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Aural Training for EA

[Full article published in eContact! 11.2 — Figures canadiennes II / Canadian Figures II]


Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, Session 1: The State of the Art
Friday 8 August, 09:00–10:30. Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
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Like all musicians, the electroacoustic (EA) music composer/performer must be aurally skilled in order to produce and perform high quality artistic work, yet a very small number of EA-related programs worldwide provide a specialized aural training for EA. A preliminary research on a small purposive sample of EA educators suggests a likely consensus regarding the ineffectiveness of traditional aural training in teaching the aural skills that are most necessary for EA. The stylistic breadth of EA allows for a practically limitless range of sound types and transformations (limited only by the boundaries of the human hearing), and therefore the aural skills offered by traditional aural training, including solfege, dictation, and score reading (of mostly tonal and rhythmically-metric content) have limited relevance to the creation, performance, or understanding of EA music. The EA artist usually designs his or her own sound material, deals with aspects of space, manipulates spoken/sung content, and shapes the overall sound of his or her works, and therefore requires additional listening skills similar to those of the instrument builder, the acoustician, the phonetician, and the sound producer. While some techniques such as Schafer’s Ear Cleaning, Oliveros’s Deep Listening, Schaeffer’s Solfège, and even Smalley’s Spectromorphology provide some remedy to the inadequacies of traditional aural training, they are usually limited in educational applicability within the stylistic breadth of EA, or are simply not formed pedagogically. Since 2005, Concordia University’s Electroacoustic Studies program (EaSt) has spearheaded a new approach to aural training for EA, which uses Auditory Scene Analysis (ASA) theory as a theoretical foundation. This new aural training method begins with a radical transformation of the aural attention from a gestalt state to a segmentative one, and then gradually explores larger structural levels all the way back to the macrostructure. This approach improves aural segregation and the ability to recognize the integration (organization) and transformation of timbral, gestural, textural, and structural components including partials, envelopes, sequences, rhythms, language, simultaneous auditory streams, spatial features, and micro-and-macro-temporal relationships. The presentation will include a brief background overview, a summary of this method’s main concepts and examples of exercises.


Eldad Tsabary is a Montréal-based composer and sound artist and a lecturer of electroacoustics and music technology at Concordia University and Formation Musitechnic. His works won prizes and mentions in several contests including a CBC-Outfront / Deep Wireless commission 2008, Bourges 2007, Madrid Abierto 2007, ZKM’s Shortcuts:Beauty 2006, and Harbourfront Centre’s New Canadian Sound Work 2006. His music has been played at Carnegie Hall, CCRMA, and ISCM-world among others and released on record labels such as ERMMedia, Capstone records, NAISA, Vibrö, Vox Novus, and JAZZIS. As a teacher Eldad is mainly involved with aural training for electroacoustics, composition and the history of electroacoustic music. He is also a board member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC).


Paper originally presented at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium 2008, August 2008.

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