Searching for Critical Mass
My impression of organizations dedicated to electroacoustics, like SAN and the CEC, is that they are condemning their community to insignificance unless they encourage participation in the ongoing global conversation.
Why? Because electroacoustics is a young sonic art and its recognition is still poor. (Here in Canada, when the Canada Council for the Arts assesses funding applications, electroacoustics is bundled together with chamber music.) Attaining a critical mass of practitioners and enthusiasts is crucial for the development and acceptance of this sonic art form, but the appropriate recognition will not come about by individually bound labors in isolation.
Communications is essential. Word-of-mouth and face-to-face are good, but they are only a start. Locally minded forms of communication might aid with concert attendance, but do little to attract the outside community. Information concerning an event is still important to those who cannot attend due to distance. Within the global context, an awareness about "the scene" takes place on email lists, and posting what is going on raises understanding and furthers the possibility of more activity. Not announcing an event, either before or after, to the community is akin to saying the event is of no importance.
With healthy communications networks established, promoted and maintained, organizations can make links to sister organizations outside the country. This aids in building a base of recognition which cannot come only from within. A more profound form of mutual aid can be created by establishing formal or semi-formal agreements to collaborate and communicate, solidify ties and unite energy and vision in ways which cannot be undone by changes and shifts in social mood or personalities. Success is multi-faceted as international cooperation brings about a weight and profile which cannot be attempted within the confines of one nation alone.
While international organizations have been created to promote this type of development, (the International Confederation for Electroacoustic Music (ICEM) and the New International Community of Electroacoustic Music (NICE)) these have largely been ineffective in creating more than a local surge in activity which dissipates once the events are over. As well, and this has been stated before by past officers of a number of national ea/cm organizations, we do not need more mega-organizations with more bylaws and more troubles and duties. What is needed is networking, as it was meant to be before it became a synonym for taking a coffee break.
An agreement of collaboration and communication has been forged between the SAN and the CEC. Back as early as 1994 the CEC and SAN were recognizing each other as fellow associations, and exchanged memberships formally. A relationship of mutual support started, with ripples extending out to the larger community. At the time, SAN was promoting <cecdiscuss> and the CEC was providing articles for the SAN journal. Over the years officers from the two organizations have kept in touch, but recently there has been more involvement on both parties' sides:
- two SAN officers are part of Productions électro Productions (PEP), the production wing for the CEC,
- SAN has aided the CEC with an edition of eContact!, profiling the writing and works from the UK,
- our young UK composers are on the upcoming CD project PRESENCE II.
A position has been created on the CEC Board of Directors for representatives from other ea organizations. SAN, the Society for ElectroAcoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) and the Australasian Computer Music Association (ACMA) have each been invited to have a representative sit on the CEC Board, to keep the communications channels open and capitalize on the commonality of intent and energy. So far SAN and SEAMUS have accepted, and Pete Stollery and Stephan David Beck are now ex-officio CEC Board members.
With this new relationship, an infrastructure will take shape which does not require a meta-structure like the existing ones to get "things" done. Already:
- concerts have been planned in Montreal featuring UK composers,
- ex-officio board members are taking part in search committees and juries,
- the CEC's CDs are currently being listed in Diffusion.
With the board representatives connected by email discussions, more small cooperative efforts will appear, but now is not the time to add up the success stories: now is the time to make sure people are going to use the established communications networks.
Supporting the community can be as easy as reading the flux and flow of the email lists. Posting local announcements is very important, and aids the larger community in recognizing itself. Getting to the regions of the world which practice the sonic arts but do not know or refuse to acknowledge the importance of the communications network is crucial. Subscribing to the discussion lists and checking out the projects linked from this article are the least one can do. The challange is made.
CEC Board of Directors
This article first appeared in the December 1999 issue of DIFFUSION.