Roger Levesque, The Edmonton Journal, 27 février 1991
Picture yourself out on a brisk walk through pastoral surroundings, maybe in the city’s river valley. It’s that special twilight time at dawn when everything seems very still and quiet, save for your own lungs breathing rhythmically in and out, and the counterpoint of falling footsteps on a gravel path. Suddenly a distant tone catches the ear. It could be the blunt horn of a diesel locomotive or the call of a lonely animal, mechanical or organic in origin.
Then imagine all the stark atmospheric intensity of the experience magically crystallizing in sound.
Claude Schryer might call it a “cinema of the ear,” just one of the creative options he and a growing body of composers are working with in the field of “electroacoustic” music.
That term denotes a certain artistic intent to create within the confines of electronic technology and the studio using both acoustic, electronic and “found” or sampled sources of environmental sound. It’s a weirdly technical method used to shape natural soundscapes, often inspired by common every day experience, and it can be very subtly effective.
Schryer and his colleague Jean-Francois Denis are two Montréal musicians, both classically trained to begin with, who have been helping to further the electroacoustic movement in Canada.
They’re currently on a threeweek cross-country tour of major centres with four other like-minded composer-musicians. Called Electro Traces, the tour uses fresh sonic palettes and new means of manipulating the space in which we hear.
Wednesday afternoon, Schryer and composer Daniel Scheidt (Edmonton-born, now living in Vancouver) host a workshop/performance in Convocation Hall at the University of Alberta.
As Schryer plays clarinet, Scheidt will man a computer sound console that’s set to interact with the immediate sonic environment.
Just last year, Schryer and Denis formed the independent record label empreintes DIGITALes (digital imprints) with the intent of putting more electroacoustic music and musicians on the map.
The first four compact disc releases issued over the past six months use an amazing array of sources to pique the listener’s awareness, pushing at the conventions of what music is all about. Certainly it’s not the first time experimental music has made it to disc, but along with the tour, it does involve one of the most ambitious, carefully produced ventures in the field.
As that title implies, the producers wanted short musical pieces that might help the listener envision a series of sonic images, like film clips. Twenty-five electroacoustic artists from Canada the United States and Mexico were asked to submit works of about three minutes duration, a time set deliberately to challenge the notion of the pop single.
The resulting 75-minute disc presents what must be one of the finest overviews of the medium aviilable. Twenty-five black-and-white inserts by photographer Joanne Tremblay accompany the disc, matched with background notes on the artists and music for a beautifuL intriguing release.
Schryer stresses that while better technology has expanded the possibilities, the artist mustn’t lose his or her soul in the machine, but master the tools.
“The most interesting electroacoustic artists are the ones who are able to go beyond the technology and — like any interesting artistic medium — say something in a universal way.”
The future of the music remains to be seen. Schryer agrees that tbe increasingly sophisticated use of sounds and effects in various broadcast media is helping to make the public more receptive to different ways of seeing through sounds, but don’t expect to find his releases on the Billboard pop charts anytime soon.
Do try them out if you’re looking for a stimulating new sonic perspective on the world around you.