Ellen Waterman, 5 May 2016

Title of the Talk: Wilderness isn’t What It Used to Be: The ecology of experimental music performance in Canada.

When? 5 May 2016 (17:00-18:30)

Where?  The Barn at St John’s College

Speaker: Ellen Waterman (School of Music, Memorial University of Newfoundland/Robinson College, University of Cambridge)

Abstract: In the 20th century, Canada was defined by tropes of nature and place, most famously the “idea of north” that was first expressed in experimental music in Glenn Gould’s famous 1969 radio collage of the same name, and made manifest in R. Murray Schafer’s massive Patria series of environmental music theatre works (1965 – ), several of which are performed in “wilderness” locations.  These days, experimental music in Canada is more likely to riff on contemporary issues such as multiculturalism, neocolonialism, and indigeneity. When Tanya Tagaq improvises Inuit throat singing as an ironic commentary on the classic 1922 “documentary” Nanook of the North, it is easy to hear the changing ecology of experimental music performance in Canada.  In this presentation, I take a critical look at this changing ecology in the context of a large-scale comparative ethnography of experimental music festivals across Canada by bringing together insights from acoustic ecology and performance studies.

Speaker Biography: Ellen Waterman is a flutist and scholar interested in improvisation and experimental performance. She is Professor of Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Memorial Site Coordinator for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, funded by a seven-year Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  Her books include The Art of Immersive Soundscapes (Regina, 2013) and Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound and Subjectivity (forthcoming from Duke, 2016).  Waterman is a member, with James Harley, of the improvising duo ~spin~ for flutes/voice and live electronics with multi-channel sound diffusion.  Their DVD in 5.1 surround sound Like a ragged flock… is available from the Canadian Music Centre. Her current book project is a comparative ethnography of 12 festivals of experimental music across Canada. www.sonicecology.com During 2015-16, Ellen is a Bye Fellow at Robinson College, University of Cambridge.


Event hosted as part of the Seminar in Ethnomusicology and Sound Studies Series, based at St John’s College, University of Oxford.


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