- Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States 2010 National Conference
[Editor's note: Selected reviews are posted on the Web at mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/Computer-Music-Journal/Documents/reviews/index.html. In some cases, they are either unpublished in the Journal itself or published in an abbreviated form in the Journal.]
The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) is surely an organization with which readers of Computer Music Journal are well acquainted. On 7-10 April 2010 the organization held its national conference, SEAMUS 2010, at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA. Details about the conference including its full program are available at the conference Web site (seamus2010.stcloudstate.edu). This conference was particularly notable as it was the 25th anniversary of SEAMUS's founding, a fact that speaks to the continuing vibrancy of both the organization and the electroacoustic paradigm in general. The conference was hosted by St. Cloud State composition and new media faculty Scott Miller and Kristian Twombly, both of whom work in the electroacoustic medium and had striking pieces programmed on the conference. The event consisted of thirteen concerts, three paper sessions, and four continuously running installations, as well as the organization's annual banquet and President's Reception. Despite the fact that more than 100 works were programmed, the conference events were spaced in a manner that allowed attendees time to reflect on each concert and also to explore St. Cloud, a small but delightful city. Overall, SEAMUS 2010 ran smoothly and was extremely well organized, a credit to the host composers and their institution.
SEAMUS 2010 featured spectacular sound, due to the high-quality loudspeakers supplied by Genelec, a conference sponsor, and the skilled technicians who worked throughout the event. The conference's primary events were located at both on- and off-campus venues. Six concerts were held at St. Cloud State's Ritsche Auditorium, a large hall with a spacious stage that featured up to eight-channel sound diffusion. The Ruth Gant Recital Hall, found in the university's Performing Arts Center, was used for four concerts. This comparatively intimate, medium-sized hall offered more limited spatialization options but the ability to project video, and to situate the audience closer to the speakers and, when present, performers. The paper sessions and installations were primarily found in this same building.
The other three concerts employed an unusual, innovative "headphone" format. At each of these events, live and fixed media works were distributed to several hubs spread throughout a room that allowed four individuals to plug in their own headphones, personally adjust their volume, and listen for durations of their choosing. The headphone concerts were held at 10:00 PM on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights; the first two occurred at the Veranda Lounge, a charming local restaurant and wine bar, and the final took place at the Radisson Hotel where many composers were lodged. Each headphone concert accommodated more than 30 listeners, and, notably, the first two of these events appeared to be completely or nearly full. I found the alternative format and venue for these concerts refreshing, and most attendees also appeared to be similarly enthusiastic.
The conference featured so many outstanding compositions and papers that it would be impossible to describe each here. Instead I will discuss a few highlights to provide readers with a sense of what was experienced by attendees. Although the majority of programmed compositions were fixed, multi-channel pieces, a significant percentage of works that incorporated live performers and video were also seen and heard. The three pieces by the winner of the 2010 SEAMUS Award, Curtis Roads—Eleventh vortex, Never, and Touche pas—were obvious standouts from the former category. Each exploring granulation and presenting a spectrum of timbres, these works were particularly notable for their dynamic spatial gestures, diffused live by the composer adding a choreography of sorts, that made full use of Ritsche Auditorium's eight-channel system. From a broader perspective, the tape works...