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Reply to CC

In this general response, I speak only for myself, largely from an academic perspective.

After some more consideration and much discussion generated by the questionnaires, surveys and mapping(s) being undertaken by the Music and Media Arts sections of the Canada Council, I would like to propose that at the base of this work is the issue of finding ways to provide appropriate, equitable and fair ways of providing sound artists with access to resources which are available to other practitioners of sound arts.

A composer of (acoustic) concert music has available the resources of the Canadian Music Center, and the International Music Centers network -- a UNESCO organization. The CMC provides archiving, library, cataloging, distribution, promotion, sound 'publication' (Centrediscs), physical access to materials, space and a 'point of reference' for performers and concert organizers who wish to examine Canadian concert works.

These resources are, by and large, not available in an appropriate, equitable and fair manner to members of the Canadian ea/cm/sa community.

There are a number of complexities here which the questionnaires and surveys do not directly address (IMV), but I feel need to be part of the discussion: there are similarities and differences between the ea/cm/sa community and its needs, and those of 'concert' music.

Some of these include: -- breadth of the community

Questions about the 'membership' of the ea/cm/sa/mt community in Canada are difficult to map because practitioners work in areas ranging from radio art, to soundscaping, 'computer music', 'mediatic sound art', the acousmatic (concert) tradition, live electronics (both improvised and mixed), to ... and ..., not to go into collaborative works with (by) dance, theater, installations, video ...

-- basis of education and training

There are few Canadian 'concert music' composers who have not had long-term intimate contact with the formal academic "Music" education system in Canada. The path is quite clear, from earlier in life, many (most) composers by the age of 15 / 16 have had some amount of 'formal' training: instrumental lessons, choral singing, basic theory, a dabble of history, and national associations exist for standards of music education (the conservatories of Universities eg).

Sound artists flood the community from many directions and from many disciplines. Visual artists, trained musicians, text / communications studies students, dancers, film / video arts, and frequently, from comletely outside the 'sound arts' community -- from the sciences, business etc etc.

[ It is easier to map a trail through the forest than across the ocean. In one case the mapper looks down and around to determine orientation, in the other, the surveyor looks up. ]

-- basis of research / documentation / archiving

Concert Music composers have a 1,000+ year history of theory, documentation, archiving, distribution, modes of production ... Universities have libraries filled with historical documents: national centers exist to house works by contemporary composers.

A 'national center' concept for concert music is based upon 19th and 20th century models of "how to gather and disseminate" information. With the development of the internet, the necessity of a physical location for this material is under (re-) examination.

IMV, The sound art community has bypassed the 'physical center' concept, but it does not have access to the same types, or appropriate levels of resources to provide equitable and fair services to the ea/cm/sa/mt communities.

In Canada, ea/cm/sa/mt production, in the form of CDs (etc) is done either by the individual composer [a major source of energy loss], through collective activity [DisContact, PRESENCE I, II, II], or through government subsidy of business.

It is widely accepted that studies of concert music and the processes of artistic creation are done via printed materials and 'established' (sic) theories of composition / manipulation of pitch-time materials. Faculties of Music have Theory / Composition degrees through to the Doctoral level, and beyond.

Programs of Electroacoustic Studies are now developing across the country and around the world, and they promise to be large and interdisciplinary. The influences are not limited to traditional / historical models: the visual arts, popular cultures, television, advertising ... all impact on large numbers of the young and emerging artists. There is no 'standardized canon' against which to measure the artists 'preparation'.

A university student in ea/cm/sa/mt may already have one or more degrees in other disciplines. They are not 'learning' the art -- they are applying life experiences and life forces directly to their sonic imagination.

(A quick review of the teaching and student bodies at, eg, Simon Fraser University, OCA(D), Concordia University, UQAM ... will reveal that in these active sonic art environments, ea/cm/sa/mt exists spread across multiple disciplines. Sound art is studied and produced in Departments of Communications, Multimedia, Visual Arts, Video, Digital Image and Sound, Film, Music, Theater etc etc.

Many of the younger generation of university level teachers (may) have some formal music education in their background, but a review of the CVs of many of Canada's most prominent teachers, producers and practitioners will reveal the breadth of other studies: communications, visual arts ... the list is as above.)

One major reason for this has been the (forebear the term) 'democratization' of the technology. High speed computers sit on the desks of 16 year olds: they do sound / sonic assemblages; they seek (virtual) community; trade CD-Rs; activate themselves with sonic stimulants.

Modes of mapping that are asking about "primary means of communication - newsletters / meetings ..." maybe asking the wrong question.

The process of "self-evaluation" was popular in the late 80s and early 90s in the academic community. While interesting, it proved in many cases to be mostly unhelpful, unreflective, and frequently destructive. Small 'study groups' were set up to provide 'input' to 'decision makers'. It was frequently (in my experience as an administrator) a process of division and a creator of isolation -- it succeeded in doing the opposite of what it set out to do [on the surface].

[Anecdote: I have witnessed the 'objective' of the process of "self-evaluation" being one of making a department disfunctional and divided, while in the guise of 'trying to make it work', and to get people to work together.]

And the (joint) areas of research funding and commissioning.

Research into ea/cm/sa/mt is a funding nightmare. University research grants are made available on the basis of the amount of external research money that is brought into the university. Such agencies as SSHRC view the 'study' of ea/cm, since it is an "art", as being in the domain of the Canada Council. The Canada Council funds artists to 'produce' art ... it is circular.

And a major on-going complaint from independent sound artists (and composers) has been the relationship of the CC commissioning process(es) and the full-time university faculty member.

Most universities have 'research/creativity' as an aspect of the responsibilty of full-time faculty. In the sciences, research funds are provided to the university, not the researcher, for the research to be carried out. (I am not a lawyer, but under Canadian Tax Law, a principal researcher cannot be paid from the research funds.)

An independent sound artist and full-time university professor each receive a CC commissioning grant for $8,000. In the scientific research community, the researcher will "buy" release time with part of the grant, ie, they will not teach a course, and the research funds pay for their replacement.

The issue is made unclear for the arts, because the fulltime faculty member has a contractual obligation, but receives funds that do not go through the university accounting system: in the sciences, such a situation would be considered as being an outside job.

... but this is a complex issue that has been faced in a number of countries (as I recal the issue came up from the UK, Australia and New Zealand a couple of years ago, but Canada has not closely examined this 'double-dipping' in the arts). This is a very sensitive issue at Concordia University where 4 faculty members were murdered because the killer "thought" that research funds were not being properly used.

These and a number of other points not touched on in the questionnaires / surveys are contemporary issues, and I hope that in your reports to the various sections of the CC, you will be able to bring them forward for a wider, more open discussion.

Good luck on your daunting task.

Professor Kevin Austin
Department of Music / Département de musique
université Concordia University
7141, rue Sherbrooke o
Montréal, QC

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