Artists Darren Copeland

Darren Copeland is a Canadian sound artist who has been active since 1985 and lives in the country outside the village of South River (Ontario). His work encompasses multichannel spatialization for live performance, fixed media composition, soundscape composition, radio art and sound installations.

His fixed-media compositions have explored both abstract and referential sound materials. Many of these works are released on the empreintes DIGITALes label and have received mentions from Vancouver New Music, Phonurgia Nova, Luigi Russolo, and other competitions.

His radio art works engage in the associative qualities of environmental sounds in relation to spoken text and have been commissioned and presented by Deutschlandradio Kultur, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, and Kunstradio (ORF). His sound installations include gallery and sited works which examine the relationship of sound and place, including Sound Columns (2011) co-created with Andreas Kahre, and Copeland’s installation Expanded Listening (2014).

Darren Copeland is also the founding and current Artistic Director of New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA). In this role he has been curating a comprehensive array of over 25 sound art events a year in Toronto that include sound installations, radio and multichannel concert presentations, and new emerging media.

Copeland’s work with NAISA has included his development of multichannel spatialization systems that began in 1999 with the Richmond Sound Design Audiobox and Third Monk Software’s ABControl, and in 2006, a performance-oriented system using the Polhemus Patriot as a gestural controller along with customized software by Benjamin Thigpen.

Copeland’s work with multichannel spatialization took focus with residencies in Europe and Canada from 1999 to 2001 where he facilitated the exploration of automated octaphonic spatialization using the Richmond Sound Design Audiobox and ABControl diffusion software.

In 2011 he received research funding from the Ontario Arts Council (Chalmers Arts Fellowship) and Canada Council for the Arts. His research culminated in refinements of Thigpen’s software but also allowed him to explore new directions in ‘ensemble’ spatialization by adding two performers that control directional loudspeakers called Holosonic Audio Spotlights. He has toured in 2014-15 this new system for NAISA residencies and performances in the UK, Europe and Western Canada.

Darren Copeland is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC). He has served on the board of directors for the Canadian Association for Sound Ecology (CASE), the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC), Vancouver Pro Musica, and Rumble Productions. He holds degrees from University of Birmingham (England, UK) and Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada).


Darren Copeland

Brampton (Ontario, Canada), 1968

Residence: South River (Ontario, Canada)

  • Composer
  • Sound artist

On the web

Darren Copeland [Photo: Stefan A Rose, South River (Ontario, Canada), December 2016]
Darren Copeland [Photo: Stefan A Rose, South River (Ontario, Canada), December 2016]
  • Darren Copeland [Photo: Rob Waymen, Toronto (Ontario, Canada), 1998]
  • Joseph Anderson, Rick Nance, Darren Copeland, Adrian Moore [Birmingham (England, UK), April 18, 1997]

Main releases

empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 18149_NUM / 2018
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0683, IMED 0683_NUM / 2006
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 9841, IMED 9841_NUM / 1998


Various artists
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 09100, IMED 09100_NUM / 2009
Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 95CD / 1995


Various artists
Cambridge Street Records / CSR 9701 / 1996
  • Out of print
Various artists
Asphodel / ASP 0966 / 1995
  • Out of print
Various artists
What Next Recordings / WN 0019 / 1995
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 92CD / 1992
  • Out of print

In the press

trans_canada Festival: Trends in Acousmatics and Soundscapes

Wibke Bantelmann, Computer Music Journal, no. 29:3, September 1, 2005

The trans_canada festival of electroacoustic music by Canadian composers at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe was certainly no everyday experience for the interested German public. A festival of acousmatic music—and acousmatic music only—is quite unusal. The German avant-garde music scene is still uncommonly lively, but most composers prefer either instrumental music (with electroacoustic elements) or multimedia works. The idea of invisible music seems not to touch the German musical sensibility.

Despite this, 460 visitors found their way to ZKM. During 10-13 February, 2005, they experienced a four day-long plunge into the Canadian way of composing, and had the opportunity to learn more about the “Canadian Example” as Daniel Teruggi of the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM) called it in his paper. According to Mr. Teruggi, the liveliness and outstanding quality of the electroacoustic music scene in Canada is the result of good composers but also of academically sound research and training and a wide range of philosophical approaches to music. The opening of the festival showed another aspect of this “example.” Paul Dubois, the present Canadian ambassador to Germany, came from Berlin to open the festival—cultural policy in Canada apparently knows and supports the electroacoustic scene intensely, quite contrary to German policy.

Francis Dhomont, Robert Normandeau, Gilles Gobeil, Nicolas Bernier, Hildegard Westerkamp, and Louis Dufort took part in the festival and presented works (Ned Bouhalassa was invited but for health reasons was unable to attend). Nine pieces were commissioned by ZKM and received their world premieres at the festival.

trans_canada not only offered an occasion for Germans to learn about Canadian acousmatic music; apparently, it also connected the Canadians themselves. “It seems we had to come to the ZKM in Karlsruhe to get together,” said Robert Normandeau at the last concert. And so, the Francophone composers from the east, rooted in the Paris school of “musique concrète,” met the Anglophone soundscape composers from the West coast. “I was very much surprised when Francis Dhomont told us that he does not like the original sounds to be changed so much that you can’t distinguish their origin any longer,” said Hildegard Westerkamp. “We are not as far away from each other as I used to think.”

This proved to be quite true, as could be heard. The parallels between their new works, Brief an den Vater by Mr. Dhomont and Für Dich—For You by Ms. Westerkamp, were striking. Both compositions were not only inspired by but also formally based on literature and the structure, the sound, the rhythm of the text. The work by Mr. Dhomont, with the scraping of a pen as a sort of leitmotif, was no less abstract than Ms. Westerkamp’s music with its sea-sounds (gulls, wind, waves). And her fantasy land called “home” is not more “real” then his world of inner struggle. Both works showed an extreme sensitivity for subtle, delicate sounds which were spread in many layers, throwing shadows of sound, and constantly and slowly developing into new shapes and shades. The differences between the works seemed after all (to this listener at least) to be ones of personal style and expression than of basic principles.

Another new work with words came from Darren Copeland. I don’t want to be inside me anymore was quite singular in the festival due to its definite focus on content, on a “real story.” This fact gave the piece a strong dramatic quality leaving hardly any room for imagination. The intention of the sounds to build around the absorbing, sometimes even vexatious, words seemed to force the listeners to constantly keep their full attention on the meaning of the text. It was a deeply impressive piece, even if it was to a certain extent more dramatic than musical. (Although other listeners might experience it differently if they do not understand the German text.)

In a way, this work resembles a compositional style of a very different kind, that of Barry Truax. The connection may be found in the very sense of reality in both composer’s works: the reality of the feeling of isolation on one hand, and the reality of an existing landscape (streams, peaks, caves) on the other.

Even Gilles Gobeil’s magnificent medieval drama, Ombres, espaces, silences…, followed roughly this direction. This piece was not about feeling or landscape, it was about reality, too, in this case the reality of history, only by far more sublime, sensitive, and imaginative. Not “cinema for the ear” but a “novel for the ear” (something like The Name of the Rose?)! However, the form and structure of this work is by far more of a narrative nature than strictly abstract-musical.

It was Robert Normandeau and the youngsters of trans_canada who were most abstract, and therefore the strongest advocates of a true “invisible music.” It was not only not to be seen, it was not to be imagined. There was nothing real, nothing you could get hold of, it was more or less a complete deconstruction of sounds, ideas, narration. They appeared not to start from any landscape, be it imagined or real, inside or outside the head; they started from ideas, ideas of sound, ideas of form. Even the antique Writing Machine in the work by Nicolas Bernier was more a (slightly exotic) sound than a sense, more a historical reminiscence than an element of form.

Coincidence shows her unaccountable face, experiment and surprise follow. You could hear experience and mastery in the work of Robert Normandeau, of course. You were always sure that it was him who played with coincidence and not the other way round. His world premiere, ZedKejeM, was highly dynamic, with the energy and rhythm from a dancefloor, but still showed the deepness, density, and versatility of a deep-thinking organizer of energy and fantasy. Every single sound seemed well calculated, the effects carefully set.

The music of his younger colleagues, Mr. Bernier and Louis Dufort, was more spontaneous, wandering dreamily through all the possibilities of technique and sound, to find out what would happen. Mr. Dufort spread a richness and variety of colors in a free, open structure that simply followed the beauty of the sounds created. In contrast to that, Mr. Bernier followed an intellectual plan, he set his rules and let them work. One always sensed the will behind the music, one always tried to follow and understand the experiment instead of just enjoying the result. But, on the other hand, this method produced a certain strong energy in the work. This composer had the power to raise and hold the intellectual interest of the listener.

All in all, it was fascinating to take in over a few days such a wide range of styles and personalities, and to learn a little about their methods.

trans_canada also provided the chance to meet the composers in person. Each of them delivered a paper about their work. They could only give a rough survey, of course, in a 45-min talk. Rather than concentrating on techniques or software, most composers just tried to acquaint their colleagues and the small number of other interested people with their sources of inspiration, their opinions, their philosophy. Remarkable was the clear delivery of all the composers and the relaxed atmosphere of these sessions. There seemed to be no need to impress anyone, and not so much need to discuss, let alone debate. Everybody was open-minded and respected the others, as if trying to learn and understand, not to question fundamentals.

It was like a good talk between colleagues and friends. Mr. Normandeau provided insight into his large archive of sound and his permanent work on the human voice. Mr. Gobeil expressed his preference for the sound of exotic instruments (like the Daxophone) and his dislike of techno music (inducing him to write a techno-piece). Mr. Dhomont talked about the relation between accident and control in his work, marking his own position somewhere between Pierre Boulez and John Cage:Boulez would say: ‘This is incidental, throw it away;’ Cage would say: ‘This is incidental, so I take it;’ I say: ‘Look, there is an interesting incident, but should I take it?’” He also used the opportunity to call for more polyphony in electroacoustic music instead of the exclusive concentration on creating the most original, most exotic new sound: “In an orchestra, you mix different instruments, but the single instrument becomes not less beautiful.”

The exceptional environment of ZKM supported this beautiful richness of sounds and the inventiveness of the composers immensely. The two concert venues offer exquisite acoustics. They were equipped with 70 concert loudspeakers, placed in either circles or in a kind of “acousmonium surround environment.” This, in conjunction with the timbral and spatial qualities of the works, created an extraordinary musical experience.

… it was fascinating to take in over a few days such a wide range of styles and personalities…


François Couture, AllMusic, June 1, 2002

Canadian electroacoustic composer Darren Copeland focused his work on environmental sound sources. His approach shares similarities with Hildegard Westerkamp’s, but he never reached her level of international recognition. Copeland studied composition at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) with Barry Truax while plundered through the institution’s World Soundscape Collection. He also studied with Jonty Harrison in Birmingham, UK. A man of radio and a gifted creator of theatre soundtracks, he contributed to a few compilation CDs (Storm of Drones, DisContact II) in the early 1990s and released his first album, Rendu visible, in 1998 on empreintes DIGITALes. It was hardly noticed. His interest in boundaries between electroacoustics, radio art and theatre led to interesting but undocumented works, such as his adaptation of August Strindberg’s A Dream Play and the live radio event “Wireless Graffiti,” produced during his collaboration with Vancouver Pro Musica. He is now on the board of the Canadian Association for Sound Ecology and runs New Adventures in Sound Art, a Canadian association devoted to developing electroacoustic music as a performance art.

Articles written

  • Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 9:10, July 1, 2004
    … he makes an alliance with soundscape composition, glitch, and acousmatic art.
  • Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 9:7, April 1, 2004
    In the years to come, this CD will be vintage Roy.
  • Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 8:2, October 1, 2002
    The intense energy of Parra’s playing is well supported by those artists’ sensitive control of tension and release.
  • Darren Copeland, Musicworks, no. 82, December 1, 2001
    Chief among the distinguishing characteristics of Truax’s work is a romantic sensibility.


Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 9:10, July 1, 2004

Christian Bouchard moves fluidly between lush spacious environments and agitated, rough, edgy punctuations. By doing so, he makes an alliance with soundscape composition, glitch, and acousmatic art. His choices to distort sounds or to magnify normally discarded recorded artifacts are offset by his imagination for colour and his feeling for the inherent nuances of sounds manipulated from environmental sources. In summary, the worlds of glitch and a filmic acousmatic sense go hand in hand in his sensibilities. There is not a conscious attempt to construct narrative in his works like in the Gotfrit CD that I reviewed last month. However, images and vestiges of stories do peer out from time to time, products I think more of the inherent associative qualities of environmental sounds than of a conscious attempt to construct the sense of a storyline in his music. Bouchard’s early works on the CD maintain a compactness and economy that I appreciate more than in his later and more longer-form works. But then again, the use of conceptual structural models in these earlier works, such as the portrait of a soundscape from the point of view of a parking meter, is more appealing to my ears these days than the looser and more meandering structures that are more common in acousmatic art. In closing, Bouchard has a nice edge and grit to his music that I think will appeal to listeners looking for something new.

… he makes an alliance with soundscape composition, glitch, and acousmatic art.


Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 9:7, April 1, 2004

There is always a tricky balance between being open to external influence and maintaining an independent voice. Stéphane Roy shows that he does not have to sacrifice his originality in order to draw from new influences. The range of mustical sources emerging through his richly sifted electroacoustic textures vary, from bagpipes to Chinese music to Latin electronic grooves to circus music. This opens up the language of his work from what he has composed in the past. Rhythms and harmonies that were not there in his previous works have now come into the fold. Yet there are still those defining qualities - the wistful tones, the kaleidoscope of unfolding colours, the jagged changes, the overarching story and poetic sensibility - that have distinguished his music over the years.

Stéphane Roy is like a documentary maker who is not measured by the volume of his/her coverage over a specific subject (in the way that Roy portrays the multi-cultural mosaic of Montréal in Appartenances), but rather by the ability to chisel out the essence of something by zeroing in on the essential few bits. As Roy visits the diverse cultural musics on the streets of Montréal he does not include everything, but he does meld the essence of his subject with his lyrical sensibility, to create a very personalized portrait of life in a community that he is discovering anew. In the years to come, this CD will be vintage Roy.

In the years to come, this CD will be vintage Roy.


Darren Copeland, The WholeNote, no. 8:2, October 1, 2002

There is a recent trend in electroacoustic music where instrumentalists with improvisational or compositional skills are collaborating with studio-based electroacoustic composers in the creation of works. Lori Freedman, Randy Raine-Reusch, and Abbie Conant are a few of names that come to mind. Another example is Colombian-Canadian guitarist Arturo Parra who collaborates on this recording with a choice group of Montréal acousmatic composers - Francis Dhomont, Stéphane Roy, Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau, and from Colombia, Mauricio Bejarano.

The most successful of these collaborations in my opinion are those with Dhomont, Normandeau and Gobeil. The intense energy of Parra’s playing is well supported by those artists’ sensitive control of tension and release. They also work because the guitar and the studio parts find frequent points of intersection and dialogue. The Roy piece felt to me that the studio component was on a different plane than the guitar, although to his credit, I found the sounds Roy created to be the most original.

Cooperative efforts such as the one lead here by Parra are long overdue - the synthesis of the two encroaches on old habits and gives acousmatic music a new zest. It is nice to hear a melodic line weaving in and out of voluminous washes and thick stabs, for instance, or hearing the acousmatic component hold the main pitch interest while the guitar screeches and grinds around it. In short, a bold spark on my radar screen. I look forward to similar explorations in the years ahead instigated by Parra and others.

The intense energy of Parra’s playing is well supported by those artists’ sensitive control of tension and release.

Island of Contemplation

Darren Copeland, Musicworks, no. 82, December 1, 2001

The title of the disc Islands metaphorically refers to islands of place, event, and community. Many places drift in and out of consciousness over the sixty-three minutes of the CD, with European commuter trains, the Vancouver skytrain, and the Canadian Pacific Railway connecting visitations to idyllic settings of quiet, natural repose. The idea of visiting places in dream-like succession is common to many soundscape compositions, due to the inherent referential qualities of real world sounds — and this CD is no exception.

Chief among the distinguishing characteristics of Truax’s work is a romantic sensibility. Sounds of industry and society are limited to transportation sounds and time signals. Also, there are absent from these soundscapes the perhaps less-desirable sounds of society, such as traffic, factory machinery, and shopping malls. And there is an implied narrative in the sequence of sound environments visited. Train rides lead to restful escapades away from the stress of the workday, an afternoon nap invites a sonic meditation with cicadas and Italian water fountains, and cicadas (again), along with other natural soundscape elements, provide the makings of a magical place of wonder and rest. Truax indeed hears the world through a different aural filter, judging by the makeup of these sound worlds.

The CD also includes Truax’s trademark granular synthesis, through which sounds from the environment are stretched out to over a hundred times their length, while their pitch is preserved. However, unlike its use in his computer music of the late ’80s and early ’90s it occurs here in conjunction with other processing techniques, such as comb filtering (in the composition Islands) and is used with careful discretion. In this case, the lines between artifice and reality blur in the same way that distortions in colour and image in photography create an ambiguity about fact and fiction. However, one can never dismiss the predilections of the artist in rendering reality in an artificial form — which makes me wonder how much our own perception of our everyday acoustic environment strays from objective truth. Although Truax is not presenting everything in the acoustic environment, his choices say something about the role sound plays in our sense of well-being in the world. I think the implicit statement of this CD is that our society is in need of islands of rest and contemplation. Certain sounds from nature present that opportunity, which is missing from a culture with an appetite for information excess and light diversionary entertainment.

Chief among the distinguishing characteristics of Truax’s work is a romantic sensibility.