Electroacoustic Music of Extended Duration:
a Question of Format

Barry Truax
School of Communication
Simon Fraser University

Popular music has well-established connections to specific commercial recording formats in terms of:

Electroacoustic Music (here we are only considering fixed media works) traditionally works within professional audio formats for composition and performance, and makes appropriate compromises for distribution on commercial formats

Some Questions:

How does fixed medium documentation change artistic practices?

Does the creation of an LP/CD involve an arbitrary grouping of works designed for individual performance or broadcast, or is it a compositional format for creating works of extended duration?  The Cambridge Street Publishing experience.

Reference: "Sequence of Earlier Heaven: The Record as a Medium for the Electroacoustic Composer," Leonardo, 20(1), 1988, 25-28.

Should we (or will we) continue to value the large-scale work in the manner of the 19th century's privileging of the symphony and opera? Is that value related to the increased compositional demands, the deeper engagement with materials, and the reflective listening stance it encourages?

In terms of Jonathan Sterne's format theory as a cultural analysis of the mp3 format:

"Format theory ... invites us to ask after the changing formations of media, the contexts of their reception, the conjectures that shaped their sensual characteristics, and the institutional politics in which they were embedded." (p.11)

Reference: J. Sterne, MP3: The Meaning of a Format, Duke University Press, 2012.

If the individual downloadable soundfile has succeeded the CD as the format of choice for a younger generation, with the 5.1 format for commercial entertainment, will these developments further marginalize electroacoustic music, particularly in terms of works of extended duration and multi-channel formats?

But what if the soundfile/mp3 addicted generation produces listeners with short attention spans?

Some Alternatives:

Soundscape composition often benefits from both extended duration and multi-channel formats, and therefore will seek out opportunities for performance and dissemination that bypass the commercial format, e.g. multi-channel installations and concerts; websites; webradio; podcasts