New electroacoustic archive largest in Canada 

By Russ Cooper

If a tree falls in the forest, you capture it on tape and manipulate the sound until it’s a shimmering work of art… will people listen? The answer is a resounding 'yes.'

And now, you can hear hundreds more stunning works of sound art at the newly-launched Concordia Archival Project (CAP) website (

Music Professors Kevin Austin and Mark Corwin prepare for the electroacoustic concert at the CAP launch on March 17 in the Hexagram Black Box. Magnifying glass

Music Professors Kevin Austin and Mark Corwin prepare for the electroacoustic concert at the CAP launch on March 17 in the Hexagram Black Box.

On March 17, members of the university and the Canadian Electroacoustic Community announced the official launch of a unique archival and research project at the EV Building Hexagram Black Box. The initiative, funded by Heritage Canada through Canadian Culture Online and partnered by Concordia has produced the largest resource for the history of electroacoustics in Canada, available virtually anywhere in the world.

For the seasoned follower of electroacoustic music, there is more new information than you can shake a Moog at. But for the neophyte, this is the perfect place to learn what a Moog is and, henceforth, how it can be shaken.

The joint research project has allowed for the recovery and digital archiving of part of a major collection of electroacoustic works from the '60s to the '90s in various media such as acetate, cassette tapes, reel-to-reel, etc. The on-going treasury currently houses over 3 000 works of over 200 composers and sound artists; most of which have been performed here at Concordia over the past 30 years.

"Analog tapes deteriorate over time. This music could've been lost completely if it wasn't digitized," said Yves Gigon, CEC administrative co-director and project manager.

While tricky to formally define, electroacoustics is the study and creation of sound through electronic means, including manipulating, composing, reproducing, etc. Often exploring the interaction of naturally- and electronically-generated sounds and effects, the art form includes many aspects of sound art, music technologies and the disciplines of traditional music.

Now, anyone curious about the history and current state of electroacoustic music can simply visit the website. There, one can listen to works, read about the composers and their techniques, or reach them directly through links to their personal websites.

For Professor Kevin Austin – a CEC co-founder and music teacher here since 1970 – this has been a long time coming. Revered as one of electroacoustic's foremost promoters and active composers, Austin envisioned a multi-layered database in 1971 as he was completing his masters' in composition at McGill. In those days, he states, the community of EA composers was very small, but has grown significantly now numbering in the tens of thousands—especially at Concordia and in Montreal, now recognized among the world's most active centres of electroacoustic creativity.

"In the '70s, we would perform concerts to three or five or ten people. [Our focus] wasn't technology, it was about producing sound from different perspectives," said Austin. "There was a passion."

The concert at the tail of the launch featured pieces from composers, "connected to Concordia in some way," said Austin. Among the pieces played was Estudio Sombre Ritmo Y Espacio, a rhythmic collage of motorcycle sounds sent to Austin from Argentina a quarter century ago by Ricardo Dal Farra, now the chair of Concordia's music department.

"We've created this archive to understand who we are, where we are and hopefully to shape the future," says Dal Farra, who also serves as electroacoustic music consultant for UNESCO’s Digiarts global project.

Encompassed within the archives site, eLearning is a series of educational modules presenting historical perspectives of EA across Canada and internationally. Developed as part of the project by CEC's Chantal Bénit, the curious ear can experience the history of electroacoustics, starting from its dawn in the mid-1800s with the development of the Morse code and the creation of the electronic tuning fork right through to the present day.

The CAP also incorporates works from eContact!, the bilingual quarterly online journal for the CEC, and, the world's largest online jukebox that streams a selection of EA recordings, both of which promote and enhance Concordia’s international research profile immeasurably.


Concordia University