Re: Lack of clarity regarding the term EA, clarification

Subject: Re: Lack of clarity regarding the term EA, clarification
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Wed Mar 02 2005 - 06:03:47 EST

In October of 1989, Michael Century wrote in his opening remarks to
the CEC Conference in Banff Alberta:

Electroacoustics is not at all a unified field, and varying views are
held concerning its relationship with "conventional" music practice.
One thing is held in common, and that is its material -- the use of
electricity to make sounds, or (in my view, this must be included) to
plan, process or symbolically represent sound structures.

This is the basis for one definition which has received a degree of
circulation and appears to be the definition that Nick is
referencing. (And for this and four other definitions, see:

People who have read through the notes for the ea lecture to a the
FFAR 250 course at Concordia since 1999, (possibly more than 3000
students in classes alone) will have read:

Electroacoustics : is a very general term meaning the use of
electricity for the creation, processing, manipulation, storage,
presentation, distribution, perception, analysis, understanding or
cognition of sound. It is the superset of the field, including both
live and 'fixed' (as on tape or CD) pieces. Some people consider that
it has language limits and defines certain 'styles' of work. (Adapted
from Michael Century.)

As Michael Century points out, 'ea' becomes a generalized cognitive
study, rather than a study solely of practice.

I guess we were standing near different parts of the elephant.



More direct responses to parts of the posting appear below.

This part is addressed above.

>First off, the electricity within us can be tranduced to sound, and
>we all know how this can be done (clap, stomp, scream, etc).
>Secondly, if you don't consider the energy within us "electricity",
>then you can still consider the fact that there are times when the
>artist can already hear the EA composition in his/her head before
>actually physically hearing it. Hence, EA composition without the
>transduction of electricity. If you hear an EA piece in your dream,
>is it still EA?

Using the definition I provided in the FFAR notes, yes.

>If you want to stick with the EA= anything that comes from a
>loudspeaker definition, then I can dig it.

This is one of many I use.

>But, as you know, there is another term EA that would still need
>defining, the one that is usually dubbed "a genre of music". I have
>tried in previous posts to spread the notion that perhaps music is a
>genre of EA instead, and I have tried to provide valid arguments to
>back this up.

This has also been discussed, and the 'spectrum-based' limitation of
(this) definition of ea has been shown to have roots is traditional
western music dating back more than 200 years. It is, IMV, an
extension of the musical study called instrumentation / orchestration.

Berlioz, with no knowledge of Auditory Scene Analysis proposes most
of the concepts , and through his orchestral practice (and general
discussions of the art of instrument making -- organology)
demonstrates a strong intuitive grasp if the principles of
spectromorphology. (See also Shakespeare's Sonnet 59, If there be
nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled, (*below).)

>I hope that I have clarified my intentions/position, but I'll keep
>trying if I have to.

Your position has been clear to me from the start, which is why I
have been able to examine it.

>By the way, out of curiosity, If you (Kevin) didn't think I was
>discussing EA, what did you think I was discussing?

I cannot conjecture what you were discussing, except possibly Michael
Century's definition. It occurred to me that you may have been
strongly influenced by this definition without necessarily knowing
the source(s). If you are a Concordia student in ea, you may have
come to some if these points from the Selected Readings in
Electroacoustics or the FFAR 250 notes, but neither of these are to
be taken as truth.


If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child!
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whether better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O, sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

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