Australasian Computer Music Conference + Test :: Michael Yuen

Queensland University of Technology 12-14 July 2005 The Australasian Computer Music Conference is an annual meeting for the computer music community – a chance to exchange idea, greet old friends and meet new ones. Formed in 1989, ACMA (Australasian Computer Music Association) provides a network for the many computer music artist, researchers and developers throughout New Zealand and Australia. The 2005 conference, successfully staged at QUT’s Creative Industries Precinct, Brisbane, mainly attend by Australian practitioners reflected the diversity and passion for the sonic digital arts within Australia.

As a community, ACMA come together from technically different pasts (such as mathematics, science, music conservatories, programming, and DJ culture) and vastly different aesthetical histories. The refreshing lack of a common history allows an honest exploration of ideas free from history interfering. Thus, performances and papers cover topics as diverse as Stockhausen, CSIRAC, sonification, and augmented realities. Paradoxically, the need the exploration of Australia’s history in the sonic arts was evident throughout the conference.

Warren Burt reviewed his work with the, Gent based, Logos Foundation, Belgium. He composed for a number of custom-built computer controlled acoustic instruments with colourful names such as “Puff”, an instrument that achieves sound by blowing air though its synthetic lips, and “Flex”, an automated bowed saw. Burt’s work relates to the work of Trimpin and outlines the truly international quality of artistic endeavour in the digital arts within Australia.

Paul Doornbursh’s research on the pioneering work of Geoff Hill and his team that gave Australia’s first computer CSIRAC musical ability saluted Australian innovation. In the age before screen displays, CSIRAC used audio to create user feedback. Programming on punch cards, Hill used these sounds to play tone replications of popular songs. Doornbursh reports that CSIRAC first produced music somewhere between early 1950 and August 1951 preceding accepted dates for the first computer music in 1957 in association with Max Matthews at AT&T Bell Labs, America. Although CSIRAC only generated popular songs, Paul Doornbursh’s research highlights the need for research into Australia’s illustrious history in the sonic arts: Fairlight, Grainger, Cary. Over wine, Garthe Paine laments the resistance for Australians researchers to cite Australian research, innovation and history.

The keynote presention by AudioMulch creator Ros Bencina, discussed the aesthetic challenges of software design and explored the interplay of software design and creative output. The question of how our tools impact on our art is a vitally important issue. In the digital age of absolute possibility are we bound by our applications, programming environments and hardware or are we liberated by the freedom they afford?

A beautiful marriage of process, image and audio, Jon Drummond mapped of coloured droplets of ink dripping into a clear viscous liquid to audio in Sonic Construction 2. The seamless flow from concept into audio, through the medium of the image, created a beautifully self-contained work. Its realtime performance transformed the viewer from audience to witnesses of a stunning and simple process.

Moonlighting as Gommog, Gordon Munro produced a memorably loud sonic exploration of his sega game controller. One of the elder statesmen of Australia’s computer music community, Munro manage to shock and send scampering many of the younger generation with his burst of amplified and modified breathing controlled through his wireless game controller.

Apart from presenting my sound installation Atrium, ACMC05 was an opportunity to see the state of play in Australia’s computer music community. In such a concentrated approached (8 paper sessions, 3 keynotes, and 9 concerts in 3 days) the conference provide plenty of material to research ideas for curatorial projects.

I have long wanted to initialise an online repository of patches, applets and software for reproducing the historical works of electronic music. These important works can now be reproduced in code allowing for the ready performance and access to a large part of music’s history tied up in incompatible, rare and obsolete technology. ACMC05 provided a chance to hatch plans to create an online resource for a portal for these works. Further ACMC05 was also a excellent chance to tease out my pursuit of DirectArt – that is art that is void of the sensory mediums, projection art directly into ones brain or a”tre.

After an unsually strong Adelaide contingency in 2005, ACMC will visit Adelaide for the first time in 2006. Specially thanks to ANAT and the QUT students and staff especially Greg Jenkins and Kate Thomas.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply