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The newest issue of eContact! features a selection of articles presented at the 2010 Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium (TES) and further complementary articles addressing contemporary issues of performance, education and composition in the larger EA milieu, and is rounded out with interviews and chats with Canadian and international composers and performers.

The fourth edition of TES took place from 4–7 August 2010. 1[1. See the TES 2010 pages for the paper and events schedule.] Launched in 2007 by CEC President David Ogborn (who has also chaired it since), the annual symposium has from the start been co-presented by the CEC and Toronto-based New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA).

The symposium is an excellent platform for artists and researchers to present their newest work in an enthusiastic and supportive environment. The 2010 edition, with Christian Calon as Keynote Speaker, once again offered a range of themes relevant to the larger electroacoustic community, from “Cognition, Interpretation and Analysis” and “EA Education” to “Instruments and Interaction” and “Tangible Music”, and more.

Artist and Instrument: Performance

Performance practice, instruments and performance devices have been recurrent themes in papers presented at TES since its start. 2[2. See eContact! issues 10.3, 11.2 and 11.4 for a selection of articles from previous editions of TES: on performance practice and instruments, see esp. Waterman, Pritchard, Eigenfeldt and Leonardson.] This time around, Arne Eigenfeldt, “In Search of Tools for the Laptop Ensemble,” reflects on his experiences leading a “LOrk” (laptop orchestra) at Vancouver’s SFU and on the related practical, performance and educational aspects of the increasingly popular practice. A digital “instrument for musicians” developed in McGill University’s IDMIL and CIRMMT areas since 2006, and reflections on the instrument’s capacity for performance “expressivity”, are discussed by D. Andrew Stewart in “The Power of One: Performance modes on the T-Stick digital musical instrument.”

Artistry and the Milieu: Paradigms of a Practice

Another group of articles takes a critical look at different standards, or norms, in the larger electroacoustic milieu, from the point of view of technologies used, presence or absence of semantic content in sound sources used and the criteria for determining the historical masterpieces of the field, demonstrating the impact these have on various realms of the practice.

Taking a McLuhan aphorism as a starting point in “Shape tool. Shaped by tool. Reshape tool?”, Tim Harcourt-Powell considers the challenges today’s artists have in transcending the imprints left by the technologies (tools) they use for creation… which they themselves initially created: widespread use of standardized tools in the industry engenders a certain standardization of creative output. Whereas Dugal McKinnon reflects on the nature of the sounds composers use. In “Awkward Ecologies: Sound-based music,” he champions the creation of a sound-based music that problematizes, embraces and explores the semantic content of sound 3[3. Also see the “Interview with Robert Normandeau” in this issue for a discussion of the use of anecdotal sounds in acousmatic music.] as opposed to one that is to be understood primarily as “an abstract formal entity”, à la Boulez or Schaeffer.

Masterpiecing Electroacoustic Music: Pedagogical reflections from a musicological perspective” puts forth Cathy Cox’s musings about whether the pieces selected for a concert programme of “Electroacoustic Masterpieces” at Columbia University in 2000 stand out for their intrinsic universal value or are simply the “best” representations of particular practices. Her dissection of the programme also concludes that such a programme runs the danger of being more reflective of the curator’s personal preferences than of a universal standard of “best works”.

The Work and the Audience: Perception

Bijan Zelli furthers his research on “Musique acousmatique and Imaginary Spaces” with an exploration of the subjective perception of different types of spaces encountered in acousmatic music (as defined by Dhomont and Bayle) in relation to the various existing projection or diffusion “strategies” commonly used for the presentation of such works. The perception of form, according to Alexa Woloshyn, is a process, one that can be informed by structural functions in a composition. She chose to develop the notion via the analysis of a cycle of works all having similar form and source materials, the results of which are discussed in “Wallace Berry’s Structural Processes and Electroacoustic Music: A Case study analysis of Robert Normandeau’s ‘Onomatopoeias’ cycle.”

Installations with electroacoustic components often necessarily implicate the sensorial experience of the body in the individual’s perceptual experience of the work. For example, the visitor experiences Samantha Horseman’s installation by walking around and through it, and in “Suspended Imprints: An Exploration of space, sound and the inner monologue,” she reflects on “the dialogue between sonic artwork and the perceptive individual.” Satoshi Morita refers to the term “Bodily Listening” when discussing the corporeal perceptual experience of his Sound Capsule, which almost completely envelopes the visitor, a design reminiscent of the artist’s experience sleeping in a tent on a rainy night while traveling through Switzerland.

New Features

The inclusion of Woloshyn’s “Interview with Robert Normandeau” (which she conducted as part of the research for her article) and further interviews with Nick Didkovsky and Frederic Rzewksi by Kalvos & Damian 4[4. Kalvos & Damian were also Featured Contributors in eContact! 10.2 — Interviews (1), providing over 40 of the 115 interviews published in that issue.] mark the start of a new practice to regularly include interviews in eContact! Kevin Austin also kicks off a new “Talk” column, in which various artists respond to “X Questions” about their background and work. This month features the responses to “6 Questions” he asked Canadian composers Darren Copeland, John Kamevaar, Steven Naylor and John Plant. Stay tuned for more contributions to this column from Austin and others, and more interviews with composers and performers, in upcoming issues.

We hope you enjoy the reading and in order to encourage our readers to come and check out the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium in person, we also include a preview of the events planned for TES 2011 (10–13 August), which will have as Keynote Speaker Sound Travels’ featured artist, Jonty Harrison.

jef chippewa
10 June 2011

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