EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

The Future of Electroacoustic Pedagogy

James Andean

James Andean, Centre for Music & Technology, Sibelius Academy, PL 86, 00251 Helsinki, Finland


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Today’s electroacoustic pedagogues find themselves in a challenging position. What is it, precisely, that we are trying to teach? At first glance, this seems simple enough: the tools, techniques, and tradition of electroacoustic music. Each of these, however, is thoroughly problematic.
Electroacoustic techniques were initially determined to a significant extent by the tools used: What can we do with sound on tape, as voltage, or as ones and zeros? By and large, however, new tools continue to be defined by old restrictions of tape and voltage, and technique is thus guided along a similar path.
Where these techniques continue to be relevant, however, is in questions of language. However, the language of electroacoustic music is part of an endless, mutually-informing cycle between tools, techniques, and language: the tool determines technique; tool and technique outline a range of possibilities, which then determine the language; which then determines the direction for further development of tools and techniques, and so on. Thus, the very languages, structures, vocabularies and genres of electroacoustic music today are, to a very important degree, products of the tools and techniques with which they were made and with whose evolutions they are inextricably entwined.
But, considering our imagined liberation from historical tools, brought on by the supposed freedom of the age of the laptop, do the languages associated with these tools continue to be relevant? Or does the teaching of the language of electroacoustic music amount to no more than a history lesson?

EMS12 Proceedings