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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

Crosscurrents in Early Electronic Music of Canada, Part 2

My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.


This episode continues my crosscurrents series, an exploration of early electronic music studios around the world with representative works. This podcast is the second of two parts on tape music from Canada. In this episode we cover the period from 1974 to 1992 with representative sounds from female and male composers. You can check out my previous episode for more on the story of electronic music in Canada with many examples from the pioneering physicist and composer Hugh Le Caine, who single handedly populated the studios in Toronto and Montreal with his own sound-manipulating inventions.


Whereas part 1 largely dealt with institutional and university-based electronic music, this part deals to a large extent with extensions of that world, occupied by artists who also worked independently. Computers and synthesizers were also introduced beginning in the 1970s as the music developed outside of the traditional institutions. Some composers, such as Norma Beecroft, were welcomed to work in the studio of the University of Toronto. Others, like the Canadian Electronic Ensemble had some roots in the university system but were wholly on their own as practicing musicians in electronic music. We will also hear additional works from the Vancouver area where several artists, including Hildegard Westerkamp, Ann Southam, and Barry Truax did some work with R. Murray Schafer’s World Soundscape Project. There are glimpses of future computer music in the compositions of David Keane and Bruno Degazio, and works more in the tradition of the tape studio as well as pieces that combined live instrumentalists with tape. All told, this is a lengthy episode. The average length of the 14 works being about 9 minutes long. I present it in chronological order so that you can follow the evolution of electronic sounds in Canada.


Please see the playlist below for a guide to the tracks and their start times in the broadcast.


Episode 121

Crosscurrents in Early Electronic Music of Canada, Part 2

 

Playlist

 

Track Time

Start Time

Introduction –Thom Holmes

04:32

00:00

1.             John Mills-Cockell, “On The Heath” from A Third Testament (1974 True North). John Mills-Cockell is a Canadian composer from Toronto who was a very early adopter of the original Moog Synthesizer. He was part of the multi-faceted and ground-breaking work with the avant garde/poetry group Intersystems in the late 1960s and then the group Syrinx. I became acquainted with John more recently and he told me that his original Moog modules, used for Intersystems, burned up in a fire and so he turned to the use of ARP instruments around 1971. I am featuring his synthesizer work from a couple of solo albums as a representative of the independent stream of electronic music artists from Canada. John has continued to produce works for and for his numerous works for radio, television, film, ballet, and stage, and he is still active.

02:30

04:32

2.             John Mills-Cockell, “North African Gladiator” from A Third Testament (1974 True North). Produced, played, engineered, organ and synthesizer, John Mills Cockell.

04:08

07:00

3.             John Mills-Cockell, “Collision” from Gateway (1977 Anubis Records ). Produced, played, engineered, organ and synthesizer, John Mills Cockell.

03:32

11:03

4.             Alcides Lanza, “Eidesis IV For Wind Ensemble And Electronic Sounds” (1977) from McGill Wind Ensemble (1980 McGill University Records). This collection of contemporary Canadian works was released by McGill University’s own label. This track is the only work with electronic sounds on the album, by Argentinean-born composer Lanza. Lanza studied music in Buena Aires, moved to Canada in 1971, and became Director of the Electronic Music Studio of McGill University in 1976.

11:20

14:34

5.             Dennis Patrick, “Phantasy III (Excerpt)” (1977-78) from Dennis Patrick--Musical Portrait (1982 CAPAC). Another one of the 7” vinyl Musical Portrait series of Canadian artists, released by the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada, Limited (CAPAC). Completed in the Electronic Music Studio of the University of Toronto, where he was Director of the studio beginning around 1976.

04:53

25:48

6.             Barry Truax, “Arras” (1980) from Anthologie De La Musique Canadienne / Anthology Of Canadian Music - Musique Électroacoustique; Electroacoustic Music (1990 Radio Canada International). Truax represented the left coast of Canada, and worked with R. Murray Schafer beginning in 1973 on the World Soundscape Project. Several of the composers in this episode came from that same environment, mixing natural acoustic sounds with electroacoustic treatments. This work was made using four computer synthesized tracks. Truax became known for his computer compositions as well as soundscapes.

10:08

30:38

7.             Canadian Electronic Ensemble, “Chaconne À Son Goût” from Canadian Electronic Ensemble (1981 Centrediscs). Performers, David Grimes, David Jaeger, James Montgomery, Larry Lake. Composed by David Grimes. The ensemble was founded in Toronto in 1971 by David Grimes, David Jaeger, Jim Montgomery and Larry Lake, "to promote the live performance of electronic music and thereby the composition of new repertoire for this medium." This is another nice example of music by independent artists working in Canada.

17:21

40:34

8.             Dennis Patrick, “Metasuite” (1982) from Dennis Patrick--Musical Portrait (1982 CAPAC). Another one of the 7” vinyl Musical Portrait series of Canadian artists, released by the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada, Limited (CAPAC). Completed in the Electronic Music Studio of the University of Toronto, where he was Director of the studio beginning around 1976.

07:55

57:54

9.             David Keane, “Aurora” (1985) from Aurora (1985 Cambridge Street Records). A work from a fellow author, David Keane who wrote a book called Tape Music Composition in 1981 (Oxford University Press). He was born in America but became a Canadian citizen in 1974. At the time of “Aurora” Keane was a professor of music theory and director of the electronic music studio at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, which I think he founded in 1970. The music was created to be played during a dance performance in which movement was seen through colored images projected on the dancers. The work was realized in the Queen’s University Electroacoustic Music Facility.

10:17

1:05:48

10.         Claude Schryer, “A Kindred Spirit” (1985) from Group Of The Electronic Music Studio - McGill University (1986 McGill University Records). Bass Clarinet, Yves Adam; Cello, Andras Weber; Composed and conducted by, Claude Schryer; Flute, Jill Rothberg; Guitar Daniel Desjardins; Percussion, Helen Barclay; Piano, Laurie Radford. Recorded at McGill University Recording Studios. This work is notable for its use of the Synclavier, a high-end digital synthesizer/sampler/workstation from the mid-1980s.

16:02

1:16:04

11.         Bruno Degazio, “Heatnoise” (1987) from Anthologie De La Musique Canadienne / Anthology Of Canadian Music - Musique Électroacoustique; Electroacoustic Music (1990 Radio Canada International). Degazio is a composer, researcher and film sound designer based in Ontario, Canada. “Heatnoise is one of a series of algorithmic compositions applying principles of fractal geometry to music.” It uses digital synthesis.

11:24

1:32:04

12.         Hildegard Westerkamp, “Cricket Voice” (1987) from from Anthologie De La Musique Canadienne / Anthology Of Canadian Music - Musique Électroacoustique; Electroacoustic Music (1990 Radio Canada International). A super accomplished sound ecologist, Westerhamp is best known today as the creator of many works of sound art that use natural acoustic environments. She also composed many tape works. This work is a “musical exploration of the cricket,” with a cricket sound recorded in Mexico. If you know crickets, you will note that this one is not Canadian. But the composer is and this work was produced at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver where Westerkamp was teaching at the time.

11:09

1:43:18

13.         Ann Southam, “Fluke Sound” (1989) from Anthologie De La Musique Canadienne / Anthology Of Canadian Music - Musique Électroacoustique; Electroacoustic Music (1990 Radio Canada International). Southam is another female Canadian composer of note. Much of her career has been spent composing works for dance. She is from the Toronto area. This work is from a period when she was immersed in electroacoustic music.

10:22

1:54:13

14.         Norma Beecroft, “Evocations: Images Of Canada (1992) (2003 Ovation Volume 3). In contrast to the earlier tape works of Beecroft featured in part 1 of this series, this is a purely digital composition. She used an Apple Macintosh, the program/sequencer Performer and a Roland D-70 synthesizer. Commissioned by the Music Department in Toronto of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. with the purpose of utilizing their then new digital mixing facilities. The materials for this composition represent the many aspects of Canadian culture and was a statement around her concern for the “future of Canada as a unfied country.”

16:01

2:04:22

Opening background music: David Keane, “Lumina” (1988) from Anthologie De La Musique Canadienne / Anthology Of Canadian Music - Musique Électroacoustique; Electroacoustic Music (1990 Radio Canada International). For tenor voice and “digital tape recorder” to sample and manipulate the sound. Created in Keane’s studio in Scarborough, Ontario. Voice, Richard Margison. 11:46


Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.


Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.

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Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.

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