SEAMUS 2016

(Savannah, GA) Just attended the SEAMUS 2016 Conference at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. It was very interesting to re-engage with this group after nearly nine years living in Europe. The last SEAMUS Conference I attended was back in 2006, when I was just getting started with electroacoustic music, learning SuperCollider, etc. A lot of water under the bridge!

The schedule was absolutely PACKED, with a huge number of concerts and pieces to hear over the three days. I gave a paper on the first morning (thanks to the folks who came out early to check out Drake, Sean, and my offerings!), but otherwise just tried to see as much as possible and see what everyone has been up to. I have to be honest and say that by day three I had reached new-music-saturation and couldn’t really engage very well with anything (some other attendees said the same). Perhaps fewer pieces/concerts (thus, more selective) would be a way forward for future conferences?

That aside, there were several standout pieces and presentations I should like to mention here. On the first day I was really moved by Hold Still, by Becky Brown. She put so much of herself into the piece, something that doesn’t always happen (in my experience, at least) in such an open, visceral way. The combination of drawing with audio really worked well, and she controlled the emotional tension created by the interplay (and manipulation) of the recorded voices and text very well indeed. I’m a fan. Day 2 highlights included Michael Musick’s excellent workshop on his work with Sonic Ecosystems which really resonated with me, awakening some ideas regarding independently-acting ‘musical agents’ that I had let fall by the wayside over ten years ago. I’m talking about an aborted collaboration called Terrasono which I undertook in 2006/7 at Montana State University with Tad Bradley (architecture) and Luke Shorty (maths); the idea revolved around making use of geographical data supplied by users to create individualized ‘identity synths’ which would all play nice together in a musical mock-up of the globe, with the individual ‘locations’ of each participant all influencing one another and determining the total sonic environment.

Anyway, back to SEAMUS: I loved the refined stillness of Gugak Study 1, by Tae Hong Park, with Youna Lee performing. In the planetarium set I was left alternately giggling (in the BEST way) and deeply stirred by Ryan Mcguire’s ‘audiovisual fixed media composition’ Pivot, which employed a recorded chamber quartet, video, field recordings and processing.

Overall, the conference delivered an interesting, if a bit ‘uncritical’ three days. You definitely got the sense that a lot of the folks attending have been coming for years and everybody knows everybody else and what they do… Whilst the quality of music presented varied pretty widely, there was certainly some standout, amazing stuff, and of course I met some great people. My thanks to the organizers and all our hosts at Georgia Southern for their hard work to make it happen!

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