By Owen Campeau
Composition is an art form that is constantly in flux, constantly changing and reshaping itself. Composition can be influenced by the past, present and future equally. It is one of the greatest art forms because it is nearly infinite; with each composition being differentiated by Notes, rhythm, timbre, and technique (the last of which is ever-changing with new techniques being invented constantly). The difficulty with composition comes from a very narrow concept that we are hardwired with of what makes music sound “Good.” It is difficult to make compositions that sound “good” that are still original (many of the best know songs all follow the same chord progression eg. VIDEO ). But allowing ones self to be limited by this notion of good sounding music completely eliminates the possibility of growth and advancements in music.
This is where the urgency and importance behind electro-acoustic music can be most felt. Players and composers with an interest in Electro-acoustic music are most likely already consumers of “experimental” music. We as electro-acoustic musicians are not limited to four chords for our expression, we are not even limited to conventional tonality or the inherent need for notes. Electro-acoustic music is a blank canvas where anything can be an instrument and any instrument can make any noise. A synthesizer a conventional instrument based off of the keys of the piano, through a variety of digital codes programmed into the synth it’s self, and through different plugins and setting of the computer you are running said synth out of can be anything, a guitar, a glossy pinging, an unearthly rumble. Even for instruments that are not electronic in the same way as the synth you can still treat affect them. The possibilities are endless because there are constantly more parameters that you can add, subtract or change.
This makes composition of Electro-acoustic music admittedly more complex and time consuming but over all more rewarding. When you begin your composition your first step does not have to be “what is my first note?” you can view it from a holistic viewpoint. Your first consideration can be what sound do I want my instruments to make; once you have dialed that in then it is easy to look at your composition and asses what other elements do you want to add. Do you want your instruments to juxtapose, or sound well together? Do you want your sounds to be constant/brief, warm/cold, in the foreground/background, distorted/clean? All of these parameters are controllable by you and the technology at your fingertips.
Electro-acoustic music is also an art form that is very conducive to composing as a group. The benefit of the group is that rather than only having one mind perceiving and creating the sounds that are wanted/needed you have multiple and therefore you have a broader palate to draw inspiration from. It can also act as a needed injection of creativity as it is easy to become bogged down and in some ways it is possible to become paralyzed by possibilities.
Composition of Electro-acoustic music is a freeing experience. There are no boundaries, and no set template to base your work off of. It is pure expression and it is endless.