The Concept of the Emerging Artist
This Introduction to eContact! 3.1 is in two parts focusing on The Concept of the Emerging Sound Artist and the Electroacoustic / Sound Arts Community, and the Times/Play - Jeu de temps competition.
The Concept of the CEC and the Emerging Artist in the Electroacoustic / Sound Arts Community
This issue of eContact! is a forum / exhibition space devoted to works by and issues related to Young and Emerging Sound Artists, and brings together a number of parallel threads of activity. A Call for Works resulted in 37 pieces being submited for inclusion in this issue. Within this Call, was an invitation to composers to be considered for the "Times/Play, Jeu de temps" (YESA) Competition being organized by the CEC, the recommended works from which have been included on a CD entitled 'Cache'.
The theme of eContact! 3.1, the Young and Emerging Sound Artist, has been a CEC priority since its inception in 1987, and from the start, the CEC has worked on projects related to its stated commitment to the support of the ea/cm community, with special attention to the younger generation of composers. This is a stated position of the CEC as it appears in the Charter.
The founders of the CEC and most similar organizations, realize that the future of the community lies in the support and development of the younger generation. The Charter had needed to find a way to express a focus on 'starting' artists, but was not explicitly articulated. This focus had been previously achieved by trying to assure the participation of artists in the middle and later stages of their basic and intermediate training, regardless of age.
In doing this, it became clear that 'younger' was a useful, but incomplete term for while (say) 25 is a convenient 'cut-off' age, it is not reflective of how artists come to the field of sonic arts. What of the artist who has come to the field 'later', having taken time to raise a family, arrive at electroacoustics from a visual arts or other background, or has just 'discovered' the joys and pleasures of ea after a successful career in some other form? This person is emerging, and age is not a reflection of where the artist is in their development.
But what does a YESA need?
Besides a venue in which to be presented, a context in which to be understood and heard in relation to peers rather than a completely open forum is quite appropriate. The internet provides such a salon. The individual composer is aided by this project by having their work available at reduced energy to themself, as the CEC's experience, communications, presentation and distribution infrastructures allows the sound artist to focus on the important parts - the creative activity.
The arts have by tradition been structured in a somewhat hierarchical fashion. Particularly skilled or talented individuals have been recognized (or not) by a community, and recommended to a larger community for examination and consideration - the well known 'Music Festival', starting at the local and regional level, and gaining ever more focus as the competitor moves to national and international competition.
But this model has the historical noteriety of being highly politicized. A brief review of ea/cm awards by major national and international 'Institutes' reflects this, or as was noted in Groves V (1954), regarding the Prix de Rome, "It is interesting and somewhat depressing to note how many names this list contains of composers whose careers came to nothing. ... On the other hand the absence of many of the most distinguished (...) composers is equally striking."
Ea – a term debated to a pulp – includes ea (acousmatic) works (on a fixed medium), computer music, sonic arts, performance arts, installation and radiophonic art, environmental and digital audio. The categories have become somewhat blurred, with the International Computer Music Conference <www address> playing acousmatic works, and Bourges <www address> having a computer software award.
The 1999–2000 YESA (Young and Emerging Sound Artists) Competition is a realization of part of this commitment.
Times/Play - Jeu de temps Competition
Competitions - the bane and blessing of the creative artist. While at once a proving ground for artistic development and skill, at the same time, a point of annoyance and contention. How can a starting artist compare and compete with a more experienced (and well known) older artist? A solution has been to put an age limit, 30, 35, 40 ... on the competition, as is the case in more than 60% of current ea/cm / composition competitions. But there are 27 year olds who have won several major awards and are well on their way to establishing their careers, and there are 32 year olds who are just starting.
The organizing committee decided on 'Sound Artist' as being an adequately encompassing term. It therefore seemed quite logical (at least in hindsight) for the CEC to establish a competition for Young and Emerging Sound Artists. (YESA). Whether a composer is 'Young and Emerging' could be a matter of debate, but rather than stipulate the criteria, individuals were allowed to decide whether they were in this category.
These considerations led to the decision to plan an on-going 'Young and Emerging Sound Artists' competition, subsequently called 'Times/Play, Jeux de temps'.
During the two year planning of the YESA competition many side issues had to be worked on and resolved: eligible entrants, publicity, formats, jury infrastructure (size, composition, discussion and voting procedures), awards, announcements, continued support, distribution and promotion of the top pieces, documentation ... From the start, the considerations of cost and sustainability were also central to the planning. There was no desire to have a 'one-off' competition that could not be continued, and given a minimal funding and resource base, it was essential to create a sustainable infrastructure that did not weigh too heavily on any one aspect of the CEC's internal obligations.
The CEC's extensive experience with issues of communication and broad-based participation were essential to the design and execution. It was decided to have a large, international jury - in this case, a jury of between 30 and 40 members, and to have the works distributed via the www. To aid in this, the CEC created a closed email-list <lecaine> for distribution, discussion and collection of information, a closed web-page where the works would be posted.
But possibly the cart a little before the horse. In this first competition, it was found that about 1/3 of the jury members did not have an adequately high speed internet connection, so a number of CDs had to be burned and mailed out - the works being available on the net and on the CD in mp3 format.
Recognition of achievement was a consideration. and over the start-up period, the CEC solicited donations of CDs to be able to give as awards to the top 5 composers. (More detail is available further down.) Through the generosity of SOCAN [spell out complete name], the Canadian performing rights organization, a CD "Cache" of the top Canadian works has been able to be made and distributed. Not wanting to have the winners and other participants disappear into the oblivion of 'once won', all of the works received were placed on the CEC web site, and will continue to remain available for audition and study.
The Jury Process
Judging was anonymous inasmuch as only the title and the program note were made available. Jury members ranked the works and gave a numerical value to each piece. The numbers were totaled and representative works by the top 14 number of Canadian composers were destined for the Cache 2000 CD.
The works received were sent mostly on recommendation of active members of the Canadian electroacoustic community, with submissions being received from people with sound art experience ranging from 2 to 6 - 8 years.
Much has been learned from the experience of organizing and producing Times/Play, Jeu de temps, and plans are well under way for the second event to take place in 2000–01.
And none of this could have taken place without the continuing enthusiatic support of Concordia University, Faculty of Fine Arts for the server and related resources, SOCAN's support for the CD production, and the Canada Council's Publishing office for the web placement, the individuals and corporations who donated CDs and cash for the awards, and also to the *PeP* team (the production arm of the CEC) who put in the time and effort to bring this idea to (virtual) reality.