In the years running up to my 1999 article ‘Reviewing the Musicology of Electroacoustic Music’, I often wondered why this body of music was accompanied by a wealth of publications investigating its history and, in contrast, a relatively modest number of publications supporting its evolving theory.
Of course this story isn’t black and white, but I am surprised how a few key references and terms are almost overused due to the fact that theoretical contributions have been relatively modest over the decades. It is true that traditional musicology has not adopted our subject in general, which has not helped, and also true that, when setting up the Electroacoustic Music Studies Network, I, more than the co-founders, Marc Battier and Daniel Teruggi, wanted to avoid that ‘m’ word, musicology, as it felt uncomfortable in the Anglophone world. Before the term electroacoustic music studies was coined, the Canadians had already offered the term, ‘electroacoustics’ to include the musicological aspects of this musical corpus.
Although terminological issues were at the heart of the original ElectroAcoustic Resource Site (EARS: www.ears.dmu.ac.uk), once its bibliography was created, a few assumptions I had proposed in 1999 were made clear. On the positive side, it was discovered that the number of publications of relevance was much higher than assumed. Also discovered were the many ‘holes in the market’, that is, subjects that either lacked a solid foundation or were over-reliant on one or two key authors or for which there were almost no theoretical publications at all. Bringing us closer to the subject of electroacoustic music analysis, the site generated a fairly substantial number of citations. On closer analysis, however, the theoretical knowledge provided by these articles, websites and books varied hugely from the superficial to relatively few examples that have made significant contributions.
Part of the reason for this, as suggested in Understanding the Art of Sound Organisation (2007), was that there are too few models and too few tools that have been presented, tested and applied by more than one or a few authors. (Certainly a number of composers have offered their own personal ‘how to’ recipes, in particular if any form of formalism supported the creation of a work, but that often has more to do with innovative means of production more than the listening experience). There have therefore been too few methodological publications investigating analytical tools’ strengths and applicability.
This background led Simon Emmerson and me to seek funding for a project, entitled ‘New Multimedia Tools for Electroacoustic Analysis’, a three-year AHRC supported grant that commenced in October 2010 and is to reach its end this September 2013. The project’s goal was indeed to survey models and tools and relate these to the challenges provided by the various genres and categories of electroacoustic music. Our point of departure is the listening experience more than that of musical production. A research team was set up that included Pierre Couprie and the eOREMA editor, Mike Gatt.
Couprie has been working throughout the project on a new software package that is intended to include as many tools as possible. EAnalysis (logiciels.pierrecouprie.fr/?page_id=402) is still in development at the time of writing, but has already incorporated many of the tools that are currently available that are applicable to analysis from the listener’s point of view. An expert system will be added in the near future to aid the analyst in terms of sonic patterns of behaviour.
Gatt, when he commenced his PhD work on the project, soon suggested the creation of The Online Repository for Electroacoustic Music Analysis (OREMA: www.orema.dmu.ac.uk). We welcomed this proposal immediately as it took our original concept and modernised it. Couprie is one of the editors of an established online analysis journal, Musimédiane (www.musimediane.com). This is one of the first initiatives in music to approach analysis in a non-linear fashion using appropriate hypermedia tools that are available online.
In a sense, Mike Gatt has taken the Musimédiane approach one step further by setting up a portal intended for, as we all hope, a growing community of interested parties to share their analyses as well as share their thoughts with all of the support that a web 2.0 community can offer. Users can present their work and discuss it with peers who may make constructive suggestions about it. Gatt has offered specific works to the community to see how they would approach them from different angles, thus repeating the well-known case that was facilitated by Rossana Dalmonte and Mario Baroni (1992) in which a number of people analysed the movement ‘Aquatisme’ from Bernard Parmegiani’s La création du monde.
As modern as OREMA is, the world is still happy with more traditional forms of publication. To this end Mike proposed a peer- reviewed journal to ‘cohabit’ with OREMA and chose the obvious title for it, eOREMA. This step may seem conservative, but it is significant. Peer review is a means of demonstrating quality and importance. These qualities may also exist in the items available within an open community such as OREMA itself, but the outside world places a value on peer review which, as editor of Organised Sound, I can fully support. OS is currently in its 18th year of circulation and its reviewers have been invaluable throughout the years. What is perhaps a bit disappointing in the journal’s history is that the number of contributions focusing on analysis has been more modest than one might have hoped. That said, those involved with the journal have been very proud to introduce a number of articles of significant importance and pleased by how often they are downloaded.
Analysis, after around sixty-five years of electroacoustic music creation, remains a ‘hole in the market’ as suggested above and OREMA will play an important role in filling it. eOREMA will be its official publication voice and is not only to be welcome – it is absolutely essential. Bienvenue!
DALMONTE, R. and BARONI, M. (1992) Secondo Convegno Europeo di Analisi Musicali. Trento: Università degli Studi di Trento.
LANDY, L. (1999) Reviewing the Musicology of Electroacoustic Music. Organised Sound, 4(1), pp. 61-70.
LANDY, L. (2007) Understanding the Art of Sound Organization. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.