Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection
Montréal: The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology
Parts of this text were previously published on The Daniel Langlois Foundation website and in articles and writings by Ricardo Dal Farra.
The term electroacoustic music throughout this text refers to musical creations that involve electronically modified or generated sounds, which may or may not be accompanied by live voices or acoustic instruments, and that use a language close to the experimental and/or academic world (adapted from a definition by Otto Luening in The Odyssey of an American Composer, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1980).
1. Introduction to the Collection
Latin American electroacoustic music has a long, interesting, strong and prolific history, but it’s a history that is little known even within the region itself. Many composers born or living in Latin America have been very active in this field, in some countries as far back as some 50 years, but the availability of electroacoustic music recordings and information in Latin America has been a problem for educators, composers, performers, researchers, students and the general public.
Having started to work in the electroacoustic music field during the mid-70s in my native country of Argentina, I found it very difficult to obtain information on related activities in surrounding countries and even in my own city. Although challenging, it was nevertheless possible to find recordings by composers living in Europe or North America, but it was very difficult to locate any by local or regional composers. What appeared during my initial years of research to be a paradox later became almost a constant. One could find composers’ names and the titles of their works, but not their music. It took me a very long time to obtain a few electroacoustic music recordings by composers living or working in Latin American countries and to discover a world of sound that had been partially hidden, if not completely lost.
In various Latin American countries, universities, state organizations and major private foundations had taken initiatives from time to time to support art research and the use of new media, but most had stopped short of developing the resources to document the processes and preserve the results. Many early tape compositions had been lost, or the master recordings damaged, and there no longer existed scores or documentation on these. Fortunately, however, a large number of recordings could still be saved.
In an effort to preserve, document and disseminate at least a portion of the electroacoustic music created by Latin American composers, I brought my personal archive of recordings to Canada in 2003 in order to develop a collection at the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology.
2. Overview of the Holdings in the Collection
Name of the collection
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection
Where the collection is housed (include past locations if relevant)
The Collection is currently housed at The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Most materials were previously housed at Ricardo Dal Farra’s Estudio de Música Electroacústica in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Number of works in the collection
1,723 compositions (2,264 digital audio files) by 392 composers.
Range of years of composition / performance
Formats found in the collection
Open reel, analog cassette and DAT tapes, and vinyl LPs and CDs. All materials are now digitally stored (in hard disks). Audio files are mostly AIFF, stereo, 16 bits, 44.1 kHz. Only a few documents are multitrack Pro Tools files. The archive also includes audio and audiovisual recordings (QuickTime) of interviews with composers and technical innovators as well as photographs, scores and a database with program notes of the compositions, bios of the composers and related information.
General state of the collection
Works recovered and archived
1,723 compositions (2,264 digital audio files) by 392 composers.
A complete list of compositions included in the Collection (audio recordings available for listening at The Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology) is available on the Daniel Langlois Foundation website in English and in French.
3. Artistic and Cultural Importance of the Collection
In Latin America, in spite of the strong and rich artistic production, there are not many traces of contemporary art practices during the last decades, at least regarding some fields like those involving electronic technologies. Even today, when we have sophisticated computer tools to access information, nothing can be done just with the new tools, without the information itself. Preservation and documentation, hence memory, do not seem to be essential in most countries, provoking in many artists a sensation of emptiness, of lacking history.
Electroacoustic music has been developing for decades in the region without sustained initiatives to preserve, document and disseminate the pieces composed. Some pioneer composers have already died and many early compositions have been lost or the originals (master tapes) damaged.
The Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection is trying to make some steps forward in developing specific actions to support the conservation and availability of this music.
4a. Recovery / Archival Activities — General
The music archive includes pieces for fixed media (tape, DAT, CD or similar) as well as mixed works for acoustic instruments or voices and fixed media or live electronics/interactive systems. There are also some multimedia works. In the case of pieces for fixed media and other sound sources (e.g. mixed works), full recordings as well as “tape only” (i.e. fixed media) parts (cues) are preserved and catalogued.
Almost every recording and piece of information I have collected since the mid 70s was obtained by searching for and contacting each composer directly. Over time, I began to build a small but growing personal archive that included electroacoustic music recordings on open reel tapes, analog cassettes and a few vinyl LPs. I decided not only to share this music and related information with colleagues and students, but to explore other ways of making it widely available, knowing there might be many others interested in it. Lectures, concert series and (South American) activity reports published during the early 80s in Array, the newsletter of the International Computer Music Association (then known as the Computer Music Association or CMA), were just a few of the early initiatives I took to share these recordings and related information. The next step: more than ten years of radio broadcasts (the “Música electroacústica y por computadora,” “Electromúsica” and “Música y Tecnología” series on the National Radio of Argentina and the Buenos Aires City radio station) and CD artistic productions published by Leonardo Music Journal, oodiscs and the Computer Music Journal.
I had been thinking about how best to organize and make available the materials I had gathered over more than 20 years. At the same time I was looking to delve deeper into this research about musical creations using electroacoustic media by Latin American composers. Then, a few years ago, a opportunity presented itself. I was invited by UNESCO to participate in the first international Digi-Arts meeting held in Paris in March 2002, when the project was still at an early planning stage. UNESCO commissioned me to research and write several reports about electroacoustic music and media arts. The resulting two key reports were “Historical Aspects of Electroacoustic Music in Latin America: From Pioneering to Present Days” and “La música electroacústica en América Latina,” published online in 2003 on the UNESCO Digi-Arts Knowledge Portal. These are not English and Spanish versions of the same text, but rather complementary texts on the historical aspects of the electroacoustic music development in Latin America, with extensive references to composers and their work.
Then, in order to provide the public with access also to musical works, while keeping the large amount of material I had already collected as safe as possible, I was searching for a place where the preservation of documents was not only important but also possible. Two consecutive grants as Researcher-in-Residence at the Daniel Langlois Foundation allowed me to work for some 28 months (between 2003 and 2005) with recordings on open reel, analog cassette and DAT tapes, and vinyl LPs and CDs, digitizing and/or converting from different formats, editing and baking as needed, and filling the database of the Foundation with all of the available information on the pieces involved (title, composer, year of composition, instrumentation, program notes, production studio, version, duration, composer bio; etc.) Later, between 2007 and 2008, I was able to work again in the collection to raise the number of pieces fully available on the Internet for listening from 30 to 231.
4b. Recovery / Archival Activities — Technical
The work has been extensive: navigating through myriad technical problems (recovering from massive hard disk crashes, finding tape recorders with old track formats, re-digitizing material to correct severe DC offsets in brand-new equipment, OS and FireWire conflicts, etc.), defining how best to work with very noisy old recordings (a few pieces were processed using an advanced de-noise system to moderate hiss, always preserving the original recording and following the composer’s advice), working with three different computers and nine hard disks to manage the audio and visual files, the database and the large amount of info and daily international communications, and the list goes on.
It should be noted that not every audio file in the archive is a complete piece; there are cases where each movement of a composition is stored as a separate file with its corresponding individual information (according to the rules the composer used to store his or her work). Then, there are 2,264 digital audio files, corresponding to 1,723 compositions.
A large part of the text-based information related to the audio files on the collection is available on the Internet through The Daniel Langlois Foundation website (full access is possible through the Foundation’s Intranet).
In most cases, the composers represented in this archive were born in Latin American countries. There are also a few composers who, although not originally from the region, pursued at least a portion of their musical career in Latin America. The database contains information on composers associated with 18 Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela. The list of composers and compositions included in the archive as well as a number of statistics, such as compositions by decade and country and composers by country, are all available on the Foundation’s website.
This archive integrates the results of more than 20 years of research. It also represents more than 20 years of action, building bridges for communication and confidence, and giving and receiving.
5. Financial, Human and Institutional Resources
The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology provided the financial and infrastructural support that helped make the project possible.
The principal people, departments and institutions involved in the project are:
Ricardo Dal Farra — Principal Investigator
Jean Gagnon — former Executive Director, The Daniel Langlois Foundation
Alain Depocas — Director, the Centre for Research and Documentation (CR+D), The Daniel Langlois Foundation
Jacques Perron — former Program Officer, The Daniel Langlois Foundation
Ludovic Carpentier — Web Master, The Daniel Langlois Foundation
Catalina Briceño — former Executive Assistant, The Daniel Langlois Foundation
Chantale Lavoie — former Executive Assistant, The Daniel Langlois Foundation
6. Dissemination of and Access to the Collection
A large portion of the Collection is accessible on the Internet through The Daniel Langlois Foundation’s website:
- 231 compositions are fully available for listening online (E/F)
- 14 scores (E/F)
- 7 interviews (E/F)
- 8 pictures available online: (E/F)
More scores, interviews (both audio only and audiovisual files) and pictures are available on The Daniel Langlois Foundation’s Intranet, as are all available program notes and composer bios.
To access the full Collection through The Daniel Langlois Foundation’s Intranet (1,723 compositions, interviews, texts, etc.) contact:
Alain Depocas, Director
Centre for Research and Documentation (CR+D)
The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology
3530, Saint-Laurent Boulevard
Montréal (Québec) H2X 2V1 Canada
My gratitude goes to the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology for its vision and support. Special thanks to all members of the Foundation’s team for their confidence, help and friendship.
12 November 2008.