Re: Lack of clarity regarding the term EA, clarification

Subject: Re: Lack of clarity regarding the term EA, clarification
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Thu Mar 17 2005 - 20:05:48 EST

The citation is slightly inverted to make reading easier.

>It says nothing at all about the music and makes no distinctions
>between the practices of EA and anything else that uses loudspeakers.

Thank you. This is the position I have proposed all along -- if it is
transduced by a loudspeaker, it is EA

At 5:42 PM -0800 3/17/05, Eliot Handelman wrote:
>Kevin Austin wrote:
>>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.
>Now all he has to do is explain what he means by sound structures,
>ie the part that we actually listen to.
>Without this, his statement is obvious and unilluminating -- the
>"coming out of a louspeaker" creative cop-out. It says nothing at
>all about the music and makes no distinctions between the practices
>of EA and anything else that uses loudspeakers.
>Isn't it better just to say "we don't really know what EA is,"
>instead of setting up a precedent for having students believe that
>vacuous statements are a valid form of intellectual expression?

>WOuld it be better to take three pieces and ask, "well what do they
>have in common?"

This is what I have been doing for 35 - 40 years. Let me propose the
three pieces as being (1) Kontakte, (2) Gould - The Quiet in the
Land, and (3) Tan Dun, The Map, the DG DVD.

These are three (of about 20) pieces which I have presented in class
this year, which have included Smalley, Bach/Carlos and The Wild Bull

>You might actually learn something that way, at least about the three pieces.

Having read the reports from about 40 students on many of these
pieces, I would propose that a great deal of thought has been
stimulated by these presentations.

An acoustical characteristic of almost all ea is that it is point
source in origin. In my experience, the experience of listening to a
Beethoven quartet played live and produced through loudspeakers is
not the same. The Bach/Carlos is a representation of the Invention (a
minor) that does not exist in an acoustical form other than as it
comes from loudspeakers.

The ASA processes of integration, segregation and streaming are in my
experience different when the sound source is a point source.

>I don't personally see any need for such a term anyway,

I have no difficulty with this, but I find a need for such a term as
I have 'different' categories of experiences when listening to
(natural [sic]) acoustic sound, and that which is transduced by a

>It could also apply to fundamentally new treatements of sound or
>listening, or the ideas of "instrument," "composition," etc.

Again, synchronicity as the concept of "instrument" was a major topic
of discussion on the day of the Bach / Carlos. A number of finer
distinctions began to emerge with the question: "Is the piano one
instrument, or 88 instruments that share a common sound board?"

This 'question' is not a 'real' distinction, but is a attempt to work
on where the limits of the word "instrument" reside. The discussion
spanned into the question as to whether a computer is an instrument,
or perhaps whether the software is the instrument ... (is the
soundboard of the piano the instrument, or is it the "support" for
the 88 instruments...).

The classes were more easily handled as the meta-topic for the
semester was the application of the concepts of ASA, and therefore
there was an 'anchor' for much of what happened.

>As particularly applied to sound, this might help clarify what might
>be meant by EA. The fact that computers or electricty or whatnot is
>used is not important.

And here we move in different directions ... I have no difficulty
with my proposed 'definition' of ea, and to date no one has proposed
a "better' more comprehensive, clearer or more articulate definition.

As per my definition, if it comes out of a loudspeaker (is transduced
by a loudspeaker), it is ea. This broad definition has allowed me to
move away from the on-going "search for the definition and limits of

I have included the (recording of the) speeches of Dr martin Luther
King Jr in my use of the term ea. These recordings are used in
(sound) Journalism and Communication Studies departments where the
loudspeaker is a central (if invisible) feature.



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