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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Music From SEAMUS 30


In the '50s and '60s Electronic Music and Musique Concrete were the loci for some of the most advanced of the New Music being generated then. The advent of synthesizers of course changed the playing field and made it possible to do with much greater ease what the earlier composers had to do painstakingly--originally with extensive tape splicing and cumbersome single-tone generation. At some point the distinctly separate genesis of "organic" sounds transformed via Musique Concrete and the contrasting production of signals from purely electronic sources in Electronic Music began to break down (and perhaps had not been as rigidly adhered to in the US school from the beginning). Synthesized sound increasingly found their way into popular and commercial settings too so that today there has been a vast transformation of the sound landscape out there.

Yet of course Electronic Music as an art form in New Music has never disappeared so much as shared the aural stage with other genres. Sound color and the ability to execute musical complexities beyond the ability of the conventional instrumentalist were always key elements in the compositional mix. As time passed the concept of an aural landscape stretched out into virtual organic unfoldings of a continuously evolving and continuous expression began to become a key to the Electronic Music or Electro-Acoustic experience--though one could argue that it had already been very much present for example in Stockhausen's "Gesang der Junglinge" and "Kontakte." The term "Electro-Acoustic" became current, reflecting the melding that had taken place.

To fast forward into today, there is plenty of interesting music to be heard, including a flowering of live electronic possibilities and ever more poetic soundscapes out there. Anyone who follows this blog knows something of what has been taking place.

Cue the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). It was founded in 1984. As their website states it is "a non-profit national organization of composers, performers, and teachers of electro-acoustic music representing every part of the country and virtually every music style. Electro-acoustic music is a term used to describe those musics which are dependent on electronic technology for their creation and/or performance." Their annual conference and juried recording projects are a key component to their presence on the scene today. 

And so we come to a recording of music coming out of their recent gatherings and projects, Music from SEAMUS 30 (EAM 2021 690277900495). It includes nine compositions that reflect the current state-of-the-art as practiced by SEAMUS Electro-Acoustic composers.

The opening "Monstress" (2019) for piano, Seaboard Rise and electronics by Christopher Biggs is a great place to start, for its skillful transformation and integration of the piano spectrum of sound into a widely colorful pallet of extensions.

Elizabeth Hoffman's "clouds pattern" (2021) give us another nicely eloquent sound color essay. 

From there we have additional works by Joo Won Park, Julie Herndon, Mei-ling Lee, Jiayue Cecilia Wu, Kelley Sheehan and Heather Stebbins. Lyn Goeringer ends the program with "Waterside," a rather haunting melange of acoustical transformations fascinating to hear and re-hear. Like many of these kinds of anthologies, there are works that appeal to me very much and others that I find less interesting. Part of that may have to do with whether the source materials have intrinsic interest to me in the first place. And that is not to say that we all will react to them in the same way, not that each has the considerable ambiguity in kind of aural Rorshact. But it is certainly true that meeting a work half-way helps you more often than not to understand the totality of it.

In the end such music deserves our support, such composers need an audience of serious listeners. The works that grab me make this experience worthwhile. I am glad that SEAMUS continues to thrive. Help support them by getting this music.

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