Electro Traces, the first ever cross Canada tour of electroacoustic music, comes to the Margaret Greenham Theatre on Monday, February 25 at 8 p.m.
This tour brings together several prominent Canadian composers and performers who have strong connections with The Banff Centre.
Composer Claude Schryer, a former participant in the Music program, has also held various staff positions in the now defunct Inter-Arts program. Daniel Scheidt, who is also a composer, has been involved with the Centre as well. He recorded his soon to be released compact disc, Action/ Réaction, here and was a participant in a number of programs. Finally, percussionist Trevor Tureski and soprano Catherine Lewis have both been participants here.
The concert will consist of 10 pieces which combine taped music with live instrumental and vocal music. Electroacoustic music is usually described as “music that is heard through loud speakers.” Generally, the instruments used in this genre are less traditional and more electronic than in other fonns of music.
“To prepare yourself for an electracoustic experience, you must throw away preconceptions about traditional instruments and music and grasp the idea that music is structured sounds,” explains Kevin Elliott, head, Audio Recording, Media Arts, The Banff Centre.
Although electroacoustic music has been around since the 1950s, it has taken a quantum leap in the last few years. The systems, instruments, and technology have advanced greatly, spreading the parameters in which the performers and composers work. In doing so, room has been made to create exciting works that are breaking new musical ground.
The sounds can be rich and soothing with one unique tone flowing into another or they can be sharp, percussive, and dynamic, moving with untimely changes.
The electroacoustic music presented through this tour is of the highest quality in the world. The system being used is specially designed to project sound in a way that envelops the entire room and offers a third dimension to the works. This technique of sound projection is called “acousmatics”.
The opportunity to experience electroacoustic music will be yours this February 25 at The Banff Centre. Take a chance and open yourself to a new dimension in music.
It had to happen just as performers like Brian Eno, Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Horvitz have humanized the synthesizer, adding deep levels of meaning and musicality to an instrument that can so often sound inhuman and unfriendly, computer music is also being brought closer to the point where its technological complexities can be enjoyed for more than merely theoretical reasons. And at least one local MIDI wizard — Daniel Scheidt — is working towards a satisfactory synthesis of craft and intuition, composition and improvisation.
Five of Scheidt’s recent compositions are featured on Action/Réaction, a new CD issued by the Québécois empreintes DIGITALes label, and this recording shows that Scheidt’s abilities, as a composer and as a manipulator of electronic “reality,” are becoming increasingly strong. (Scheidt’s new works can also be heard “live” at the Western Front on Friday and Saturday, February 22 and February 23, in conjunction with works by Québécois composers Christian Calon, Robert Normandeau, and Alain Thibault. They will also be showcased at SFU Harbour Centre at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, February 22.)
Scheidt’s particular interest — and the reason why his work is so intriguing — is the integration of acoustic improvisation into an electronic environment. And while the orthodox approach to this is to drop an instrumentalist into a predetermined electronic arrangement, Scheidt’s innovation is to design computerized systems that effectively echo and accompany the improvising musician in musical relation’ ships that expand in depth and complexiq over the length of each piece. By working with instrumentalists of the calibre of trombonist George Lewis, clarinetists Claude Schryer and Lori Freedman, soprano Catherine Lewis, and percussionist Trevor Tureski — all profoundly gifted players, all featured on Action/Réaction, and all performing in the upcoming recitals — Scheidt has availed himself of some of the best improvisers currently active in new music, while his own, highly personalised approach to the electroacoustic medium ensures that they will be shown off in fascinating settings.
His innovations offer the best of live performance and studio research, Scheidt says. “There’s a very interesting thing that happens in the time domain,” he explains. “When I’m creating the software, I have time on my side. I can spend as much time as I need working out details of the way the syscem is going to behave. But then I take all of that carefully thought-out work and put it into a real-time environment. In essence that allows me to do some kind of time-warp, where I have all the benefits of reflective thought; of time, in an improvisational context. The software allows me to encapsulate a whole lot of thought and have it available to me in an improvisational environment.
“And, in turn, that allows for a different role for the performer. I’m no longer putting a sheet of paper in front of them and saying, ‘here’s what I want you to do,’ I’m saying, ‘here’s an environment I want you to explore.’“
Scheidt is careful to separate himself from the Québécois composers that he is currently sharing a record label and a concert tour with. “They have an incredibly defined sonic intention,” he explains. “And they have, from moment to moment, absolute authority over the sound that they’re projecting. I don’t have that concern. My compositional focus is on a much more general method of making music. It’s not that I have a sonic idea that I’m trying to realize, it’s that I have a compositional idea that I’m trying to hear.”
His is a more collaboracive vision, one that pays more attention to the social aspects of music-making and proceeds more gently with soloists needs and ambitions. In part Scheidt has come to this through world music — a member of Kyai Madu Sari, the SFU community gamelan orchestra, he recognizes that the bulk of the world’s music is at least in part improvised and to his early training at the University of Victoria.
“There was a feeling there that the craft could be learned, that it was just a matter of sitting down in class and doing it, where we needed to focus as students was on exercising our creative intention,” he says. “Also there was an interest, at that time, in live performance of electroacoustic music, and because of the lack of a structure for notation or instrumentation or anything at all, by default improvisation was going to be a component in what was going on. I obviously don’t think twice at the notion that improvisation is a valid component of music, or a valid thing for a composer to ask a performer to do.“
Daniel Scheidt’s innovative approach to computer software programming has him defining new soundscapes for musicians to play around in. The North Vancouver composer’s interactive electroacoustic music will be featured later this month in Vancouver at a concert and CD-release event.
Scheidt will be touring the country with Electro Traces, a showcase for leading electroacoustic composers and players. The first concert will be in Vancouver at 9 pm, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 at the Western Front, 303 East 8th Street. The Feb. 22 concert follows an event at 8 pm marking the release of Action/Réaction, Scheidt’s new CD. Each composition on the CD is defined by a piece of computer software developed by Scheidt. The program, according to Scheidt, “creates a set of circumstances within which a live performer explores and interacts. The machine isn’t pretending to be another person jamming with a performer. The live performer leads all the way.” The system responds to acoustic input from a musician.
How do musicians tend to react to the composer’s interactive software structures? “At first they find it comical. And then it piques the curiosity and they begin to develop a rapport with it. It’s like the software is an entity. It has a behavior and you feel like it is responding to you,” Scheidt explains.
Scheidt has developed about a dozen interactive music software compositions. The heart of Scheidt’s computer system is an Atari 1040 ST. He chose it because it is affordable. “It’s the most bare bones. I don’t have to go through a lot of fluff to program it. It’s a raw tool.” He uses a Yamaha 802 rackmount version of a DX-7 synthesizer. It’s a box the computer can talk to and comes without a keyboard. The system also includes an SPX-900 multi-effects processor. A recent visit to Scheidt’s studio found a Roland Pad-8 Octapad percussion pad patched into the system.
The computer was loaded with the software forming the basis for the composition Obeying the Laws of Physics, recorded for the CD with percussionist Trevor Tureski. Striking the pad kicked off a fascinating series of musical responses from the computer.
Is what he is doing ultimately a self-indulgent process, given the limited popular appeal of the music? Responds Scheidt: “I’m not trying to make music that a lot of people will listen to. If I’m looking for some of the deepest of my motivations to do this, I would suggest that the way we as a North American society have been proceeding is not good enough. We need to find some new ways of thinking. I would suggest to you that what I’m doing is different.”
Scheidt graduated from North Vancouver’s Handsworth Secondary School in 1974. He first plugged into a synthesizer there and performed his first electronic music in 1973. He went on to study music at Capilano College and then at the University of Victoria. In 1985 he graduated from Queen’s University in Ontario with a computer science graduate degree. Scheidt is currently director of the Music Intensive program of the SFU Contemporary Arts Summer Institute.
A collection of 25 minute “Electroacoustic snapshots,” together with 25 black and white photographic snapshots and descriptive notes from the composers. Ranges from highly experimental noise to the sound of breathing and trains. Strangely soothing in its unexpected changes, and ideal for listening to in a shuffled order on the CD player.
DIFFUSION i MéDIA could be called the the most exciting thing on the Canadian NEW music scene. Based on a CD label called empreintes DIGITALes, the project of Montréalers Jean-François Denis and Claude Schryer is much more. DIFFUSION i MéDIA is stimulating production and building an interesting network of composers, players and listeners. With six releases under its belt after just one year of operation, DIFFUSION i MéDIA has assembled a formidable group of collaborators for its first trans-Canada tour.
On Friday night at eight we will welcome DIFFUSION i MéDIA to the West Coast and celebrate the launch of a new CD by Vancouver composer/performer Daniel Scheidt — Action/Réaction. This will be followed by a concert with performances by Lori Freedman, Kathy Lewis and Pauline Vaillancourt in works by Daniel Scheidt, Alain Thibault, Robert Normandeau and Christian Calon.
Saturday’s concert will feature Jacques Drouin performing a piano concerto by Alain Thibault, percussionist Trevor Tureski in Scheidt’s Obeying the Laws of Physics and Claude Schryer himself in a new work for clarinet and electronics.
This tour is supported by a grant from the Touring Office of the Canada Council [for the Arts].
[…] Chercherait-on dans le domaine du disque québécois quelque chose comme l’«événement de l’année» qu’il faudrait regarder du côté de la musique électroacoustique. La qualité exceptionnelle du contenu musical, de la réalisation technique et de la présentation des quatre premiers compacts d’empreintes DIGITALes imposent cette jeune maison artisanale comme un modèle du genre.
Ligne de vie: récits électriques de Christian Calon (IMED 9001) et Lieux inouïs de Robert Normandeau (IMED 9002) devraient faire partie de la discothèque de tous les mélomanes curieux. Faut-il ajouter que la découverte de ces deux excellents musiciens engendrera sûrement la curiosité de connaitre un Alain Thibault que semble fasciner la rythmique pop (IMED 9003). Les 25 Électro clips (IMED 9004) pourront susciter des parcours d’écoute aussi variés qu’amusants. […]