The Imaginary Museum of Electroacoustic Works

My paper, titled The Imaginary Museum of Electroacoustic Works has been selected for the CIME ICEM conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Here is the abstract:

In many respects, the term ‘work’ seems entirely inappropriate for any discussion that focuses on electroacoustic music; originally applied to scored, instrumental music, the term ‘work’ developed in an entirely different musical context which, as both Carl Dahlhaus (1989) and Lydia Goehr (2007) have pointed out, coincided with developments in the middle of the eighteenth century, with the rise of a listening public and an institution of concert-attendance as a cultural practice signalling a gradual affiliation between music and the fine arts, such as painting and sculpture. For both Goehr and Dahlhaus, wider application of the term ‘work’ necessarily degrades conceptual differences between genres and styles, rendering the term, and the concept which is denotes, worthless. Despite this, we are now in an age when the term ‘work’ may be applied to electroacoustic music; the development of a canon, which allows for individually-authored pieces to performed, published and made available for repeated listenings, certainly supports this notion. More significant, perhaps, is the recent focus upon archival and preservative efforts by members of the electroacoustic community; the process of selecting, cataloguing, collecting and storing the significant and historically important ‘works’ would seem to admit electroacoustic music into the imaginary museum once envisaged by Goehr (2007). Such works, however, will seem far less imaginary when one considers the tapes, records, hard-drives and technologies to be housed on the museum shelves. This paper considers these various factors and, in doing so, questions the broader ramifications of archival and preservative efforts on the electroacoustic tradition, community and future endeavors.