The History of Concordia University’s Electroacoustic Program and Concert Series
Interview with Kevin Austin
In Kevin Austin’s Montréal-West home, 31 October 2001.
01. Warming Up
- Fixing the mic.
- “Sam the Record Man has filed for bankruptcy.”
02. A Quick Overview…
03. Education in Québec. Concordia University. MetaMusic. Concordia Soundwalks.
- “The history of electroacoustics at Concordia is similar to the history of electroacoustics in many Canadian and North American universities.”
- “In 1970, the education system in Québec was in the process of changing.”
- “Phil Cohen started the Music Section of the Department of Fine Arts at the Sir George Williams University in 1969.”
- “In 1970, I began co-teaching two courses at Sir George Williams University at the CÉGEP level.”
- As a student in 1970, Martin Gotfrit expresses interest in electronic music.
- Informal weekly meetings of four or five people develops into the live electronic improvisation ensemble, MetaMusic (“the sound of three hands clapping”).
- MetaMusic begins giving 6–10 concerts a year.
- Purchase of a Synthi AKS for the department.
- 8 channels of sound.
- About 1973/74 MetaMusic bought 10 Altec speakers and quad amplifiers.
- In 1976 Sir George Williams University and Loyola College merge to become Concordia University; the beginnings of acquiring equipment at Concordia.
- “With the move to Loyola… the studio began to have a physical presence in the department.”
- Daniel Feist sells his clarinet and jumps into electroacoustics.
- “In the early to mid-1970s [Barbara Keats] approached me from CAMMAC [Canadian Amateur Musicians Musiciens Amateurs du Canada] … and asked if there was something [that could be done] with electronic music and CAMMAC.” Austin proposes soundwalks; one or two are given per year from 1973–78.
04. CECG/GEC. ACREQ. The Montréal Community. Founding of the CEC.
- “By about the late 70s, MetaMusic had transformed itself. Most of the founding members had moved on to other things.”
- MetaMusic becomes CECG/GEC — Concordia Electroacoustic Composers’ Group / Groupe électroacoustique de Concordia.
- Live electronic improvisation and some fixed pieces in concert. Beginnings of the tape collection.
- First tape concert at Concordia. Making programs for concerts: the original cut-and-paste method.
- Ideas are cheap, but people “get things done”: as a student Jean-François Denis organises a concert in a CÉGEP to introduce more people to electroacoustics.
- Keyboard synthesizers become more available and popular, but Concordia studio ARIES modular synthesizer allows for control of sound independent of pitch.
- ACREQ is founded and gives concerts downtown. The “popularization” of electroacoustics. The Montréal community is defined by a politically non-aligned diversity and “mutual respect and cross-fertilization”.
- Much activity in Montréal through the 1980s: 5 institutions offered courses in electroacoustics.
- Concordia’s programme has always been inclusive, with many students from outside of the music department working in the studios.
- In 1984 Austin and Denis discuss the need for a national organization.
- The CECG/GEC Newsletter is the means by which the electroacoustic community in Canada is brought together as the national association Canadian Electroacoustic Community is formed.
05. The Concordia Program
- “The Concordia situation was that 85% of the students in the studios were non-music students.”
- The “sss” assignment introduces the student to editing, phonetics and sound as sound.
- “By the mid-1980s, it began to look like we had enough money and enough students to have a second-year course.”
- Jean-François Denis returns from Mills College to teach electroacoustics at Concordia.
- The CECG/GEC Tape collection, and other collections in Canada. Denis catalogues the Concordia collection. Austin subsequently documents other collections: University of Toronto EMS; McGill University EMS; Polish Radio.
06. Concordia, Concert Series Developments, Early Years of the CEC
- CECG/GEC changes its name to EuCuE with the founding of the CEC.
- Ned Bouhalassa jumps into electroacoustics. Mark Corwin starts the Recording programme. Bouhalassa and Laurie Radford teach at Concordia.
- Ian Chuprun returns from Birmingham. Rosemary Mountain teaches at Concordia.
- What actually happened to the concerts after the the mid-1980s. EuCuE moves into the new Concordia Concert Hall, with multi-speaker concerts now possible. Experimentation with speaker set-ups over 4–5 years of 6–10 concerts a year.
- Outdoor concerts of 4–5 hours each. (Bring your own hotdogs!) Live electronic improvisation as well as tape pieces and other activities including knitting wool, for example. Multi-media pieces.
- In the early 1990s, Austin leaves teaching for a period.
- Writing the CEC Bylaws (Austin and Denis) over a period of about two years. The CEC gradually grows from being seen as a Concordia-based venture to being recognized internationally.
07. A Bit More About the Concordia Soundwalks
- The Vancouver Soundscape.
- Eric Brown and live soundscaping of a train arriving in and leaving a Montréal station using several sets of recording equipment.
- Soundscaping the 13 floors of the Concordia Hall Building.
08. Where the ARIES Analog Modular Synthesizer Came From
09. A Bit More About MetaMusic
- Concerts and audience.
- Audience participation concerts accompanied by pre-concert buffet. Audience playing along with a recording of Beethoven’s Third Symphony from 1941 (42?), with the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Furtwangler.