There are things in music that cannot be captured in words: things ineffable, uncountable, things that don’t fit inside words or sentences. We can chase them, encircle them, capture their outline by filling the spaces around them with language. But they will always slip away as we struggle to produce more adjectives, clearer metaphors, better examples. The essence of music is necessarily beyond words, expressing things with intent that cannot be substituted.
And yet we endeavor. Maybe nothing is more natural than trying to capture those things which entrance us while lingering just out of reach, but that isn’t what we are after here. We are entranced, it’s true, but we are also overcome by the certainty that this magic can be shared, transferred, communicated. That is what surround is about, this effort to contain just enough of that magic in words so that a reader can start to understand why this music is so essential.
And so now as I gather the writings around me I am proud to say we have taken our first steps towards that goal. We start with what we know best: electro-acoustic music, improvised music, noise and contemporary composition. Some of us have taken on our obsessions directly, such as Lutz Eitel digging deep into Amateur Doubles, Yuko Zama’s expansive journey into the heart of the heart of the Wandelweiser collective, or my own compulsive collection of Kevin Drumm’s compulsive creativity.
We’ve also followed rivers to their source, with Piotr Tkacz’s rare face-to-face interview with Ralf Wehowsky, Matthew Revert’s sweeping profile of Vanessa Rossetto, and BW Diederich’s search through music and interview to reach the currents that run through the AEU. Gil Sansón takes on the magic of music aggressively with an essay I hope will be controversial. And our final two contributions show a direction I hope to follow much more in the future: musicians speaking directly of their experiences creating music.
There is a strong thread in this issue tying together new American music. This wasn’t our plan; in fact it wasn’t even clearly the case until quite late in the process of creating this issue. I think it’s easily explained by the fact that these musicians and their music have been closely involved in inspiring this project from the beginning. But I also think it’s related to the groundswell of challenging new music in America happening now as we head to digital press. We don’t intend this journal to focus on music from the United States, nor do we plan to approach each issue with a priori themes or concepts. We will follow where the music leads us, as closely as we can.
My co-editor Jon Abbey and I have many people to thank along the path that resulted in this publication. We would like to thank our contributors, who have literally created this from nothing. Also our subjects were each and every one forthcoming, helpful, and supportive; we owe them thanks as well. We set aside special thanks to Yuko Zama, who stepped in at a late stage to bring her keen attention to detail to the appearance of the site. And of course thanks to Antoine Duluard, who volunteered early on to guide this work from words to website. ■