event report: ems08

kerry hagen
june 11, 2008

The Electroacoustic Music Studies Network held its 2008 conference in Paris, France, this year with great success. Under the theme of "Musique Concrète, 60 years later," musicians came from around the world to present papers on topics in performance practice, musicology, composition, and more.

The conference kicked off with the keynote address by François Bayle, an insightful look into the properties of sounds and phenomena. In the first day, papers fell under four themes: Electroacoustic Performance, Analysis and Research on Electroacoustic Music, Historical Impacts of Electroacoustic Music, and Musical Composition and Technology. Speakers included Hannah Bosma, Margaret Schedel, Ken Fields, Leigh Landy, Marc Battier, Joel Chadabe, Bob Gluck, and Ricardo Dal Farra.

This year, there was a strong presence from Electroacoustic Music Studies Asia Network (EMSAN). Papers covered histories of Asian electronic music and cultural and aesthetic studies in music from Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere. In one presentation, Yuriko Hase Kojima addressed listening differences arising from Japanese culture. In another, Lonce Wyse presented a history of electroacoustic music in Singapore.

Under the heading of Reappropriations and Becomings of Musical Materials, Julio D'Escriván and Paul Jackson demonstrated new software to perform Wiki-inspired plunderphonics. Under Sound Organisation, Musical Structures, Arshia Cont demonstrated a cutting-edge approach to score following for the music of Marco Stroppa that addresses musical practice beyond simple note and duration tracking. John Dack took a Kantian perspective to Schaeffer's sons excentriques and sons équilibrés in the same session.

In the session titled Musical Parameters Evaluation and Organisation, Natasha Barrett challenged current practices in electroacoustic music with the notion of listening thresholds with an example from her new work Barely - Part 1. Simon Emmerson discussed roles of pulse, meter, and rhythm and the complicated aesthetics of periodicity in electroacoustic composition.

Francis Dhomont spoke to composers in electroacoustic music in the session on Early Developments of Electroacoustic Music. Dhomont suggested that innovation for innovation's sake is no longer surprising to listeners. Instead, enough practice has occurred in the last sixty years to create a classicism in electroacoustic composition. This is not to say that a "classical" electroacoustic music is mediocre, but instead builds on previous successes and failures of experimentation to create stable models for composition.

In conjunction with the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), EMS offered a few musical events, as well. In a concert of electroacoustic music by composers from China and Taiwan, Shing-Kwei Tzeng presented a notable work for accordion and live electronics as part of the Multiphonies series. Carl Stone performed a short work in the GRM studio for attendees. Another Multiphonies concert had a new version of Axe Rouge III by Elzbieta Sikora for saxophones and tape. The final concert of the conference had a new work by Marc Battier for shakuhachi and electronics. The performances by Bruno Maurice, accordion, and Daniel Kientzy, saxophones, were stunning.

Other papers were presented by Anna Rubin, Tim Ward, Gary Kendall, Blas Payri, Andra McCartney, James Harley, Pierre Couprie, John Coulter, Eric Lyon, Bruno Bossis, Yann Geslin, Robert Normandeau, and many others.