eContact! 11.2 — Canadian Figures is the second issue focussing on Canadian electroacousticians and presents an overview of the broad range of practices that have formed the Canadian electroacoustic landscape, one which is as vast and diverse as the geography of Canada itself.
Marie-Thérèse Lefebvre, in “Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux et Marcelle Deschênes: Pionnières dans le sentier de la création électroacoustique,” provides extensive background and information on the work and careers of composers Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux and Marcelle Deschênes. Deschênes is a key figure in the development of the electroacoustic scene in Québec and within Canada. After building the studios at the Université de Montréal with Louise Gariepy, she developed and led the electroacoustic programme there for almost twenty years, and was also a founding member of important electroacoustic associations such as the CEC and ACREQ. In addition to her many important contributions to the academic and infrastructural support of electroacoustics in Canada, she also has created an impressive catalogue of works in a range of genres since the early 1970s: from acousmatic, instrumental and mixed compositions to installations to video-music and multi-media.
While studying in Paris at the GRM in the late 1960s, Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux founded the Groupe international de musique électroacoustique de Paris (GIMEP) with a handful of colleagues. Back in Montréal a few years later she and three percussionists formed Polycousmie, a vessel for the performance of percussion-electroacoustics-dance projects. While teaching at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and organizing many electroacoustic events (with a particular interest in presenting creations by young Québecois composers), she continued to compose for electroacoustic and instrumental formations.
Three texts by Francis Dhomont provide an excellent introduction to his development as a composer, as well as his musical choices, working methods and writing. “Du poïétique au poétique” describes his transition from instrumental music to electroacoustics, “Abstraction et figuration dans ma musique” discusses the reasons behind some of his artistic choices and provides an analysis of certain compositional procedures, and “Éléments pour une syntaxe” emphasizes the important role that listening and perception have in acousmatic music. In an interview with Rui Eduardo Paes, Dhomont talks about his 1997 work, Frankenstein Symphony, which used as source material extracts of works by around twenty of his students and colleagues as well as by himself.
As early as 1967, Norma Beecroft was working in Canada’s first electronic music studio at the University of Toronto. The laborious nature of early tape music composition, using oscillator banks, Le Caine instruments and tape machines, is outlined in “Electronic Music in Toronto and Canada in the Analogue Era.” Several photos from the time show just how incredibly the look of the studio has changed in the last half a century! The range and types of venues where electroacoustics are used or presented have also grown incredibly diverse over the years. The Canadian Arctic, art galleries and the internet are just a few of the places where Charles Stankievech’s work can be experienced. Some of his recent works reflect an interest in the history of Canadian communications history, as he explains in “Cinema, Gramophone, Radio: A Quiet History.” James Andean reflects on the implications of being “A Canadian Electroacoustician in Finland,” where he finds that there is greater interest in the performance of works for instrument and live electronics than for compositions on “fixed” media typical of the acousmatic genre he is working in.
In 2008 the Vancouver Adapted Music Society (VAMS) launched a “Music studio for people with disabilities” built to offer an accessible space designed to meet the needs of “people with a wide range of disabilities and musical capabilities.” sylvi macCormac is one of many VAMS artists to have worked in the space and used its modified and unique technologies since it opened, and she relates her VAMS experiences in a short interview with Kevin Rapanos.
Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium 2008
The second Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium (TES) was held last summer from 7–9 August, in downtown Toronto and on Toronto Island. The Symposium, an initiative of David Ogborn and co-produced by the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto and New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA), brought together composers and sound artists from Toronto, across Canada and the United States. Symposium guests presented papers in several themed sessions, visited sound installations and attended concerts at NAISA’s Sound Travels festival. The topics addressed since the first edition of the Symposium in 2007 have ranged from education to composition to interface/performance devices and beyond. Some papers from TES 2008 can be read in this issue.
Eldad Tsabary describes a teaching methodology developed at Concordia University that includes specialized courses in “Aural Training for Electroacoustics.” These courses takes into account the unique nature of the modes of learning inherent to this art form and thus offer an alternative to traditional aural training methodologies based in instrumental music. Tae Hong Park compares “Composition vs. Documentation”, finding that the creative process in certain types of electroacoustic works — especially soundscape and narrative works — necessarily involves the composer in other “activities”, such as documentation, musical performance and archiving.
Martin Ritter presents a tool he has developed that is intended for use in a concert setting and can “analyze, resynthesize, and distribute the individual spectral components in a multichannel environment in real time.” In “Real-time Spectral Analysis and Dispersion” he describes in detail the functioning and internal structures of the various parts of the user interface. Another tool developed for live performance is the portable system developed by Bob Pritchard and Sidney Fels called the Digital Ventriloquized Actor (DIVA). “Mobile Gesture-Controlled Speech Synthesis for Performance” is made possible using a Bluetooth Cyberglove® and a tracker: body movement is translated into speech via a custom software synthesizer. Markus Jones’ “Sympathetic Vibration (Prolongation of Sound by Reflection)” describes a soundwalk project that was developed to be used to assist persons with visual impairment to locate themselves on campus by using elements of the campus soundscape as sonic landmarks.
In an interview with Robert Normandeau, Symposium Chair David Ogborn engages the TES 2008 Keynote speaker in a discussion about the Montréal scene in the 1980s, the practice of diffusion and changing technologies and attitudes towards the end of the century. The various points are accentuated by comments about how his own work fits into the changing trends.
New Columns and SONUS Galleries
Two new columns are launched with this issue of eContact! In a similar vein to the Community Reports column, “Focus on Institutions” introduces the activities, people and histories of individual schools, conservatories, art centres, national associations and other institutions around the world. Kevin Austin inaugurates the column with a look at the Concordia University in Montréal, giving an overview of its history, from the “hands-on” founding of the studios in the 1970s through the establishment of core curriculum for Electroacoustic Studies in 2000. “Entrées” offers space to the younger generation of emerging writers to present their reflections on the work of a composer and/or their work or on a historical period. In the first installments of this column, Albert Bouchard looks back to the 1980s and earlier with “Granular Synthesis and Barry Truax’s Riverrun,” Todd Griffiths considers the relation between text and sound in Marcelle Deschênes’ Indigo, and Brett Bergmann’s “Global Movement, Local Detail” discusses the sculpting and shaping of sound in recent music by Tim Hecker. And Eldad Tsabary, in another edition of “Rediscovered Treasures”, brings to our attention Gottfried Michael Koenig’s 1967 work, Project 1 — Version 3, a very early and little-known computer music work.
“Curated Galleries” are a very helpful tool, a focused portal, for exploring the more than 2400 works in SONUS.ca, the CEC’s online electroacoustic jukebox. Curators provide commentary ranging from the technical to the philosophical to the socio-cultural, according to their particular interests and reasons for choosing the pieces. Two new galleries appear in this issue of eContact!, both featuring the music of Canadian composers. Eldad Tsabary coordinated the first non-US based version of the 60x60 project in 2008, which presented a selection of 60 works by Canadian composers in several concerts across Canada and in Mexico. All the works selected for the Canadian edition can be heard in the “60x60 Canada Gallery”. And in March 2009 the CEC publicly launched the Concordia Archival Project (CAP) with a press conference and concert featuring Canadian works from the collection. The works selected for the concert and featured in the “Launch Concert for CAP” gallery give a broad view on the history of electroacoustic activity in Canada.
jef chippewa, 8 July 2009.