EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

The Language of Electroacoustic Music

John Coulter

School of Music, National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland


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In the late 1990’s a range of inexpensive digital video cameras and non-linear editing systems became available to the general public. To many Electroacoustic Composers, this new technology offered a multiplicity of creative possibilities, including the potential to advance public appreciation of electroacoustic music (EAM). The artistic merits of the new domain seemed to be supported by the scientific claim that “integrating visual and auditory stimuli serves the purpose of enhancing perceptual clarity1” However, nearly ten years later, expert opinion remains divided over the functionality of the language of EAM with moving images. The two opposing viewpoints, succinctly stated, are that adding moving images to electroacoustic music adds to its communicability, and that adding moving images to electroacoustic music subtracts from its communicability. This paper presents both arguments from the perspective of the composer-researcher. Research questions and hypotheses are raised through observations made in creative practice while functional aspects of language are examined using more traditional research methods such as literature review and listening tests. Results suggest that the language of EAM with moving images is governed by general principles of audiovisual attention, and that techniques of audiovisual composition may be categorised according to these principles.

Other article(s) of the same author

Multimedia Composition As Research