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February 8, 2001 Open house features sound of music



David Oxley is in Studio Arts, but he likes taking electroacoustic music as an elective. Music chair Mark Corwin looks on.

Andrew Malamud and Hilary Thomson work on the electroacoustic console at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall.

Guitarist Alexander Formosa jams.

Evgenia Kirjner and Sarah Hasegawa are students in the Diploma in Advanced Music Performance.

Caroline Giguère sings with bass player Jeffrey Richard.

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj.

by Eilis Quinn

Music students, faculty and staff were “at home” on January 28 in the Refectory Building and the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall on the Loyola Campus.

The occasion was a Sunday-afternoon open house held by Concordia’s Music Department. Visitors, many of them potential students, toured practice rooms, admired the facilities and enjoyed several student concerts.

They came away impressed by the flexibility of choice within each program — jazz, classical and electroacoustic — and the department’s focus on performance.

“The first thing I ask them is their instrument,” said Danièle Berthiaume, Assistant to the Chair. “These kids are musicians, and theory is not their primary concern, they want to know that they are going to be able to play, do gigs and perform.”

Another strength of the department is the quality of the teachers. “If they play trumpet, I tell them about someone like [veteran jazz trumpeter] Charles Ellison. If it’s voice they are interested in, I mention someone like [recording artist] Jeri Brown. We are talking about just wonderful musicians here,” she said.

Students already in the department also praised its flexibility.

“I do jazz, sometimes with big band, [but] I can do classical if I want,” said jazz major Caroline Laroche. “They encourage you to do things like work with dancers.

“That’s what I like about Concordia — you can get the chance to play in every style. That’s one of reasons I chose to come here. You have to be able to play in every style to get a job. That’s real life. It’s like they always say here, real education for the real world.”

Fascinated young people pushed into the electroacoustic studios all afternoon to speak to the chair of Music, Mark Corwin. The program is only one year old.

“We are not requiring two or three years of ear training and theory for entry to the program,” he told them. “We are not stressing the commercial aspect, either. In this academic setting, we stress the art process.” Corwin said that the electroacoustic major is “for anyone who wants to learn about sound and how to capture and manipulate it.”

Potential students seemed to approve. Cyrus Sadaghiani is looking to transfer out of his BSc program at McGill and into electroacoustics this fall.

“When I talked with the chair, he was interested in my experience with sound and what I was intending to do with my degree afterwards, not whether I was proficient in an instrument or whether I had tons of theory.

“I want to get the skills to produce my own music and enhance my DJ skills, so this kind of attitude is what I am looking for.”

What is electroacoustic music?

It’s hard to categorize, and this eclecticism is the very thing that attracts its followers most.
Its genesis goes back to the late 1950s and early ’60s, when tape recorders gave musicians the chance to record the sounds around them.

Now, with the aid of computers, they can mix and manipulate those sounds, fashioning them into compositions that may be electronically or acoustically generated.

While most of us are accustomed to rhythm and melody when we listen to music, the listener to electroacoustic compositions must suspend this expectation and come to embrace the art form’s sonic exploration and lack of conventional instruments.

Electroacoustic concerts at Concordia take place at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall and are done in complete darkness. Music Department chair Mark Corwin speaks of them as “sonic events” that each audience member observes in their own way. It becomes a highly personal experience, in which the environment forces the audience members to create their own images, or simply experience the sound in the abstract.

Interested? Check the Back Page of CTR or the Music Department’s Web site for the dates of upcoming electroacoustic concerts.