José Luis Besada

@NewMusic #composer_performer: The influence of social media and virtual reality in Óscar Escudero’s creative practices

The history of Western art music provides lots of examples of composers finding inspiration from visual arts, and sometimes directly integrating them into their artwork. These choices have generally been circumscribed within the frames of the so-called “high-culture”, therefore neglecting other formats of visual expression. For instance, music videos, which are crucial for the urban popular music repertoire, have arrived relatively late into the contemporary music circuits.

A young generation of digital native composers is showing no prejudice when implementing these kinds of multimodal relationships, sometimes influenced by the ways of expression of social media (Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…). In this paper, I will focus on Spanish composer Óscar Escudero (b. 1992), who frequently conceives multimedia/hypermedia projects in which he sometimes acts as a performer. For this purpose, I will pay attention to two musical cycles: on the one hand, the collection of pieces Custom, for different instrumental configurations, video, and sometimes performer; on the other hand, Escudero’s trilogy HOC, POV, OST for a single player (respectively percussionist, saxophonist, and performer) with virtual reality glasses and video.

While scrutinizing several sources related to these works –namely the scores, the videos, the sketches, and some pre-compositional materials– and ethnographically observing rehearsals, a set of research questions and particular features have arisen. The main goal of this paper is to provide some discussion about them, aimed at rethinking some aspects of what a creative process is and the ways we can scientifically bound it. For instance:

Most of Escudero’s videos must be customized depending on the players and the particular concert situations (date, place…). The existence of different versions of a same work is not at all novelty for musicologists, but the use of DIY (Do It Yourself) logics giving rise to them, inspired for instance by Youtube tutorials, opens a very different path.

Escudero’s scores often include notation for para-gestural movements and facial gestures. Again, it is not a novelty in contemporary music, but the use for instance of smileys and emojis borrowed from the social media language has particular implications for performers.

Some contemporary composers –for instance Olga Neuwirth– have successfully implemented storyboard logics from cinema in order to shape musical forms and manage time. Escudero’s way to organize his multimodal materials is clearly debtor of ephemeral ways we navigate at Internet. Which are the consequences of this choice in his musical forms?

  • The use of virtual reality glasses helps players to focus on some aspects of the performance, but at the same time alienates them from several multimodal stimuli on the stage. What sort of creative protocols are into play for mitigating dislocation during performance and what are their cognitive consequences?

Finally, and particularly related to the last point, I will provide some remarks about how these creative practices may open the path to experiments in the field of empiric psychology of music, based on the notion of 4E (embodied, embedded, extended, and enacted) cognition.


GREAM/IRMA — Université de Strasbourg, APM — IRCAM, France

He studied composition at Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid and mathematics at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He obtained a PhD in musicology at both Université Paris 8 and Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He obtained a first postdoc at IRCAM and is currently a postdoc researcher at Université de Strasbourg. He has taught contemporary music analysis at Université Paris 8 and at Université Paris 4 Sorbonne. His main publication is his book Metamodels in Compositional Practices. He is also guest editor, with Dan Albertson, of a double special issue on Spanish contemporary music that will appear soon at Contemporary Music Review. He currently collaborates with Radio Nacional de España- Radio Clásica, conducting the weekly broadcast on contemporary music.