The Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC) celebrated its 25th anniversary with a cross-Canada tour in late 2011. Comprised of more than 25 concerts, 10 seminars, over 2 dozen local presentations, masterclasses, colloquiums and more, the tour was a brilliant demonstration of the CEC’s on-going contribution to the support and development of Canadian electroacoustic art, culture and infrastructure. Extensive audio-visual documentation of the events is featured in this issue.
In 1986, the Canadian Electroacoustic Community / Communauté électroacoustique canadienne (CEC) came into being following several busy years of communications, discussions and planning by Charter and Founding Members Kevin Austin and Jean-François Denis. As this was being put in place, Austin also travelled across Canada to speak with members of the community as part of the broader goal to ensure that this emerging association would be equipped to respond to the greatly varying needs and interest of the various groups of artists that together form the electroacoustic community in Canada.
The CEC, Canada’s national association for electroacoustics, continues to garner respect around the world for its innovative, forward-thinking projects and the inclusive nature of its numerous activities. An ambitious cross-Canada tour was mounted in November-December 2011 to celebrate the CEC’s 25th Anniversary. But “To know where we are, it sometimes helps to know where we were before,” writes Kevin Austin. In his article, he muses on “how things were then” as well as how and why the artistic nature of the individual regions across Canada developed the way they did, often in greatly contrasting ways. In his seminar on the tour, he also often made reference to the geographical variations and distances between the regions and localities as defining characteristics of the activities and practices one encounters within each of them.
Concerts, seminars, presentations and more were held at each station along the tour, which took us from Montréal to the Pacific Northwest, over the Rocky Mountains, across the Prairies, to the southern Great Lakes region and finally to the Atlantic coast. In this issue showcasing the CEC’s 25th Anniversary Tour, we are pleased to present extensive audio and video documentation of these events, as well as a number of interviews with people involved in the project along the way. Videos are embedded in pages in the issue dedicated to individual venues, cities and interviewees, but many of them are also available in playlists on the CEC’s new YouTube channel.
Seminars, Talks, Presentations and Concerts
Kevin Austin was the CEC’s special guest on the tour, and for each of the ten stops he gave a seminar specially prepared for the occasion, “Some Recent Trends and Practices in Electroacoustic Studies across Canada: The CEC at 25.” The content was slightly varied each time in order to accentuate the unique nature, evolution and passions of the local milieux and regions: the parallel and complementary developments of acousmatic and electronic music in Montréal, robotics and research in Victoria, soundscape practices in Vancouver, the experimental scene in Edmonton, telematic performance in Calgary, live electronics in Winnipeg, audio-visual works and multi-channel spatialization in Toronto, live coding and improvisation in Hamilton and sound art in St. John’s. Additionally, local guests were invited to contribute complementary talks in the second part of the seminar to highlight local practices and history or to present their own work. Further demonstrations and presentations integrated controllers and instruments, technologies and research into an already rich programme.
Parallel to this myriad of pedagogical and academic activities, more than 25 concerts were mounted that featured composers and artists working in a range of electroacoustic practices and sub-genres that was as diverse as could be imagined: acousmatic, ambient and electronica, live coding, improvisation, dada performance, deep listening and live cinema, as well as performances involving other art forms such as video, dance, theatre and painting. Among these were ten concerts featuring the winning works from JTTP 2011, the 12th edition of the annual Jeu de temps / Times Play project, which supports the work of young and emerging composers and sound artists in Canada. At each stop on the tour, one or more of the composers of these works was invited to travel along and to present their work and those of their colleagues in the concert.
For the Montréal launch of the tour, the CEC went “back to its roots” to Concordia University’s Music Department — a friend of the CEC since before it even existed as a legal entity! — for a day packed with performances and presentations. Throughout the CEC’s 25+ years of existence, Concordia has in innumerable ways been a fervent supporter of the association as it grew and matured as Canada’s national association for electroacoustics, and we are therefore very happy to have been able to share the launching of the 25th anniversary celebrations with Concordia.
Before embarking on almost three weeks of travel during the rest of the tour, a second event in Montréal was held the next day at the Conservatoire de musique, where everyone’s schedules aligned to allow us to have a full house of JTTP guests in attendance. Departing from Montréal, it took us two flights westward to arrive in Victoria, where we began our eastward sweep of the entire breadth of Canada, with the events there organized and hosted by the Music Department of the University of Victoria. We opted for the bus + ferry travel between Vancouver Island and the mainland to take in the scenic — albeit cold and wet — route to Vancouver, where a very full day of activities was organized by Simon Fraser University Department of Communications.
A few hours after leaving the rather agreeable west coast climate, we touched down in Edmonton, greeted by temperatures of -25… in the middle of the afternoon! Which hardly deterred staunch Edmontonians from showing up for a full weekend of events at the Sea of Sound Festival, a collaboration between the University of Alberta’s Music Department, Boreal Electroacoustic Music Society (BEAMS) and Tonus Vivus. A few hundred kilometres south, and with the cold front replaced by strong winds and above-zero temperatures, we arrived in Calgary, where events in the Music Department of the University of Calgary were enhanced by the virtual presence of Hamilton and Montréal via telematic links.
Our next stop was in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, where our hosts were the Desautels Faculty of Music and Studio FLAT, so named not only for its acoustic characteristics, but also for the nature of the geographic terrain surrounding Winnipeg. Coordinated by New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) and the Ontario College of Art and Design University, another solid weekend of events awaited us in Toronto, where the seminar and concerts were complemented by a masterclass and a colloquium bringing together important figures in the historical development of electroacoustics in Southern Ontario. Just around the bend — or, depending on your mode of travel, just across the west corner — of Lake Ontario lies Hamilton, our next port-of-call, where members of the Cybernetic Orchestra coordinated our sojourn at McMaster University’s Communications Studies and Multimedia Department. Another couple of thousand kilometres’ jaunt eastward and we arrived in wind-battered (and very temperate!) St. John’s for the final stop on our three-week tour, at Memorial University’s School of Music.
In the midst of organizing, coordinating and overseeing the activities during the tour, I managed to devote a little time to interview some of the people involved in the events, with the presence of JTTP guests providing further opportunities for interviews. During our ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver, Maxime Corbeil-Perron and Guillaume Barrette spoke about the fascinating MISTIC performance the previous evening in Victoria. In the midst of an exhibition of sound installations I interviewed Shawn Pinchbeck on the development and nature of Edmonton’s collaborative and experimental artistic community. In Toronto, following the first SOUNDplay performance, I spoke with Darren Copeland about his experiences using the Audio Spotlight as a tactile sound diffusion instrument, and with Ben Thigpen on his live laptop performance and the use of NAISA’s diffusion system. After the following night’s JTTP concert, I also spoke to Guillaume Barrette, Maxime Corbeil-Perron and Jullian Hoff about their experiences using NAISA’s system. Following two performances by Hamilton’s Cybernetic Orchestra, the first with works created by the orchestra members and the second featuring improvisations with members and friends of the collective, Guillaume Campion and I chatted about live coding, improvisation and a little about the academic acousmatic tradition. Two members of the Cybernetic Orchestra, Amy McIntosh and Kearon Roy Taylor, offered their own insights into the creative structure and inclusive nature of this laptop collective.
Obviously with an endeavour of this nature and size, there are many, many people who were instrumental in helping make it happen, and the tour could have only been the success it was thanks to the contributions of so many artists, teachers, technicians, administrators, concert venue managers, studio directors and more. On behalf of the CEC, I would like to express particular gratitude to those key participants and coordinators at each venue, without whose industrious efforts and tireless support the tour could not have even come into being: Mark Corwin, Eldad Tsabary and Ricardo Dal Farra (Concordia), Louis Dufort and Martin Bédard (Conservatoire), Andrew Schloss (Victoria), Jean Routhier, Arne Eigenfeldt and Carey Dodge (Vancouver), Shawn Pinchbeck and Scott Smallwood (Edmonton), Ken Fields and Laurie Radford (Calgary), Örjan Sandred and Gordon Fitzell (Winnipeg), NAISA (Toronto), David Ogborn (Hamilton) and Andrew Staniland (St. John’s).
The CEC also wishes to recognize the crucial role the SOCAN Foundation played in the realization of this project, as it was their generous contributions through the Creator’s Assistance Programme that assured the financial basis for the tour. The Writing and Publishing section of the Canada Council for the Arts has supported the publication of eContact! production on the first issue began back in 1997, and we are grateful for their on-going support, which has grown in parallel with the maturation of the journal.
I would personally like to thank Yves Gigon for all the fantastic work he did “under the hood” on this tour in keeping the machine running smoothly, constantly updating and correcting webpages, managing the finances, and particularly for the massive amount of work he so heroically tackled to make available the extensive audio and video documentation found in this issue. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Kevin Austin and Jean-François for their immeasurable efforts in bringing Canada’s national association for electroacoustic and related artistic practices into existence in the first place. This tour is also a tribute to their contributions, through a variety of endeavours past and present, to the establishment and support of the electroacoustic community in Canada.
Onwards… Another 25 Years!
The tour offered a fantastic opportunity for the CEC’s Board members and administrators to meet and exchange ideas and stories with the extended — and growing! — Canadian electroacoustic family. In addition to reconnecting with old friends and colleagues — several of whom have been members since the beginnings and have also contributed to forging the community as we know it today — it offered the chance for them to meet many of its more recent members, both in and out of the institutions teaching electroacoustics, media arts, communications and other subjects related to the field in some way.
We hope you enjoy reading about or revisiting the celebrations as much as we enjoyed doing them, and also invite you to visit the CEC@25 photo album on the CEC’s Facebook page.
And here’s to another 25 successful years of the CEC!
19 March 2014