Tracing Discontinuities: Writing Histories of Experimental Sound-based Media in Slovakia and Central/Eastern Europe
Venue:Stockholm School of Economics
As a part of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia had an interesting history of electronic music and experimental sound-based production dating back to the late 1950s. Most projects originated under a totalitarian regime which was restricting free artistic production based on party-prescribed preferences. The development of Slovak experimental electronic music and sound-based media creation can be perceived as a shift from the first establishment of a classical music avant-garde (including the famous Experimental Studio in Bratislava) to a full-fledged pluralistic setting, but also as a shift from the phenomenon of the academically trained composer through the character of a creative sound engineer with technical background to a general democratization of artistic production in the 1990s. After 2000, a strong new generation of sound artists and experimental electronic musicians has emerged, crossing boundaries betweem academic, artistic and subcultural playgrounds. However, most of the ‘newcomers’ hardly show any references or relationships to the historical efforts in this territory. Rather than gradual evolution, the history of the genre(s) can be therefore viewed as process full of ruptures and discontinuities, with each generation having to reinvent the medium again. The paper examines briefly the history of technological and artistic experimentation in this field, bridges the past and present as well as points out several attempts to document and make both the historical and contemporary efforts accessible to the public (e.g. projects RadioArt, Soundexchange) and elaborates on several concepts related to the histories of media art in this region (such as the Western-Eastern dichotomy).