EMF10 - The State of the Art:
A Status Report on Electronic Music Worldwide
'Snakey' by Shankar Barua

Check out EMF@Chelsea Art Museum


Electronic Music Foundation, founded in 1994, is celebrating its 10th anniversary season from September 2004 through June 2005. We'd be delighted if at some moment during this time, you would lift a glass high, wish us well, and send us a short message. Any ideas or thoughts you'd like to share with us would be most welcome.

We're taking the occasion of our 10th anniversary to organize a status report on electronic music worldwide. Our themes are the empowerment of individual creativity, worldwide community, and environmental awareness. We'd like to pose questions such as these: How can electronic technology be used musically by people from a diversity of countries and continents, musical cultures, ethnic traditions, economic backgrounds, racial identities? How can the empowerment of individual creativity inspire worldwide communication and community? How can the use of technology in music inspire real-world awareness in people through interactive processes, the use of language, environmental sounds, and other musical materials and processes?

Fully realizing that answers to these questions are not simple, we hope to derive insights from our many and varied activities of this year, all of which will be described or introduced in this site. These are the activities we're planning:

We're producing events in New York City, including concerts, installations, and a major musical/visual exhibition on the use of sound to tell us about our world.

We're collaborating and participating in events around the world, including symposia, presentations, and concerts in Paris, and, as a demonstration of the democratization of electronic music technology, a festival of laptop music worldwide.

And we're initiating new ongoing programs, among them web portals to promote the work of our Subscribers and a research project in electronic instrument design.

Time Capsule

The image alongside shows a 200-ton 'menhir', a stone monument, on the island of Gavrinis in the Bay of Morbihan, which is on the south coast of Brittany in France. This large stone was put in place in approximately 3,500 BC, then cut in half about 200 years later. How it was moved to its present place, how it was erected, and how and why it was cut into pieces remains the subject of conjecture. But however imperfect and incomplete, such objects do communicate information about the technology and thought of their times. And in that sense, the menhir of Gavrinis is a time capsule.

At this time, we are at the beginning of the 21st century. We are also at the beginning of technological developments that are increasingly challenging the ways in which we think about music. And we can assume that in the future, people will look back and wonder how we did things, how we made sound, what instruments we used ...

This is the time for us to make a time capsule. We invite all EMF Subscribers, as a self-selected and varied group of musicians that are professionally involved in electronic music, to send us a written artist's statement that we can publish on the web and make available to the public today and into the indefinite future.

The statement should be around 1000 words, or less, or more, that may or may not deal with any or all of these questions:

How and why do you make music? How would you describe your music? What systems or instruments do you use and why? How do you view your relationship to the equipment you use? Or your relationship with performers? Or with the public?

Please send your statement to timecapsule@emf.org

Symposium on the Future


Many artists have devised, composed for, and written about original electronic musical instruments during the past 30 years, yet no comprehensive picture of the immense creative potential of electronic musical instruments has emerged.

The goal of this project is to articulate that creative potential by showing how electronic musical instruments can play an essential role in the empowerment of individual creativity and self-expression for anyone, anywhere in the world.

Our method

Our method is:

to formulate an evolving theory, i.e. a set of principles, that describes a taxonomy / design space of electronic musical instruments in which the structure of an instrument is related to the nature of its functioning for a particular category of performer, such as a professional performer onstage, an amateur performer at home, children learning about sound, the general public in an interactive installation ...;

to produce and document a series of public performances to be evaluated in the context of the evolving theory, each public performance demonstrating an instrument that is either designed by an established artist or created specifically to demonstrate a new performance principle; and

to place the evolving theory in the context of the UNESCO Digi-Arts Portal, a program aimed at developing ways in which the digital arts can be used to inspire world community and foster education in developing countries. EMF is already a partner with UNESCO in the Digi-Arts Portal.


The results of this project will be:

the formulation of a comprehenisve theory that articulates the cultural and artistic potential of electronic musical instruments in the empowerment of individual creativity;

a body of documentation in sound, image, and text of the performances, conferences, and other events that have informed the evolution of the theory, to be published as a website within The EMF Institute website;

the development of new instrument concepts; and

an accumulating wisdom regarding the potential benefits of individual creativity as they encourage world community and foster education.


The agency responsible for administrating the Symposium is Electronic Music Foundation. The Symposium is a joint project of EMF and New York University, in which EMF produces the events and NYU operates the technology workshop. The project co-Directors are Joel Chadabe, President of Electronic Music Foundation, and Robert Rowe, Associate Director of the NYU Music Technology Program.

Advisors to the project, all of whom have made contributions to the field, are Perry Cook (researcher, Princeton University), Christopher Dobrian (composer, University of California at Irvine), William Duckworth (composer, internet artist, Bucknell University), Nora Farrell (internet artist), Sergi Jorda (researcher, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona), Kevin Larke (researcher, New York University), Tod Machover (composer, MIT Media Lab), Teresa Marrin (composer), Garth Paine (composer, University of Western Sydney, Australia), Joe Paradiso (researcher, MIT Media Lab), Laetitia Sonami (composer), Laurie Spiegel (composer), Morton Subotnick (composer, New York University), David Toop (composer, author), Marcelo Wanderley (researcher, McGill University, Montreal), and David Wessel (composer, Director of CNMAT, University of California at Berkeley).

Observers are Marc Battier (researcher, Sorbonne, Paris), Thomas Beyer (composer, New York University), Michael Century (media theorist, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Roger Malina (President, Leonardo), and Kenneth Peacock (Director, Music Technology Program, New York University).


As a projected timeline subject to revision, we plan for the first theoretical steps to be taken in the fall of 2004. The public performances will begin, largely depending upon funding, in 2004/5 and continue through the spring and into the 2005/6 season. We expect to do an assessment and articulation of results in the late spring of 2006.

Events in Paris

As part of Resonances 2004, IRCAM's annual event dedicated to looking at new artistic trends and research issues, EMF is co-organizer of the 'Sound and Music Computing' conference, to take place October 20 - 22. Joel Chadabe will give the opening lecture on the history of interactivity with computers and present an excerpt from his composition 'Many Times ...' in a version for flute and Kyma system. Other composers and researchers associated with EMF, among them Robert Rowe, Georges Bloch, and David Wessel, will also participate.

On December 15, Joel Chadabe will discuss EMF's history, activities, and goals at the studios of the Groupe de Recherche Musicales in Paris.

On December 16 and 17, with Marc Battier and Ramuntcho Matta, and with support from the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, EMF will co-present a two-day concert event at Le Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

The Sound of Laptops

As a demonstration of worldwide community and the use of music technology to empower individual creativity, EMF is organizing a worldwide laptop performance festival to take place between February 4 and June 30, 2005, in many places in many countries. The opening event, on Friday, February 4, in New York City, will feature Morton Subotnick premiering a new composition for laptop computer with lights by Sue Costabile.

We will document this festival in perpetuity in a dedicated website, preserving audio clips, images, descriptions of the events, and information on the participants. This festival and its documentation will recognize worldwide talent and mark for all time a vital moment in our cultural history.

Acoustic Ecology

What we're doing

In the spring of 2005, EMF will produce an event aimed at fostering awareness of human interaction with the environment.

The event, called Acoustic Ecology, will include: dynamic installations based on convergent media (visual and sound elements connected through shared control systems) that demonstrate the behaviors of systems and/or involve humans in activities; visual art (photography, painting); sound art (sonification of phenomena, creative work based on environmental sounds, and documents of the natural and man-made world); round tables and symposia; and demonstrations of new energy sources such as fuel cells.

The content of the event will focus on the nature of interactions between humans and their environments, natural systems, urban design, and histories of environmental movements.

The concept of the exhibition as a whole is that art, both visual and sound art, gives us access to understanding life, and that sound and visual elements must be taken together in our understandings of our environments. The title of the exhibition (borrowed from the Acoustic Ecology movement founded in Vancouver in the 1960s) suggests the exploration of a space in which life and art become intertwined and inseparable, in which the sounds of soundscapes, in concert with the images of 'landscapes', bring us into a closer and more sensitive connection with our world.

Elements of the event

Concerts include music by: Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp ...

Symposia and round tables include: Acoustic Ecology, Sounds of Cities ...

Exhibitions include: Photographs by Mark Moffett, ecologist, prize-winning photographer for National Geographic ...

Installations include: Global Connect, by Joel Chadabe and Shankar Barua, based on city images, sounds, and stories from New Delhi and New York; Sonification of Ecological Communities, by Phoebe Legere and Mark Moffett, based on the turbulent flow of air through layers of plants; Acoustic World Atlas 2005, by Thomas Gerwin, an update of Gerwin's original installation at ZKM (Karlsruhe); Light Readings, by Stephen Vitiello, using a photoelectric cell to sense different qualities of light and then using the light to control sound generators; Sound Map of the Danube, by Annea Lockwood ...

At a planning stage: Water, Space Art, The Last Resort (Sanctuary in India) ...

To keep in touch with this project as it takes form, check this site and sign up for the Arts Electric email list.

Who is doing it

Acoustic Ecology is being organized by Electronic Music Foundation in collaboration with the UNESCO DigiArts Portal. Advisors to the project are:

Mark Moffett, ecologist, prize-winning National Geographic photographer, faculty member at University of California at Berkeley;

Andra McCartney, media artist, faculty member in communication studies, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada;

Thomas Gerwin, soundscape composer, founder and director of the Interart Projekt, Berlin;

Barry Truax, composer, professor at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada;

Michael Century, media theorist, professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York;

Roger Malina, chairman and president, Leonardo/ISAST, Paris, France; and

Nicolas Collins, composer, editor of Leonardo Music Journal, faculty at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A historical note

We're borrowing the term 'Acoustic Ecology' from the World Soundscape Project, founded by R. Murray Schafer in the late 1960s at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. In Schafer's words: "The soundscape of the world is changing. Modern man is beginning to inhabit a world with an acoustic environment radically different from any he has hitherto known ... "

Schafer's idea was that we should understand how we interact, individually and collectively, with the sounds around us, and that idea gave rise to the study of sound in the world and a field that became known as Acoustic Ecology.

Joan La Barbara
An opera in-progress

October 11, 2004 at 8pm
Frederick Loewe Theatre at NYU
35 West 4th Street

Joan La Barbara, composer, vocalist
Kurt Ralske , live video imagery
Kenji Bunch, viola
Neil Dufallo, violin
Steve Gosling, piano
Tim Kiah, bass
Rubin Kodheli, cello
Jesse Mills. violin
Taimur Sullivan, saxophone

La Barbara's newest work explores the artistic process and the creative mind, focusing on Virginia Woolf and the fascinating way she wove her ideas. While it may seem strange to do a wordless opera about one of the great writers of the 20th century, Woolf's words serve as the basis of inspiration for La Barbara's musical composition. On October 11 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre, La Barbara will be joined by video artist Kurt Ralske and musicians from the ensemble Ne(x)tworks in a collection of excerpts from WoolfSong, an opera in-progress.

La Barbara writes:

"As I read through Woolf's works, I select phrases that have particular resonance for me, and then reflect back on these as I compose. My vision is that the musicians onstage are players and actors; all are Virginia Woolf and all are characters in her mind."

Thanks to ...

Partners ...

Philip Blumberg, Paul Lansky, Jacques Mandelbrojt, Norbert Oldani

Patrons ...

Lefferts Brown, Thomas Buckner, Joel Chadabe, David Gamper, Carla Scaletti

With additional support from ...

New York State Council on the Arts, Roland Corporation, Symbolic Sound Corporation

Join us: EMF is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Your contribution may be deductible in whole or in part as a donation or as a professional subscription. Please consult your tax advisor.

EMF10 Sponsors


for more info:

Joel Chadabe
Electronic Music Foundation
116 North Lake Avenue
Albany, New York 12206

e-mail: emf10@emf.org
wwweb: http://www.emf.org