s musique concrète — a composition technique that is based on the use of pre-existing sounds recorded in real life that are later on altered in a number of ways, through electronic means, and then made into a piece of electroacoustic music.

Holly Herndon is an exceptional artist who sets the bar incredibly high. She is currently a candidate for doctoral study in Computer Music at Stanford University. She received her MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media at Mills College and won the Elizabeth Mills Crothers award for Best Composer in 2010 for her vocal generated piece ’195.′

She just released her latest album, titled Platformthat was, as all her music is, released through 4AD and RVNG Intl. In it, she tampers with connections between “two worlds” of electronic music; that is, she makes no distinction between the so-called popular and classical electronic music, between “techno” and “experimental.” She takes the basic principles of musique concrète and makes them into a track with catchy beats that can easily be played in clubs. Holly Herndon takes this concept, that has originated in the era of analogue technology, and transports it into the contemporary, digital world of our techno culture, thus eliminating the possibility of her poetic being understood as belonging to the “serious” or “popular” music. As her Facebook page states, “Her musical work explores embodied experience in electronic media through experiments with the electronically processed voice, using extended vocal techniques, vocal processing and FM synthesis”.

In other words, Herndon brings the body into her music — so to speak — thus challenging the idea that the woman and the machine are two completely separate entities. Her music can be understood as her embodied self, a part of her and an “extension.” In “Interference,” the first track on Platform, she combines the concrete sounds that she “turns into” noises at the very beginning and at the and, and then combines them with dace rhythms and beats, moving us masterfully to the ambient of a nightclub. In other tracks, such as “Chorus,”, “Unequal feat. Colin Self,”, and “New Ways to Love,” Herndon explores further the aesthetic implications of using musique concrète in a contemporary context, coquetting with minimalism and different uses and potentials of the human voice.

Platform is, thus, enjoyable on many, many levels. No matter how closely you listen, you’ll keep finding out new things. You can write a PhD thesis about this music, or listen to it while you relax. It is amazing. And it makes me wonder: why do most of us still have the need to be condescending and emphasize that “women make excellent electronic music too?”

You can listen to Platform below:

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