montréal, 19 february 2001
music section canada council for the arts
dear members of the music section,
recently, i was asked by robert normandeau to respond to a questionnaire circulated by the CC. mr. normandeau was one of several people who received such a questionnaire, and has compiled [and submitted to the canada council] a summary of the comments and responses from the various people he himself contacted, in a report which considers the state of electroacoustics in canada and canadian electroacoustic infrastructure [notably the CEC] as well as the CC's support of electroacoustics in canada.
as i feel it is essential to _properly_ address the many questions that the distribution of such a questionnaire can provoke, i feel it important to submit my own comments - free of the filtering [i.e. editing and "presentation of ideas"] that is characteristic of such formal reports - in the hope of assisting the CC in ameliorating its comprehension and understanding of the current situation vis-à-vis the CC and ea in canada.
[i have divided the questions into sections for ease of reading and reference.]
should any member of the council wish clarification on any of the points raised in my comments, s/he should feel free to contact me via email, or by telephone.
** 1a **
* Description of how these practices have changed or not in the past five to ten years
this question alone would require a significant essay, and is therefore poorly suited for such a questionnaire. perhaps the CC could appoint an officer [claude schryer perhaps?] to inform them of these [and other... see below] issues, and then please ask me again with much more specific questions. simply put, things have changed, and [will] continue to change.
** 1b **
* Does the practice of this artform change from region to region? If so, how, why?
there is no specific, rigidly-defined [thankfully!] canadian practice in the current era. these geographical boundaries exist less and less; this is not specific to ea/new music, nor to canada in relation to other countries. differences certainly exist... [see comments on the CC's hermetic considerations of the canadian community, #7].
* Can the 'schools' of el/cm be categorized or delineated from one another?
* Has the advance of technology had an impact on these practices? How?
most significantly, i would say, in regards to accessibility. i assume, perhaps naïvely, that i do not need to elaborate on this point... technology is developed to respond to existing needs. its advancement allows the production of practitioners to evolve in tandem with their artistic ideas. when technology defines artistic production, artistry stagnates.
** 1c **
* Would all practitioners of the art form consider themselves composers? Sound artists?
in no given art form do all practitioners call themselves by the same title... composers, sound composers, sound artists, sound sculptors... i don't really see the pertinence of such a question, unless it is to emphasize the CC's already stifling categorization of musical production. perhaps the question could be rephrased: "please list the various terms used by practitioners to describe their artistic production so that we may better inform ourselves, and thus better service the various facets of the increasingly complex community".
** 1d **
* What are considered the 'margins' of el/cm practice and describe the overlap with media-based artists?
the overlap is impossible to describe, as it may [and does] vary with each artist. i would mention that overlapping is common, and increasingly so. this question effectively cancels the need to respond to the third regarding categorization/delineation.
* Are there gender issues with this practice? Issues of cultural diversity? Generation?
by the nature of the medium, i would say less than in other artistic realms for gender and cultural differences. on generation, the same problems exist in all areas of canadian art production, the age-old social strata problem, where a few established [and often no longer evolving] practitioners control the distribution of access to the means amongst the greater part of the community. the same people keep getting commissions, regardless of whether their artistry or understanding of the potential of the art form evolves or not, in part due to the nature of the CC's consideration of "viability" (see #6c, second point).
** 1e **
* Do many electroactoustic composers consider themselves performers? As diffusionists or with other live musicians in real time? Do many of these composers consider themselves multidisciplinary artists?
those who use mediums from different disciplines may [or may not!] wish to consider themselves multidisciplinary artists. those who diffuse may [or may not!] consider themselves diffusion artists... this is a stupid question.
** 2a **
* How do most of these artists earn a living? Commissions? Teaching? Involved with other media?
ha! earn a living... that's grand! many artists "earn a living" through artistic compromise, due to the incapacity of existing arts funding organizations to effectively respond to the changing needs of the community.
????!!!!?!?!??!?!?!!! SHOULD THE CC NOT ALREADY BE AWARE OF HOW MANY PRACTITIONERS EARN THEIR LIVING THROUGH COMMISSIONS !!!!?!!!!!!!?!!!?!!
** 2b **
* What is their community? Who do they consider their peers?
the community contains their peers; their peers are found in the community... this is a stupid question. you want names? why?...
** 2c **
* Why have many composers applied for funding in the media arts section instead of the music section in the past ten years? Why have they been successful there? Does this preclude their success in the music programs or augment it? Do composers go to both sections? Why - is this an issue determined by content or practice? Is it a case or perception of : eligible equipment costs? Larger grants? Better expertise on Peer Assessment Committees?
the CC's categorization of musics in the music section is outdated, displaying a certain ignorance of contemporary issues and of the NATURE of the evolution of music in general in the past ten or so years (not just within the canadian perspective, but also internationally).
these and other questions raised in this questionnaire could be at least partially answered by referring to the CC's own bank of statistics.
** 3 **
* What are the traditional models of dissemination for the artform? Has this aspect changed in recent years?
please refer to the groves dictionary of music and musicians, under the heading "electroacoustics". then ask me again.
* Do the el/cm composers have a presence at media festivals as well as music festivals? How?
? by submitting works to festivals and arts organizations WHICH ARE AWARE of the shifting trends.
* Would the Canadian scene be seen to be progressive for the artform?
aesthetically... no. certainly not. but this is a more general [and complex] problem - in ea as well as instrumental music - which also needs to be considered by the CC in order to bring itself, and thereby canadian artists, more up-to-date.
montreal alone has 4 institutions which teach various approaches to ea, and 60-80 ea concerts per year. the only canadian [national] ea organization has more international exposure than any other national ea organization. does that answer your question?
* Is the el/cm practice diversifying in Europe or elsewhere with regard to media-based practices?
of course it is... as it _always_ has in all realms of artistic production. i find it extremely disturbing that the CC is so ignorant of the issues that questions such as this need to be asked...
** 4a **
* Has the primary means of communication - newsletters/meetings/e-mail - shifted in the past few years for this organization? How and why? How has a shift been impacted by subsidy or lack of subsidy?
artists - in particular those involved with new medi[a/ums] - have learned more and more diverse and compromising ways to subsist without the effective support of an informed arts funding structure. on the email etc. question... i really can't believe the CC even has to ask this one... HELLLOOOOOOOOO? 2001... HELLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOO?
** 4b **
* Are any publications getting beyond the membership to a national or international profile?
as they have been for years, and continually increasing. the officers of the CC might wish to check out http://cec.sonus.ca . really, many of these elementary questions regarding the CEC, as well as the practices of the ea/etc. community, could have been answered via 15 minutes on the CEC site [IN PARTICULAR THE ONE ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS... HELLLLLOOOO?], and then the intellectual level of the questionnaire would certainly have improved. does the CC not have one claude schryer in the music section...? you know, mr. schryer worked for the CEC for some time... as president...
** 4c **
* How does the CEC define itself? Do they consider themselves arts service organization? If so, why? If not, why not and what do they consider themselves instead? * How do they measure or evaluate their services to the community?
hmm... through continually increasing membership, increasing international exposure, an ever-expanding and diversifying website [http://cec.sonus.ca], new projects... perhaps...
* Do they review or update their mandate?
their mandate being to service its members... well no, this hasn't changed. an organization can effectively change its perspective on the community it services, and how this service is achieved. if the question is "does the CEC respond to the changes in the nature of the community and the artistic production of the community it serves?", then, yes, most certainly, and continually. an organization establishes a mandate at its foundation, and does not usually change it, unless taken over by another organization...
** 4d **
* Do the three national new music organizations communicate with other service organizations? Share initiatives? Have representatives at conferences together?
[almost] never. the issues and interests are too different. although its mandate may not specifically state this [i can't say, in any case], the CMC services the [stagnant] instrumental community in a _passive_ way, as does the CLC. the general instrumental [new music] community is extremely fearful of new or diverging/diverse practices which put them at risk to losing their established position. this i can confirm from personal experience in _many_ variegated situations.
the CEC is an active structure.
* What percentage of overlap exists between the CEC and other composer organizations?
i don't really understand the nature of this question, or is it the same as the previous? a painter may use oils on canvas one day, acrylic on paper the next. some individual artists have interests and practices which cross the boundaries of arts organizations, mediums and aesthetics... inevitable today, and very common. in my experiences however, this occurs only on an individual level, not at the level of the artistic realm itself. see also next response.
* What are the tangible benefits to the el/cm constituents that they serve? What are the benefits to the new music community as a whole?
as a whole, the new music community in canada is not actively interested, although there are certainly interested individuals. there exist significant limitations on what the majority of the canadian new music community can accept as aesthetical propositions and as means of production. this is only a small part of the many reasons why the existence of an ea-specific organization in canada is so important: ea practitioners are not [and cannot be] serviced [properly] by organizations such as the CMC, CLC, CLWC.
** 5a **
* Who are the practitioners of el/cm and other electronic musics not served by the CEC? How would being served benefit the community?
those who wish not to be served... how does having a national health plan benefit the overall health of canadians?... i am not sure how much longer i can deal with this questionnaire.
** 5b **
* Membership - how do they define their field and membership with regard to: improvisation; performers; producers; new practices - technological, social or cultural; gender; generation - i.e. young practitioners; technology
the CEC membership defines the membership of the CEC, not the CEC. [?!] if member Z is a 56-year old canadian woman on welfare whose parents are landed immigrants from india/germany, and who using a combination of [fixed] tape music and improvised MAX/MSP treatment of a live banjo, which is played by a 19-year old man [non-CEC member] from the yukon who recently won 1.5 million dollars on the 6/49, and whose parents eat sealmeat and live on a reservation kindly provided by the canadian government, then the CEC can be said to have in the artistic activities of its membership: women; men; diverse cultural, economic and social identities; cross-discipline production; improvisation; new technologies; young practitioners; almost-over-the-hill practitioners...
this is perhaps the stupidest question on this questionnaire, i only wish i could give you an answer which equals its stupidity.
* How do the CEC recruit or promote their membership?
ah, again, the "viability question [see also #6c, second point]. [sigh] being non-exclusive, it does not force participants in projects to become [paying] members to participate in various projects fostered/developed/maintained/coordinated by the CEC. there are financial benefits in being a member [i believe this is what you want to hear?].
can the value of an arts service organization in an age [and country] characterized by increasingly reduced arts funding realistically be measured by its capital? an economist would laugh at such a question.
i don't have to pay to be a member of the CMC. how does the CMC promote their membership? they don't. composers eventually become aware of the CMC, and ask how to become a member. this type of question is extremely dangerous, because it leads to a discussion of issues which should not be part of artistic production. where [mandatory] monetary investment and "viability" [see also #6c, 2nd point] are a determining factor in artistic production, artistic integrity is [almost without exception] compromised.
which of these temples is more important to the CC: Economy or Art?
** 5c **
* Are there other issues of a national or regional importance that impact 'servicing' the electroacoustic community? Language? Gender? Cultural diversity? Regionality? Representation? Inclusivity/Exclusivity?
there is no specific, absolutely-defined [canadian] national practice in the current era. these geographical boundaries exist less and less - this is not specific to ea, nor to music. there are most certainly variations in the accessibilty and quality of the artistic production from region to region, from country to country.
** 6a **
Issues * Are there models of other service organizations for electroacoustic music outside Canada? How are these organizations similar - or not - for this artform with regard to both structure and mandate?
should the question not rather be along the lines of "how is the structure of the CEC beneficial to the canadian and international community?"? the question as proposed by the CC subtly suggests that there are other existing models that the CEC could, or rather should, follow [rather than considering the existing CEC model], exposing the CC as being obstructive to the idea of a diversity of approaches in aspects of [infra]structural modelling.
** 6b **
* Indicate initiatives or issues put forth by the CEC or members of the el/cm community in recent years (failed or successful) that may were impacted by funding to service organizations
i assume this means "may have been impacted"...?
ALL aspects of artistic production. consider the following equation:
minimal/non-funding = no $ = lack of / possibly unrelated professional activity = less time and energy for artistic production = lower quality of artistic production = incapacity of [canadian] artists to remain contemporary
** 6c **
* What are the most important issues in the community currently being addressed by the CEC?
young composers; women in ea/cm; international distribution (esp. via radio broadcasts: see various CD projects). [sigh...] check out http://cec.sonus.ca . or is the question rather "what are [some of] the important issues in the [ea/cm] community..."?
* What are the most important issues in the community that are not being addressed by the CEC?
no issue can be said to be voluntarily ignored by the CEC. although some aspects of artistic production, may on the surface [i.e. in terms of "viability", typically measured by the CC through consideration of monetary gain or return - a _seriously_ problematic aspect of the CC's consideration of art in all sections] seem to hold less importance than other aspects by the CEC, upon closer inpection one sees firstly a respectable awareness of the aspect, and secondly, an attempt to address the aspect to the best of its [the CEC's] capacity. certain aspects may fall outside of the CEC's mandate, and cannot, therefore, be used to judge their ability to address these issues. for instance, concert production is not part of the CEC's mandate; this is handled excellently by other organizations _who_have_significant_budgets_for_such_endeavours_. however, one might wish to note that the EuCuE series [now in its nth year] benefits from certain infrastructural elements of the CEC.
* Indicate other issues impacting the level of service provided and indicate what resources - i.e. time, expertise, maintenance - would be needed
insufficient wo/manpower. but guess what? this relates to... resources!!!!!!!!!!!
[this is a simple economic equation that a grade ten math student could answer... i take a deep breath and reply:] more money = [acceptable] salaries for people currently providing volunteer work to the community, [better] equipment, [better] maintenance, less time spent working in restaurants and other demeaning forms of labour, less artists on welfare...
no project undertaken publicly by the CEC has failed in its objectives.
** 6d **
* Indicate specific changes or trends - if any - seen in recent years of activity within the CEC including: Real - resources, funding, funding cuts, new granting programs, changing technology; Implicit - new ways of thinking, new initiatives from the community, new energy/players, burnout/reluctance
WHAT!? please tell me what burnout has to do with a questionnaire like this? i refuse to answer such an infantile, inflammatory provocation. please proofread your questionnaires in the future before sending them into the [semi-]public realm. this way typos and grammatical/ contextual "faux-pas" will be avoided.
** 6e **
* Can the CEC 'service' an art form that continues to evolve and diversify toward being inclusionary of more media and technological-based practices?
as it has for years, within and beyond its means.
** 7 ** commentary on the questionnaire
many of these questions are extremely juvenile - some are even ridiculous - and hint at the CC's disinterest/disbelief in the importance of the CEC's current role [and its possible role, with proper funding] in the realm of electroacoustics [etc.] in canada, and also just as importantly, its ignorance of current trends and occurrences within this realm... not to mention a more international perspective. i find it extremely unprofessional that the tone of the questionnaire subtly leads the responder in an unfavourable direction vis-à-vis the CEC. oddly enough, while CC and other funding has been substantially and increasingly decreased, the CEC's activities have blossomed.
it would benefit the canadian music/sound community were the CC to attempt to break out of its hermetical consideration of canadian artistic practices. an art form which is aware of only itself eventually disintegrates through auto-cannibilization [ask anyone in the montreal "new music" milieu]. informing oneself of practices outside one's own realm can only help the artists and their "production" to evolve. the model of the CEC might be of interest to the CC, as it has always been concerned - albeit not exclusively - with canadian practices, and has consistently provided international exposure to canadian artists through various projects. these artists can only benefit from such encounters.
i would commend the CC for its efforts, if i felt that they anywhere close to being as great as they should be in the year 2001. i find the questionnaire to be simplistic, uninformed, provocative, often juvenile, and most importantly, insufficient. the questionnaire, in my opinion, seeks to restrict, rather than open up the CC's understanding of the practices of today. this i find deplorable.