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The First Festival of Live Electronic Music at the University of California Davis (1967)

Bertolani, Valentina (2016) The First Festival of Live Electronic Music at the University of California Davis (1967). University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

It is common knowledge that live electronic music is different from electronic music. However, it is quite difficult to find a generally accepted definition of live electronic music (or interactive electronic music), as the boundaries of this label are blurry. A major factor of disagreement is how much interaction with the electronic part is needed to consider a piece interactive electronic music. Paul Sanden’s definition explicitly shows this tension: “live electronic music is understood as any concert music, composed or performed primarily since the late 1950s presented in real time and involving some type of electronic sound. […] More recent scholars, however, understand the genre as performed music involving the electronic manipulation of acoustic sound and/or the electronic real-time production of sound. […E]lectronic manipulation must be actively generated for it to be live.” (88) Gordon Mumma’s seminal chapter from almost forty years earlier, “Live-Electronic Music,” (1975) offers a completely different scenario. In Mumma, the label encompasses: instrument with fixed media, lone fixed media, amplified small sounds, performed electronic equipment, and live performance with digital computers. Some of these practices, for example the lone fixed media, would not necessarily considered live electronics nowadays. Technology-wise, many things have changed since then and even more has changed from the early 1960s. Our idea of liveness followed these changes. In this paper I will use the First Festival of Live Electronic Music (FFLEM), organized in 1967 by Larry Austin and hosted by the University of California in conjunction with the Mills College Tape Centre, as a case study to explore the actual meaning of the term “live electronic music” in the earliest stages of its history. Among the pieces performed there were: Activities (1967) by Toshi Ichiyanagi, Whistlers (1966) by Alvin Lucier, Mesa (1966) and Third Horn (1967) by Mumma, Wolfman (1964) and Frogs (1966) by Robert Ashley. FFLEM also featured names of composers now disappeared from the musicological discourse such as the Californian Stanley Lunetta and Anthony Gnazzo. FFLEM represents the perfect case study to explore the meaning of the category “live electronic music” in the 1960s: 1. It marks one of the very first occurrences of the term “live electronic music”; 2. Held in 1967, FFLEM falls between John Cage’s Cartridge Music (1960), Karlheinz Stockausen’s Mikrophonie II (1965) and David Tudor’s Rainforest (1968)—all milestones in the discourse on the development of various experiences of live electronic music (e.g. Mumma, 297–8; Manning, 159–64); 3. FFLEM was embedded in other forms of discussion on experimentalism and the use of technology: the magazine Source, edited in the same years by the same people who organized the festival, underpins the aesthetical and curatorial choices of the Festival; 4. The composers present at the Festival (especially Behrman and Mumma) picked up on the DIY aesthetics previously championed by the San Francisco Tape Music Center, and marked a rupture with the studio activity on the European model.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:09



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