Electronic Music Midwest is about electroacoustic music, but it is also about community. My first Electronic Music Midwest, which turned out to the be first official EMM festival, was in 2002 when I was a doctoral student at UMKC. The “composer's guild” at UMKC had organized a trip for students to go to EMM and attend the festival since the guild president was performing at the event. I was curious about electronic music and saw this trip as an opportunity to learn more. Turns out I couldn't have picked a better introduction to the realm of E/A music.
EMM started unofficially in 2000 with the “Kansas City Electronic Music Festival” at Kansas City Kansas Community College and was then followed up the next year with “Electronic Music at Lewis – 2001.” The title Electronic Music Midwest might be a misnomer in that the festival merely takes place in the Midwest (at either Lewis University in Chicago or Kansas City Kansas Community College) it truly draws from an international pool of composers and performers. With approximately 200 submissions each year, only around 40 composers/pieces are accepted for a festival and when these composers, performers, and interested electronic music enthusiasts get together the focus is balanced between exceptionally high quality sound and fostering a community of different personalities.
Even though acceptance to the festival is competitive, EMM strives to be an inclusionary as possible. Different genres, different aesthetics, different levels of experience are all welcomed and embraced in an attempt to grow the EMM community as much as possible. The nine concerts of a traditional EMM festival showcase the wide variety of creative choices that composers of electronic music can make. Electronic music is not a monolithic “it all sounds this way” sort of genre. Anyone making any interesting sonic creations that involve electricity in any way are fair game for submission and programming.
There are a few conventional implementations of electronic music. Works for “fixed media” feature a recording of synthesized and/or manipulated sounds and fixed media is sometimes combined with live performers. Over the last decade, there has been a rise of works using “live electronics” in which the computer plays a more active and interactive role in the performance. Video elements can be combined with any performance and could be either fixed media or live interactive events. Another genre within electronic music is the “installation” in which media technology is added to an environment for a non-concert audio/video experience. At EMM, installations have always been a vital portion of each festival and each year multimedia artists showcase more inventive ways of experiencing and engaging with electronic art.
To those new to electronic music, Electronic Music Midwest is an excellent place to start. While programming the festival is always focused on high artistic merits of the compositions, the adjudication board always considers the emotional impact of the music. There might be some jargon (isn't there always?) but EMM prizes itself on the pure listening experience. Play this disc. Listen to the sounds. React. This disc is just like any other disc in your collection; you are hearing disembodied sounds created by human beings who wish to share their artistic point of view through an auditory medium.
This particular disc gathers a dozen works by a dozen composers who have had longtime experience with Electronic Music Midwest. Most of the works are fixed media but in a few cases live performers enrich the computer-generated/manipulated sounds. Aesthetically, these pieces give the listener the “tip of the iceberg” for electronic music. This disc replicates, as best as can be experienced in such a format, the aural landscape of a single EMM concert. Sometimes the music is chaotic and textural; sometimes lyrical and contemplative. Sound sources might be easily recognizable or sometimes twisted to almost absurd extremes.
While EMM encourages variety and diversity in artistic expression, there are a few similar threads which bind various works on this disc together. Many works on the disc, for example, feature the human voice. David D. McIntire's The Pornography of Unfettered Optimism is built around a rather dramatic reading by Michelle Allen McIntire, of a poem by Michael Ives. Robert Voisey's set of Orion, Chameleon, Eridanus, Sagittarus, Gemini, Vela and Aries further extend sung and vocal-sounding synthesized sounds into short, focused, minute-long shapes. Cassandra's Rant by George Brunner and sung by Julia Amisano takes the most traditional musical approach of any of these works, with a straightforward sung melody and synthesized chordal accompaniment. The final work on the disc, Near Burning by Jay C. Batzner, buries small vocal bits of Beethoven's Mass in C Major throughout the composition.
Nature and the natural sound world is another common trope among the electronic music community. Shape Study: Music for Metamorphoses by Michael McFerron is an aural landscape with rather delicate and subtle touches of artifice. The Swing Garden Project by Michael Pounds, Cedar Forest by Greg Dixon, and Sun's Soliloquy by Paul Rudy all have varying degrees of electronic manipulations which transform the essences of their recorded source materials.
Lastly, several works revel simply in the sonic possibilities of electronic transformation. Elainie Lillios' La Fête de la huitèmme decennie begins with a harsh fuzzy sound that quickly gives way to abstracted ambient textures. Kyong Mee Choi's Ceaseless Cease pits the clarinet soloist against a myriad of recorded accompaniments. While one might expect Anthony Reimer's Water to draw heavily from water sounds, instead the work suggests water and water-like sounds and spaces. Jason Bolte's Noises Everywhere starts with simple bell gestures which grow and swell and dissipate over seven and a half minutes.
The reason Electronic Music Midwest exists is to bring composers of multimedia works together so we can share ideas, share our work, and grow as artists. This disc humbly presents a thin slice of what EMM presents on an annual basis and we hope you enjoy experiencing these pieces.
Jay C. Batzner, August 2013
released November 11, 2013
Executive producers: Mike McFerron and David D. McIntire
Mastering: Ian Corbett
Photography: David D. McIntire
Graphics and layout: Scott Unrein
Special thanks to Mike McFerron, Ian Corbett, Jay C. Batzner and Scott Unrein. Deep gratitude to the composers collected here for their continued presence and involvement with EMM.
Track Name: David D. McIntire - The Pornography of Unfettered Optimism
If we can just agree on a name for the disease. And the disease will go away. Just like that. This can really happen. It already has. I feel great. I’ve decided to adopt a rabbit. I’m boiling my moods into a tallow of forgiveness. The grouse feeds from my palm. I grow familiar with twenty forms of cancer but recover the missing church key. Sectarian disputation ceases to captivate. I reorient. My conquering proclivities languish. I am made whole. By Japanese cuisine. My sense of smell ceases to alarm me. In the morning I practice a look called The Trepidator. The frank juice of spring, once frozen, surges again. I keep no fast, re-establish contact with enemies, split wood for the youth group. Mutuality is extended to the insects. And the criminals. Dad is moving in at the end of the month. Treason is on the decline. I enter the godhead, study Homer, condemn the sub-prime lending scandals. Inaugural sentiments prevail. My breath is as a melody to me, and my ongoing negotiations with society the Grosse Fugue. I disallow my debasement by mere facts, enroll in a geneaology workshop. Fear soon melts into its joy-based pre-adhesive. I garden. My ego splashes in all the positivity. Composed of smaller, localized negations. I describe the play of shadows across my shell collection in careful journal entries. Dated according to a revolutionary calendar. More and more people can afford insurance. And to junket in the Caribbean of their earnestness. The earth is magnetized by my subject position. I break the bough over my knee. My knee can be replaced. And shall be several times. Before I am inhumed. In the earth my mother. Words unfurl effortlessly in front of my exertions. When I cross them out, I stripe their backs with welts. Like a dangerous lover testing some threshold. Your belittlement of my efforts builds our betrothal. Centuries, vast like tables, connect us to everything. I’m thinking of nothing but beet sugars and plus signs. The dark is going out of the sky.