Let us imagine a new stage play, which has to be issued on a videocassette and sold in that version. Plainly, some additional artwork has to be done for this to be sensible. Although the author and stage director have completed their work for the stage version of the piece it is obvious that for that same play to be adapted for a television screen a radical third-stage editing has to take place: Namely, the actual film-direction. It implies deciding on different angles, close-ups, camera movements, lighting, and eventually a whole series of other technical expedients so as to reinterpret the play in view of the new medium which is supposed to transmit it. In simple words, since the theatre will no longer be the place where the work is enjoyed, the space of the action has to be totally reinvented. There is no way of being faithful to the original: From the moment it appears on a television screen it has become a different work of art. Even the establishment of an imagined spectator's viewpoint by placing only one camera in the audience for the whole piece, although it might be useful for documenting the stage version, would not make such a version any more faithful from an artistic point of view. The impression - and therefore the meaning - of such a version is totally different from a real presence in the theatre hall. If the videocassette should be a product, and not just a by-product, the aforesaid reinterpretation of the play is unavoidable. All this, as concerns video, is banal and widely accepted.

It takes no effort to transpose the above to music. I have long wondered why the recording of artmusic has never evolved in a similar direction to that of stage-play recordings. Great achievements have been made in the technical quality of the audio recordings, reaching an astonishing sound fidelity, and even a strong analytical viewpoint, but some fundamental questions seem never to have been dealt with:

1. Concert listening-loudspeaker listening: Loudspeakers are a medium so radically different from the concert hall that there is no question of reconstructing a concert-like listening, no more than reconstructing a theatre-vision on a video. Usually we seem to suppose that the listener of a recording should refer what he hears to a concert hall, but if we think of it, that is by no way implied in the product. Taking a concert listening for granted prevents us from seeing what the listening situation really is. A recording of music will always be artificial in respect to the concert experience, and it is useless to pretend it is not. (It is interesting to note that in rock music the process is exactly the contrary: Usually the concert is a representation of a recording. This of course is no more artistic, there being no musical reason one should come to a concert if the CD is the same, and a more perfect representation of the music).

2. Spatialisation: As regards the movement of sound in space, a concert situation actually offers some natural spatialisation, which a normal recording cannot reproduce. In a concert hall, although the instrument remains in the same place the sound diffusion prevents it from becoming too localised: The hall "reinterprets" the sound and filters it according to its spectral contents and dynamics. Just to give an example, we may take the difference in perception between a note played on the horn semi-muted with the hand, or the same note played cuivré. It is not only the timbre of the instrument that changes: The hall responds in two different ways to these sounds, they get a different space, the horn "moves around" so to speak. The same goes for all instruments (clarinet in the deep register as compared to the same clarinet in the high register) etc. etc. Of course the microphones capture the difference in spectral contents, but the capacity of loudspeakers to reproduce the complex spatial effect is extremely reduced: The listening however remains frontal in a certain sense (or not involved). What is a distance of 2 metres in a concert, often sounds more like 2 cm from a loudspeaker. So there seems to be no use in imitating a concert position of the instruments on a recording. To render the real physical distinction between the instruments and the different spacing of their sounds some other methods have to be used.

3. Unlike the case of a stage play, in a recording of music, one aspect of the concert experience is totally lost. Namely the visual. This of course radically alternates our attitude towards what we are listening to, and it is impossible to pretend that the listener imagines visually a group of musicians while listening to loudspeakers or headphones. This is another reason why there is no use in imitating a concert position of the instruments on a recording.

4. The CD as an independent artwork: The concept of a CD as an independent product, and not just a by-product of concert activity, seems never to have been consolidated in the new music sector. If we agree with the present considerations we must admit that the entertainment industry seems to be years ahead of new music producers. This regards both the attitude to the sound itself and the idea of the CD as an artistic whole. The possibility of a specific CD-aesthetic has matured in the past two decades, and it is becoming impossible to ignore it.

5. The CD as a unity:
In most cases, in rock music there is an effort to give each CD one unified character. I believe that such an effort should be made for a CD of contemporary music. We usually try to give a concert some sort of unified image, but the unity of a CD is as important or actually more important than the artistic whole of a concert. It is true that often the listener listens only to one piece at a time, but there must also exist the possibility of a unified listening, and the invitation to such a listening. One may imagine that the problem is less serious in the case of profile CDs, but the unity of the author is not enough to assure the unity of the product. Some conceptual plot should unify the pieces that are presented together, and some one concept should be able to symbolise the whole project. This has both artistic and commercial relevance. Let us not forget that the CD is an object to be sold. Straightforward recordings of contemporary music, as have been produced until now, are no more apt to sell than videos of modern plays made with one fixed camera. They are of interest only for documentation, not real enjoyment of the listening experience (no matter how enjoyable the concert listening may be).

6. Contemporary music and electronics: We should then consider how most contemporary music is already influenced by electronics and loudspeakers and has a sense of space and sound that is totally different from that of classical music. Often some effects in the acoustic version of a piece may only be an approximation to effects that may be realised in a much more precise manner on a CD, and indeed sometimes may need to be realised in a more precise manner to be as effective on a recording as live. (I should stress the fact this does not make these effects unsuccessful in the acoustic versions) The precious fact that the composers are alive also gives us the opportunity to elaborate a serious, authorised, CD version of his works.

7. The listener-disk relation:
Last but not least there is a very delicate question: What kind of relation to the CD does the listener develop? This will be our key to how complex the CD-object can or should be. My answer is that listening to a CD, especially one with contemporary music, is essentially a very private experience in our day. The listener tends to make the same demands on it as on a book: It has to contain enough complexity to make the listening like the reading of a book: Something that can completely absorb you by its own means. A book absorbs the reader by rich language and narrative technique, which are particular of the book. A CD must strain for a similar complexity of experience, within its own particular language, which has been developing the past decades. If one objects that the language of contemporary music is complex enough already, that misses the point. I am talking about the complexity of the particular language of the CD, which actually could diminish the complexity of the music. If we think of it in this sense, we must compare a CD with a concert version of a piece to a book based on a screenplay. No matter how complex the plot of the film, such a book will never become interesting as such. It is time we realise that the CD is an artform with its own particular language. And the essential part of making a CD is not any more the recording of a source, it is the production of a sound image to be mastered on CD form. Thus, the so-called "post production" is the real production of the compact disk as a work of art.

It may well be that many composers would not be ready to alter their works for a recording. This depends on how they conceive their music. I myself, on the other hand, have long since come to realise that there is no single definite version possible of my written works, and I am always ready to reinvent them according to the needs of the moment. Redefining a piece on a CD does not mean I am altering the piece, because putting it on a CD is already an alteration. Serious post-production only means that the composer is conscious of this fact and faces it in the most honest and creative way.
It might be that my music has some characteristics that make it particularly apt for reinterpretation on CD: There are many structural elements that in concert performance remain latent and which on disc can be explicated in various ways (notes or chords following a particular process inside the texture, or periodical elements, or different types of sound perspective, or antiphonal instrumental effects in certain passages, a single instrument playing a line that in recording could be divided between two instruments etc. etc.)

I should now come to what I think has to be done to make a serious reediting of my works for a CD.

Phase 1, recording:
So as to be able to work separately with all the voices in the piece there needs to be a separate channel for each instrument, or at the most for three or four instruments, if the orchestration can be divided into groups (before recording sessions the composer works out a recording score with such details as number of instruments per channel etc.). I am not competent enough to propose definite solutions as to how this can be realised in the most economic way.
During recordings there needs to be one good general take from a hall distance, and takes of individual instruments, either done simultaneously with close microphones, or recorded separately, using a general take in headphones as a reference for players and conductor, or simply a click track.
It is clear that during recording sessions what we are looking for will no more be a good general take. The whole performance will be artificially reconstructed anyway.

Phase 2, mixing:
For this phase, the composer will have worked out a mixing score, indicating roughly his ideas of the spatial effects and balance he desires, if there are repetitions, doublings, artificial fermatas etc. to be added to the piece.

Phase 3, post-production:
Here is where everything becomes possible, where the composer concentrates on the sound, and works out the actual new images of his piece. This implies: Artificial panning, artificial reverb and ambient, filtering, distorting, detuning, emphasising with addition of non acoustical sounds, or simply adding new electronical parts to the works etc. etc. The possibilities are infinite, but it is important that the composer reaches a definite idea of how he wants the new version of the piece to sound. A trained post-producer as in the rock industry would certainly be of help to find the best means to fulfil the composers' wishes. In my case I might be able to do most of the post-production myself, either on my Mac at home or in studio, with a final intervention of an expert producer.

Phase 4, disposition on a CD
There might be some extra work to be done so as to connect the works on the CD, and work out a unified image and a strong evolution within the CD. Personally I have imagined using the sounds from my keyboard piece to compose short interludes that connect all the pieces on the disc, placing the actual keyboard piece last. The last phase also implies the conceptual and graphical image of the final product, which is of utmost importance.

It is clear that such an approach to the recording and producing process would make the production more expensive and longer (post-production might take a couple of months). The final product would however have some more chances of selling than a normal contemporary music CD.

I must conclude by saying that I hope I have made perfectly clear the strong motivations I have to adopt such methods as described above. For me it is no question of big self-esteem or an effort to do "something original". I simply consider this as the only really modern and artistic way to produce a CD with contemporary music.