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Concert Review

ÉuCuE XXIV Concert 13

ÉuCuE XXIV Concert 13, Friday February 11, 2006
Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, Concordia University (Montréal)

The Oscar Peterson Concert Hall is a lush space, an ideal venue for an electroacoustic concert. By day, the room serves as a glorified lecture hall, but every so often, it plays host to advanced acoustic events, such as the ÉuCuE Concert Series. The hall is medium sized, with the capacity to seat 570 — although for this particular concert of multi-speaker surround sound, only the middle seating section was intended for use. Around the central seating was a legion of FBT MaxX4a speakers. Fourteen speakers and two sub-woofers were configured as two rings of 7.1 surround sound. The compositions (which were mixed or remixed for 7.1) were played from a Macintosh G5 computer using the digital audio program Logic. The computer and mixing console were located in the “sweet spot” at the centre of the circle. There was an excitement in the audience atmosphere before the show. The room buzzed with the support and energy of the students and faculty of the Concordia Electroacoustics family, as well as the presence of other electro-enthusiasts of the Montréal community. The entire concert was recorded and broadcast live over the Internet, allowing for a listener audience wider than those within the circle of speakers.

This particular ÉuCuE Concert showed incredible dedication to achieving the highest level of sound quality. Jean-Luc Louradour, a Montréal based acoustician, participated in the technical preparations for the concert. Louradour tested the acoustics of the space, and advised how to best position and tweak the speakers for optimal performance. The acoustic preparation of the space provided a foundation to showcase the programme, and the calibre of work was apparent in the amazing quality of sound.

This concert featured compositions by Concordia Electroacoustics alumni Dominique Bassal and Ian Chuprun as well as a piece by UK composer Mathew Adkins. Bassal has been actively pushing the quality and professionalism of Electroacoustics compositions. He operates Studio Inverse, a mastering studio in Montréal, and has written and lectured on the topic of mastering for Electroacoustics. All of the pieces in this concert were mastered by Bassal, and the combination of carefully mastered audio with a carefully tuned acoustic space provided for an incredible sonic experience.

The compositions of Dominique Bassal featured in the concert comprise three of the four tracks on his album Ubiquité. The quality of sound in this concert was unlike anything I had ever experienced. During Bassal’s Mont des Borgnes, thick and rich sweeping washes seemed to reach up to me, slide around my neck and embrace me with strength and presence. The percussive ambiance of Chuprun’s Releasing Enclosed Spaces slithered across the concert hall floor. I could sense the motion of certain sounds as if they were physical creatures. These soundscapes were not suggesting, representing or recreating another environment. They were alive in this space, strong and powerful forces that gripped my body. Adkins’ Silk to Steel was aggressive and disjunct as it toyed with the characterization of musicality. It was both musical and non-musical, flitting and flowing between the two. Chuprun’s composition, Sky, was an abstract exploration of breath, air and openness, and the sound of the medium through which sound travels.

As per my usual experiences, I left the concert with a stimulated and exhausted cerebral cortex. This event gave me a lot to think about — both technically and theoretically. This concert demonstrated to me the elevated potential for composition when working with higher standards of quality. Increased awareness of the effect of proper mastering in Electroacoustics, in tandem with properly tuned performance spaces — will change the way this type of performance is heard. My ears were in high-definition heaven. My mind was reeling, struggling to process the indescribable emotional content that I generated during the concert.

I believe that this form of presentation has the potential to connect and communicate with an audience in a completely different way than traditional music concerts. The vocabulary of the classical music has a history that allows a listener to recognize and interpret the sources and structure of a composition. Electroacoustics is so young, there is not the same kind of social awareness of the symbols and vocabulary. When technical production elements are properly aligned to support the artistic intent of the composer, Electroacoustics is deeply effective. As was the case at this concert, the listener can be touched and moved in a profoundly abstract, yet alarmingly visceral manner.


ÉuCuE Concert Series

Bassal, Dominique. ‘The Practice of Mastering in Electroacoustics’, in eContact! 6.3

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