Vol. 33 Issue 1 Reviews

Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium

New Adventures in Sound Art/University of Toronto/Canadian Electroacoustic Community, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 7-9 August 2008.

Reviewed by Tae Hong Park and James Harley
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Guelph, Ontario, Canada

The Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium (TES) was held 7-9 August, 2008, in Toronto, Canada. The event was organized by David Ogborn, with the collaboration of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, and New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA). The symposium, now in its second year, featured four concerts, five symposium sessions, and keynote presentations by Robert Normandeau as well as Ellen Waterman.

The symposium began with a reception at the Canadian Music Center (CMC) where Richard Marsella, Ontario Regional Director, and other staff, gave an impressive overview of the many services the CMC provides especially in the area of archiving, disseminating, and offering the public a range of resources pertinent to Canadian composers through an actively developing Web site (www.musiccentre.ca). This was followed by an Open Mic night at Somewhere There, a Toronto venue devoted to creative music. Participants were invited to “bring sounds, sound-makers and all of their friends.”

The heart of TES, as the name implies, are the symposia offered throughout the event, amongst the various other performances and sound installations. The first session, entitled “The State of the Art,” included presentations by Jørgen Teller, Eldad Tsabary, and Tae Hong Park. Mr. Eldad's presentation was particularly interesting, detailing methodologies in ear training for electroacoustic music offered at Concordia University in Montreal.

Sessions Two and Three were entitled “Personal Reflections” and “The Electroacoustic Voice,” and included presentations by William Davison, John Farah, and Bob Pritchard. The presentation by Mr. Pritchard included the current state of his research in gesture-controlled speech synthesis and its possible application to performance. It showcased a wearable mobile speech synthesis system developed at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The fourth session, “Soundscapes and Installations,” was followed by Session Five, entitled “Systems and Techniques.” The latter session included talks by Bruno Degazio, Steve Heimbecker, Martin Ritter, and Charles Fox. This preceded the keynote presentation by Robert Normandeau. Mr. Normandeau's focus was on "timbre spatialization" or the issue of distribution of timbre "over available virtual points" in a space through loudspeakers. His talk included explanation of this concept in his recent works. This music is indeed quite different from his earlier works where sounds from various loudspeakers in concert produced a subtly different sound experience depending on the location of the listener within the speaker configuration.

The main concert of the TES featured the works of Mr. Normandeau, and took the listener on a trip down memory lane by including some of his earlier works along with more recent ones. The concert included Rumeurs (Place de Ransbeck) from 1987, Mémoires Vives (1998), Spleen (1993), StrinGDberg (2001-2003), and Hamlet-Machine with Actors (2003). The music for this latter piece was originally composed as incidental music for a theatre production with actors. It has been rewritten to render an autonomous work by including sounds from rehearsals and those made by the actors, and other changes.

Before the main concert, an Outdoor Guerilla Sound Art Performance was put on by Ellen Waterman with four improvisers using flute, percussion sounds, and voice. These ad hoc outdoor performances carried on the following day (in spite of heavy rain) and on Sunday, 10 August, as well, in conjunction with an additional concert held as part of NAISA’s Sound Travels Festival.

The second main concert took place, as did the first, in St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church on Toronto Island, a picturesque location offshore from downtown Toronto and accessible only by ferry. Darren Copeland, of NAISA, had set up an impressive 16-channel sound system. Ellen Waterman (flute) performed with David Ogborn (laptop) on his Street Song No. 4, and also performed with James Harley (laptop) on his Wild Fruits 2: Like a ragged flock, like pulverized jade. The audience was also able to hear Mr. Ogborn’s Second Nature, a soundscape work produced as part of a Sound Travels residency in 2005. Danish composer Jørgen Teller presented his Soundportraits 2008, produced during his concurrent Sound Travels residency. Other works heard were created by local composers: Trame by Hervé Birolini, Nexus by Jason Stanfield, Unsequenced Memories by Emilie LeBel, White Noise/Neige de fond by Dominique Ferraton, and ExobiologY by Raphaël Neron. This latter group of composers had also be working on their pieces as part of the NAISA residency program, and the composers were all present to spatialize their works using AudioBox routing technology and sensor controllers developed to work with this spatialization hardware.

While TES closed on Saturday, 9 August, the Sound Travels events carried on a further day with an afternoon concert featuring a work by Toronto electroacoustic composer Wende Bartley. Ariadne Calling featured the Element Choir, directed by Christine Duncan, who led the group in controlled improvisation in conjunction with multi-channel electroacoustic sounds diffused by the composer.