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A question to international members

Dear Robert,

At 17:55 30/01/01 -0500, you wrote:

* Are there models of other service organizations for electroacoustic music outside Canada? How are these organizations similar - or not - for this artform with regard to both structure and mandate?

I have talked to Pete Stollery about this today and he is replying to you more fully. I would just say that the main problem is that, although Sonic Arts Network receives revenue funding from the Arts Council of England (which it increases by finding private money for projects, commissions, etc), the main problem is that 'the establishment' in the UK doesn't really know what electroacoustic music/the sonic arts ARE! They are assumed to be a sub-set of 'contemporary music' by the ACE; this in turn means that it risks being 'tainted' as 'academic', 'establishment' and 'elitist' by people with a more 'populist' outlook, when in fact it isn't necessarily any of those things. In other words, we are trapped between differing and apparently difficult to reconcile interest groups - 'art music' and 'popular music' - neither of which full or adequately describes the importance of the ea medium. This is exacerbated by the difficulty of explaining what, to use the most extreme example, acousmatic music is - they've not SEEN (sic) it, so they don't understand it!

The Sonic Arts Network model and activities work, remember, within the framework of a small country (geographically speaking) - so some activities (events, touring, etc) can be realistic propositions (unlike in Canada, I suspect). The annual members' Conference (modelled quite closely on the SEAMUS example - sshhh! don't tell!) is a great success, giving members the chance to meet and exchange music/ideas in a 'safe' (i.e. not overly public) environment. Again, in a small country this works (though it will be interesting to see how many members actually manage to get to Belfast this year!).

SAN Education is something of a success story - it has a separate Director (employed) and he has managed to secure additional funding (mostly from Europe) to support education work within the school curriculum. Whether this project or similarly-motivated ones can continue without this funding (which is now at an end) remains to be seen. We may have to rethink our education activities more along the lines of 'education' within an ARTS context, rather than in an EDUCATION context engaging with the mainstream school curriculum.

On the wider national scene, electroacoustic music in various guises is alive and well and flourishing in all kinds of places, from bedrooms to universities. But it's practitioner driven - I don't think there's any real notion of national policy in this area at any level higher than SAN (unlike opera, orchestras, etc...). It's also increasingly difficult to fund commissions etc from the regional arts boards (devolved funding from the ACE) - again, they're not really sure what ea music is!

Hope this goes some way to answering some of your your queries. I'd just add that CEC is not only a national resource but an important international focus for ea. It's a shame that there's not much traffic in French on CECDiscuss these days (everyone has gone to ars sonora, i guess), but it's still a model for other organisations in many, many ways. How it manages to survive on virtually no funding is a real mystery - except that we're talking about the dedication of a few individuals, of course (as usual!). but, for what it's worth, i'd like to voice my full support for the organisation - good luck!

best wishes,


Dr Jonty Harrison
Reader In Composition And Electroacoustic Music
Music Department
The University Of Birmingham,
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT, UK

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