February 10, 2000 Vol . 17, No. 3
By Carol Thorbes
It wouldn't surprise SFU professor Barry Truax (left) to hear his undergraduate students wondering if they were in the right class. As a joint professor of acoustic communication in the school of communication and of electroacoustic (computer generated) composition in the school for the contemporary arts at SFU, Truax is passionate about taking an interdisciplinary approach to his graduate and undergraduate courses.
Students in any one of his classes or labs are likely to find themselves discussing the technical aspects of digital sound synthesis; evaluating the creativity of an electroacoustic composition; and analysing the political and social implications of living in a noisy environment and of the media's use of sound, in the space of a few hours.
"The ability to look at sound from different viewpoints-- as a communicator, a political economist, a social scientist, a computer engineer or an artist-- creates a yin-yang type of energy that feeds creativity, innovation and tolerance of different viewpoints," explains Truax, who is now in his 27th year of teaching at SFU. "That kind of cross pollination of ideas has inspired my work and led to innovations that I wouldn't have otherwise conceived of." An electroacoustic composer with seven internationally recognized recordings to his credit and a published acoustic communication researcher who helped pioneer the study of acoustic ecology in Canada, Truax tries to cultivate the same interdisciplinary exploration of sound in his students. "My aim is to help them become highly critical listeners with factual knowledge and practical skills so that they can meet the employment market's demand for multi-skilled workers, and find their own paths as researchers and contemporary music composers."
Truax's approach to teaching has earned him a 1999 excellence in teaching award. Several students who nominated him referred repeatedly to his "exhaustive knowledge" of his subjects and his unparalleled ability "to inspire his students."
Longtime colleagues, like school for the contemporary arts associate professor of music Martin Gotfrit, agree that Truax is most deserving of an excellence in teaching award. "He always exhibits both patience and attentiveness," comments Gotfrit.
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