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October 24, 2002 Electroacoustics students become sculptors of sound




Carey Dodge in his studio apartment

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Matthew Walls

In the world of electro-acoustics, sound is everything. Sounds are mulched, flipped, reversed, filtered, layered, fused, compressed. In a word — discovered.

“Every sound is fascinating,” says Lora Sokolova, an electro-acoustics student at Concordia, “because although we hear, we don’t often listen. But when you listen to the sound you can discover all these little things going on in there.”

Sokolova was one of the first students at Concordia to major in electroacoustics when she enrolled in the fall of 2000.

The university’s music department has offered electroacoustics courses since the early 1970s, but it was just two years ago that a bachelor of fine arts in electroacoustics was established. Next April will see the first graduates receive their degrees.

Electroacoustics is a broad field of music that can be roughly divided into two basic kinds, according to Concordia professor Ian Chuprun: radiophonic and acousmatic.

What they both have in common is the artistic use of sound vis-à-vis the listener in a manner meant to expand his ability to perceive sound. Usually this has little to do with the traditional elements of music such as metre or melody, and focuses instead on a sound’s timbre.

For students who entered the program in 2000, electroacoustics was an unknown entity.

Carey Dodge, 25, is one of those students. In a way that seems almost mandatory for these students, Dodge took a circuitous route before stumbling upon electroacoustics.

Originally from Vancouver, he did one year in theatre and dance at Simon Fraser University, another year composing music with ‘found instruments’ (bottles, bowls, saws, etc.) for theatrical productions, then another year taking French and music courses at Montreal universities.

For Dodge, who is interested in music from both an artistic and a scientific perspective, electroacoustics was the path he’d always been looking for. He’s been able to combine his interest in ‘found instruments’ with the ‘electro.’

“[For] one piece, I did some multiphonic [vocals] and I combined it with metal, some cutlery in a drawer, and it created a metallic wash of sound that you can’t find in nature or in reality. Still, the listener is drawn in because they’re recognizable sounds.”

With Jason Dellis, who transferred into the program after one year of ‘suffering’ in business, the electroacoustics program taught him to use studio techniques like sound recording and software use. Dellis has combined his DJing skills with electro-acoustics.

This semester he’s producing a CD with tracks by Concordia students that is a mix of the two styles.
“I really like electroacoustic music, but I just find it’s lacking that rhythmic quality that we’re all used to. Or just some quality that’s more accessible. So I thought, why not make tracks composed of both elements?”

With the experience he’s gained producing this CD, Dellis hopes to start a record label once he graduates, and “press vinyl and distribute his CDs.”

Like Dellis and Dodge, Sokolova also entered the program without any idea of what electroacoustics was, and she has adapted its potentialities to her background.

Sokolova trained as a classical pianist for 16 years in Bulgaria before moving here at the age of 18 in 1999. Her piece, Doors, layered the sounds of someone reading an essay on longing for home and her voice reading the same essay in Bulgarian, with a Bulgarian folk song.

Next year, Sokolova hopes to collaborate with dancers and theatre groups and explore the live-performance possibilities of electroacoustics.

While all three students entered the program knowing little about electroacoustics, they have so enjoyed the program and learning what it’s about, that they are leaving as keen practitioners.

Dodge will complete a fellowship next spring after graduating, and then travel to Europe to work.
He is constantly seeking new ways to explore the use of sound, and he sees this as the typical quest for the electroacoustic musician.

“I research and discover sounds, and then the art of electroacoustics is presenting those sounds in an artful way. That’s where I distinguish myself from the scientist. I’m not about, ‘I’ve discovered this decibel level and this frequency,’ I’m about, ‘This is wicked man, check it out.’”