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The distributed Gesamptkunstwerk: Sound, worlding, and new media culture


Computers and Composition Volume 23, Number 3 ISSN 8755-4615 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


This essay argues that musicians have been at the forefront of the multimedia revolution. Rather than limit multimedia's creative locus to individuals working with a small range of tools/instruments, we address the increasing dispersion of productive processes across communities, technologies, and spaces. New media culture has reached a point where one can compose on a laptop, sample, loop, and create mashups and heretofore-unknown musics. These developments indicate that contemporary re/mix/digital music culture offers vocabularies, models, and practices for new media writing and culture generations beyond the tradition of text-based composition or the singular work of art. The article traces a genealogy from Wagner's notion of the “total art work” up to contemporary digital/remix to show how new media extend techniques that have long been developing. Just as the dispersion of production across communities and technologies transforms musical aesthetics, so also the aesthetic experience itself changes. New media culture is less resonant with interpretation than with engagement, and to explain this experiential difference the article develops the concepts of “worlding” and “prosumer.” Additionally, this article considers musical and multimedia attempts to incorporate new input streams, including those too often categorized (and excluded) as noise. Such input streams, in combination with other feedback-driven and distributed forms of production, can be theorized as part of an expansive, immersive, and experiential approach to new media we articulate as worlding.


Rickert, T. & Salvo, M. The distributed Gesamptkunstwerk: Sound, worlding, and new media culture. Computers and Composition, 23(3), 296-316. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved March 1, 2021 from .

This record was imported from Computers and Composition on February 1, 2019. Computers and Composition is a publication of Elsevier.

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