Re: Lack of clarity regarding the term EA, clarification

Subject: Re: Lack of clarity regarding the term EA, clarification
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Fri Mar 18 2005 - 08:26:52 EST

The term I use is not "loudspeakeronics", but electroacoustic
studies. It appears that you wish to write about music, and I am
writing on the broad matter of electroacoustics.

At 11:10 PM -0500 3/17/05, Eliot Handelman wrote:
> >>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
>Unless it's "anything else that uses loudspeakers," eg, the weather
>report. I don't find it illuminating to describe "eye on the sky" as
>"EA." Perhaps you need something like "loudspeakeronics" rather than
>EA as a description of your interests.

> > Eliot Handelman wrote:
>>>Kevin Austin wrote:
>> 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.
>Jonathan Crow, the concertmaster/soloist of the MSO was on my show,
>and I played him some simulated orchestra stuff and asked him what he
>thought. He made an interesting comment -- that it takes the creative
>freedom and influence of the recording engineer to the next level.

I think he is reaffirming what the theater <> film discussion of the
last century was about. Working in fixed media rather than in
'performance practice' moves the higher levels of 'executive
artistic' [sic] decision making out of the theater an onto the floor
of the editing room.

>I also asked him about the acoustics of Salle Wilfred Pelltier (the
>major orchestral concert hall in montreal) and he said that it felt
>fine while playing, but that listening was like "watching a movie," in
>other words the sound is out there and you're over here in the

This is related to the design of the hall as being an 'acoustical
horn' projection system. The orchestra sits in the throat of the horn
where there is 'one' acoustical property, and there is a change of
acoustical impedance as the soundwave propagates into the 'listening
space'. The acoustical properties of the hall have 'reduced
influence' on the stage as there is a 'reduced flow of energy' for
the returning wave.

To understand this effect, take a cone of paper to make an
ear-trumpet. Listen with the point of the cone at your ear; now
listen with the horn of the cone at your ear. The concept of the
"horn > audience" concert hall evolved in europe as concert halls got
larger in size and there was the need to more efficiently transfer
the sound from the stage to the audience, and have a concomitant
reduction of noise from the audience back onto the stage.

One thinks of the performance spaces in the courts of 17th & 18th C
europe and finds the halls are "shoeboxes"
(* image below)

As a comparison, the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall does not have a
proscenium arch, and the transition from stage to hall is much less
abrupt. The acoustics of the hall are more readily coupled to those
of the stage.

>So there are a couple of points in this. First, that recording is
>just revealing itself to be continuous with composing, through
>simulation -- surely, as well, in EA, a part of which always does
>seem to me to be about simulation.

As previously mentioned, you may wish to look at the DVD of The Map
by Tan Dun. In my view, the DVD is an independent sonic object from
the concert performance, which itself is an electroacoustic piece.

The live performance in China used loudspeakers so that the audience
could hear the work. The cello was amplified, as were the sounds of
the percussionists rubbing stones together in front of their mouths.

Tan Dun as composer called for sounds that would not be able to heard
without the use of amplification. The video tracks had been recorded
and edited, and then the composition was completed. (Perhaps the
videos were also slightly re-edited for the performance.) The players
on stage played along with, echoed, pre-echoed and imitated the
sounds from the video. They were being asked to reduce the effects of
time binding. In one particular case, they performed with someone who
was dead.

This is an important part about ea in a cultural sense. The
loudspeaker allows the displacement of the source in both time and

>Unless it's "anything else that uses loudspeakers," eg, the
>weather report. I don't find it illuminating to describe
>"eye on the sky" as "EA." Perhaps you need something like
>"loudspeakeronics" rather than EA as a description of your interests.

Your example, IMV, reinforces my point about "eye on the sky" being
electroacoustics. The illumination here is that the audience has no
"live" (point of) connection / contact with the 'source'.

Does the audience know whether the person they are watching is live
or Memorex? Do they know that the person they are watching and
listening to is at this moment sitting in a restaurant having a
coffee while their weather report is being broadcast "live".

Canadians are notably aware of this, as (for example) the 8:00
concert (which starts at 8 pm across the country, except 8:30 in
Newfoundland) starts at 8 pm local time.

When it is heard in Halifax at 8:00, it is only 7:00 in Montreal,
6:00 in Winnipeg, 5:00 in Edmonton and 4:00 in Vancouver.

The standing joke about the "drive home show" (Disc Drive with Jurgen
Goth), is that while Halifax listeners hear him say "good afternoon"
at 3:00, he is sitting in a Vancouver studio at 11:00 am ... not the

It is, IMV, this ability to have temporal and spatial displacement
which is very important to my proposed definition of electroacoustics.

As noted previously, in this particular thread I am not referencing
"music" or "performance".

>Second, that the acoustic experience is often a compromise to the
>ideal of performance, which to my mind is always best served by
>immersion (I think it's in the nature of music). In other words, the
>acoustic experience is an aspiration rather than a category. And
>that leads to the further thought that the only real distinction
>worth making in music is the conflict between the vision of what
>might happen and what does happen, and that there's no way to
>adumbrate that conflict (I haven't heard the word "adumbrate" since
>the early 90s, forgive me).

> > 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.
>It's as good as describing quattrocento painting as "the application
>of smearable pigmented matter to a surface," or "it uses brushes."
>It's a creative cop-out, Kevin, and you need something better.

I'm sorry, I don't understand the need for a personal attack at this
point, or maybe I do understand.

>Jim Randall once showed me a music appreciation book he was reading
>for a course on writing about music, that described the opening of the
>Beethoven 9 as "a sustained dominant pedal." "That really says what in
>that opening contributed to this piece coming to be known as the
>crowning achievement of western music, doesn't it?" he asked.




>-- eliot

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