and mixed electroacoustic music has
often been designated a problem in tape
diffusion systems. The stationary live
sound is strangely placed within the dynamic movements
of any pre-recorded elements - only partly solved
with real-time processing. A dual but
complementary system is suggested: no longer central
control of the total soundscape but a delicate balance
of local control by the instrumentalist (with clear
expressive potential), with control of an environment
- a field - possessing complex and possibly dramatic
properties. The author relates these relatively
abstract (even aesthetic) notions with a clear research
agenda for the emerging generation of software packages.
He will relate them to recently composed works which
suggest these new possibilities.
Dislocation and causality (real and surmised)
Emmerson (1994) I argued that we had lost an important
relationship in replacing the word live
with real-time. This was no Freudian slip,
however, as many actions (and interactions) conducted
between people and machines on the concert platform
in no way give cues (or even clues) as to whether there
is any essentially live (human-produced)
activity. We merely have to imagine the work recorded
while abandoning our insiders knowledge as to how it
may have been produced. That paper went on to argue
that a new generation of computer interaction software
should be for strictly live performance, reassembling
some of the cause/effect chains which have
been broken by recording and computer technology. This
paper seeks a first step; to examine what types of transformation
may help the composer in this task
is not my aim to attempt to roll back history and to
undo the three great acousmatic dislocations
established in the half century to 1910. These are (following
Emmerson 1994): (1): Time (recording), (2): Space (telecommunications
(telephone, radio), recording) and (3): Mechanical causality
(electronic synthesis, telecommunications, recording).
the aim is to be clear that in abandoning any reference
to these links of causality the composer
of electroacoustic music - especially that involving
live resources - creates a confusion (even a contradiction)
and loses an essential tool for perspective and engagement
between the forces at work.
paper seeks to set up a simple model for the composer,
performer and teacher in this field. One which allows
a clear set of aims and objectives to be established
within a framework based on perception as the basis
for judgement and a humanist belief in the central participation
of the live individual.
The local/field distinction
this end I wish to make a primary distinction in terminology;
one which has its roots in a simple model of the situation
of the human performer (as sound source) in an environment.
Local controls and functions seek to extend (but not
to break) the perceived relation of human performer
action to sound production. While field functions place
the results of this activity within a context, a landscape
or an environment.
is very important to emphasise that the field as defined
above can contain other agencies i.e. it is not merely
a reverberant field in the crude sense but
a stage on which the entire panoply of pre-composed
electroacoustic music may be found. The essence of my
argument is to separate out the truly live element as
the local in order to reform more coherently
the relationship with this stage area (which may surround
the audience). This does not preclude the possibility
that these functions might interact and overlap.
key to a realistic and meaningful distinction for the
composer lies with recent ideas loosely describable
as ecoacoustics (related more to psychoacoustics
than to physical acoustics proper). Not the main concern
of this paper, it places the perceptive system as both
the product of evolution over time and in relation to
a host of environmental needs and social interactions
(Smalley (1992), Handel (19??) ++??) - hence a pro-active
participant and no passive observer.
Articulations and attributes of local and
The composer/listener dichotomy: real and imaginary
the composer both local and field functions may have
a real or an imaginary component (or both).
relationships are indeed also real-time;
the performer retains influence over the result through
physical gesture whether directly through the sound
(acoustic processing) or via an abstraction sensed from
some parameter of the sound, or through transduction
of some other physical gesture.
relationships, however, may have been prepared in advance
(soundfiles, control files etc.) in such a way as to
imply a causal link with the performer in the imagination
of the listener.
the listener only perceives the net result of the two
and may not be able to disentangle them.
Local/field and control intimacy
attempting to undo the acousmatic dislocations
already referred to we have immediate need of the notion
of control intimacy so well described by F. Richard
Moore (1988). This is the domain of human expression:
while research is in its infancy (and mostly concentrated
in the area of timing and expressivity) we may rely
on composers who rely on their senses. Our local systems
will need to articulate nuances of timbre and level
(which are not independent) currently distorted by insensitive
amplification systems which do not allow the performer
sufficient self-knowledge to allow intimacy of control
to be established. Simple subtleties of our human presence
such as directionality of the instrument are also only
I wish to go one stage further than Moore when he states
that "Control intimacy determines the match between
the variety of musically desirable sounds produced and
the psycho-physiological capabilities of a practiced
performer" (: 21).
are two possible outcomes for the listener depending
on the nature of the "musically desirable sounds".
Perceived as a direct result of a live performance gesture
its rightful place is in our local domain;
without this relation - I stress this is the listeners
interpretation - it has more of a field function, a
relation with something other.
am interpreting the term field in a broader sense as
any activity not localisable to the performer as source
and which gives us a picture of what goes on around
the instrument to give a sense of location.
Wishart has distinguished landscapes based on the four
combinations of real and unreal, objects and spaces
(Wishart 1985, 1986). This has two components: it includes
both other sounds (often but not always pre-constructed
in the studio - pseudo agents created in advance) and
also treatments (reverberation and other usually delay
related effects) which create a sense of being
somewhere. While these both constitute elements
of the field they may have to be controlled in very
are not concerned here with the myriad types of electroacoustic
sound objects and structures (of which typologies exist
elsewhere) but the relation of these to our live performer
that we must begin to express. As a preliminary sketch
we may create a list which reflects no more than a simple
delineation of the concerto relationships
of western music but reduced to show deeper universals
of musical interaction: supportive/accompanying, antagonistic,
alienated, contrasting, responsorial, developmental/extended.
Control of local/field articulations
Reclaiming local control: needs and problems
obvious points follow from the above. The local control
by the human instrumentalist demands local point sources
of sound: in other words loudspeakers in the close vicinity
of the source. There are two reasons for this both of
which followed the advent of the central mixing console
remote from the performer. Firstly, the loss of a substantial
degree of loudness control (level intimacy).
Secondly, the exactness of place of origin has been
lost in the distribution of sound as performance spaces
become larger. The virtual imaging of two (even high
quality) loudspeakers at the periphery of an area is
insufficient. Any off centre listener will loose the
image (if there was one to start with) and thus any
real sense of a performer as source. We usually get
away with it because of the visual cues additionally
available and sometimes a small amount of direct sound.
local and field loudspeakers should ideally not be the
same type or be in the same place. One aspect of local
performer amplification and projection remains unsolved.
The balance of self with other performers is often carried
out through the surrogacy of foldback - often inaccurate,
distracting and interfering. Loudspeakers, like acoustic
instruments, are directional and a similar set of skills
to those developed by members of a string quartet but
extended to include local electroacoustic projection
need to be developed.
Field control and sound diffusion
is the area of most conflict. From the originally French
acousmatic tradition comes the art of sound diffusion;
the active directing of a (usually stereo) signal to
an array of loudspeakers. The fixity of any additional
live performers has often been a problem. If I am advocating
a redivision of labour for a typology of live electroacoustic
music it does not intend to play down this role, but
to add another dimension to it. Treatments may need
to be controlled and altered but probably not actively
diffused in this sense. This probably involves another
performer. In addition the simple two channel format
of this tradition may give way to multichannel formats
- not differentiated by space (as in quadraphony)
but by function: material related to local functions
being possibly differentiated from that for field use
and directed accordingly.
Possible interactions of local and field
can be deceptive. Emmerson 1994 sought to make clear
that interactive/real-time computations
give no guarantee that the listener will perceive that
a real human being has initiated or influenced a musical
event. The fact that our local protagonist may trigger
events or processes in the field is not our concern,
only what appears to be true to the listener.
Overlapping, extension and interaction
listeners perspective on the relationship of local
to field may vary continuously and hence so can the
composers aims. Local is continuous to field:
the borderline varies with musical context and may in
fact not exist.
example, the field could be the inside of
an extended instrument reaching out from the live performer
to envelop the audience. My own work Ophelias
Dream II (singers and live electronics) (Emmerson, 1993)
attempts to place the audience inside Ophelias
converse can be true, too, but is less fruitful; the
instrument on stage can simply disappear
into a continuous field of sound - as is true in many
mixed electroacoustic works - in which case the composer
might just as well have pre-recorded the live element
and mixed it in. Although true, the spectacle of the
instrumentalists struggle against the elements
may be a real aim of the work, thereby producing an
these two extremes lies the more subtle world of jeu.
The interplay of these two spheres of operation. Of
course a local event may trigger a field response and
vice versa. But here a curious double take
must be made by the author. I have argued above that
appearances are everything: if in the musical discourse
A appears to cause B then it has done. But in practice
we have all experienced the frustrations of the real
performer; straight jacketed by a tape part, unable
to hear the overall effect of live electronics etc.;
perhaps our position has moved to too great an extent
towards the listener. One of the greatest dislocations
of western art music (the performer/listener distinction)
must not blind us to the need to let the performer have
some control even over those elements which may not
necessitate expressive detail. Moores
control intimacy refers to the self and
its relation to sound production (control over the phonology,
if you like); naturally the signals a performer puts
out to the field environment may not always have such
an immediate effect. These signals are at the level
of a syntactic (even semantic) musical discourse where
a different type of causality prevails.
must ensure that the control functions derived from
the performer must be clearly appropriate to the type
of interaction envisaged. There may be a temptation
to equate signal processing controls with local concerns
and event processing controls with field interactions,
but this distinction may not be complete. The 1980s
saw a research concentration on the latter (see Emmerson,
1991) with a welcome return to some sort of balance
in recent years.
Denis Smalley (1986, 1992) has argued for some sort
of surrogacy and indicative fields with reference to
our real world in purely acousmatic tape
music, it is rarely the specific gestures of the real
human being which are sought. I am arguing that a successful
extension of a humanist aesthetic to live electronic
music would usefully make a distinction between essentially
human (local) and essentially environmental (field)
narrative metaphors thus helping clarify the performance
and composition space of this genre.
Conclusion: future research including composer and performer
must be careful not to give primary research into new
systems some elevated status over applied composition
and pedagogical aspects. Too many often valuable systems
have fallen by the wayside due to insufficiently wide
availability and use.
The need for efficient local loudspeakers.
Person/machine interfaces with control intimacy.
The need (given suitable technology) for performer awareness
of timbral nuance, level sensitivity and inter-performer
Greater performer control over mobility and directionality
of modified source sounds.
of the functions of sound diffusion:
Influence of the performer on the diffusion.
Additional field processing performer(s).
Possible differentiation of field material by function
necessitating more controllable routing and mixing functions.
The mapping of performer gesture to control function:
expression is multidimensional hence individual parameter
choice and scale may need to be the result of a cluster
of parameter controls each following a different law:
Hence the creation of global control functions which
decide more detailed values.
Transformations: the need for transitional algorithm
research: from simple cross-mixing to complex interpolation
of values. The possibility of smooth transisions.
must be said that many of the above suggestions for
research are under way but much strictly for studio
music; the need for further collaborative venture research
remains as pressing as ever.
1991] Simon Emmerson. Live electronic music in Britain:
three case studies. Contemporary Music Review 6(1) pp.179-195,
1993] Simon Emmerson. Ophelias Dream II. In Dreams,
Memories and Landscapes. London: Continuum Records (CCD
1994] Simon Emmerson. Live versus real-time.
Contemporary Music Review 10 (2): pp.95-101, 1994
1989] Stephen Handel. Listening: An Introduction to
the Perception of Auditory Events. Cambridge, Mass.:
MIT Press, 1989
1988] F. Richard Moore. The Dysfunctions of MIDI. Computer
Music Journal 12(1) pp.19-28, 1988
1986] Denis Smalley. Spectro-morphology and Structuring
Processes. In The Language of Electroacoustic Music
(S. Emmerson (Ed.)) . Basingstoke, UK: The Macmillan
1992] Denis Smalley. The listening imagination: listening
in the electroacoustic era. In Companion to Contemporary
Musical Thought (Eds. Paynter, J., Howell, T., Orton,
R., Seymour, P.), pp.514-554, London: Routledge, 1992
1985] Trevor Wishart, On Sonic Art. York: Imagineering
1986] Trevor Wishart. Sound Symbols and Landscapes.
In The Language of Electroacoustic Music (S. Emmerson
(Ed.) pp.41-60, Basingstoke, UK: The Macmillan Press;
part of the article may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, without prior permission
of the individual authors.