A Noisome Pestilence
An Afternoon of Hugh Le Caine


As a special session of TIES (Toronto International Electroacoustic Synposium), Gayle Young will moderate a panel on Hugh Le Caine’s work.

The panelists will be Kevin Austin, Norma Beecroft, David Jaeger, Jim Montgomery, Pauline Oliveros and Paul Pedersen.
Hugh Le Caine was a pioneering electronic instrument designer at the Canadian National Research Council from the 1940s into the 1970s. His words: “I would say that I was a worker in the vineyard, and it was a tremendously exciting vineyard. I don’t regret a microsecond of it.” — Hugh Le Caine in an interview with Alan Gillmore and William Wallace (quoted in Gayle Young, The Sackbut Blues: Hugh Le Caine, Pioneer in Electronic Music)

When & where
Sunday, August 17, 2:30—4pm
Wychwood Theatre
Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street

As Hugh Le Caine is increasingly consigned to discussions of musical history, we feel this is a vital conversation, to illuminate the various threads that connect him to music-making today.
Furthermore, the state-sponsored investment in infrastructure that enabled Le Caine’s artistry has been reduced, and few people believe such a project would be supported today. In today’s very different climate, little emphasis has been placed on the historical achievements of institutions like the NRC and, as a consequence, institutional memory and documentation has suffered. In recognizing Le Caine’s achievements and marking his centenary we want to instil a strong memory of an era of Canadian music in which Le Caine was a pivotal figure.
Our conversation this afternoon centres around two generations of electronic music practitioners. Representing the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Pedersen and Norma Beecroft were immersed in Le Caine’s sound world, having worked directly with Le Caine instruments. Their discussion will convey something of the process, experience and inspiration involved in early electronic music studios. Beecroft spent many years documenting the history of electronic composition, and she will elaborate on the relationship between Le Caine and Gustav Ciamaga, coordinator of the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio (beginning in 1965). Paul Pedersen was one of the first students to work in UTEMS but he was also the instigator, and Le Caine’s collaborator, during the development of the first polyphonic synthesizer.
Also active in this era was TIES special guest and Keynote Speaker Pauline Oliveros. In 1966, Oliveros was among a group of graduate students that participated in a summer course at UTEMS conducted by Le Caine and Ciamaga. She will share her impressions of Le Caine’s instruments while also discussing her role in the San Francisco Tape Music Centre and the tape centre at Mills College, where she was the director.
The second generation is represented by composition students of the 1970s, who experienced the electronic music studio at a time when commercially available equipment and techniques began to replace the inimitable (prototypical), individually crafted instruments of Le Caine.
David Jaeger and James Montgomery are both founding members of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, established in 1971 in Toronto. In the 70s, the group explored live performance with polyphonic synthesizers and they continue to perform to this day, but their halcyon days were spent in the UTEMS. Their application of synthesizers in a live ensemble setting gives them unique perspectives from which to discuss the achievements of Le Caine’s designs and the adjacent developments in electronic music equipment.
Composer and instrument designer Gayle Young was studying at York University in the 70s working in an adventurous electronic atmosphere coordinated by figures like David Rosenboom, Richard Teitelbaum and James Tenney. Her interest in instrument design and electronics naturally led her to Le Caine, and she has been steadfast in documenting this aspect of Canadian music history and culture.
By the early 70s, the University of Toronto was part of an increasing network of campuses expanding their electronic music facilities. Composer Kevin Austin joins us to comment on his arrival at McGill Electronic Music Studio in Montréal in this period. Established by composer — and enthusiastic Le Caine supporter — István Anhalt, the McGill EMS was in a stage of transition away from Le Caine instruments, and Austin will add to the dialogue regarding Le Caine’s impact.


Gayle Young composes music for electroacoustics (often including soundscape), for orchestral instruments, and for instruments she designed and built in order to work with unorthodox tunings. She was a consulting composer with the Structured Sound Synthesis Project (1979–82), a graphic-interface computer music system pioneered by Bill Buxton at the University of Toronto. Her compositions have been broadcast and performed internationally. She will be a fellow of the Civitella Raneiri Foundation in Fall 2014. As publisher and former editor of Musicworks Magazine, Young has facilitated the discussion of work by many innovative composers, musicians and sound artists, and has published many articles on aspects of innovation in music. The Sackbut Blues, her biography of electronic music pioneer Hugh Le Caine, outlines a fertile period of interaction among science, technology, and music in the mid-twentieth century. Young also produced a CD of Le Caine’s compositions and instrument demonstrations.

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Kevin Austin is a Montréal-based composer, educator, theorist and arts animator. Active in EA since 1969, he is a Charter and Founding Member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC). He met and worked briefly with Hugh Le Caine in 1969–70 while a student at McGill, studying electronic music with István Anhalt and Paul Pedersen. With many years of experience with live electronics, fixed media, acoustic and mixed pieces, his compositions now focus on point-source multi-channel, mixed works with a small Chinese instrument ensemble, and occasional pieces for virtual ensembles, from duos to four “orchestras” in multi-channel format. A number are found on . It was in the early 2000s that he saw the initial realization of a curriculum for Electroacoustic Studies at Concordia University.
Norma Beecroft is part of a generation of pioneering professional composers that firmly established Canada’s place on the world’s musical map. An award-winning composer renowned for her use of electronic sound, Beecroft has been commissioned by many of Canada’s leading artists, ensembles and organizations. She has also enjoyed a long career in broadcasting, in television and as a radio producer, commentator and documentarist for the CBC and CJRT-FM radio. Many of Beecroft’s compositions combine electronically produced or altered sounds together with live instruments, with the electronic music serving as an extension of vocal and/or instrumental sounds. Due to her intense interest in technology in music, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she interviewed many of the world’s leading composers who were among the first to use current electronic technology in their music. This extensive research, under a tentative title Music and Technology, documents a new period of musical history, beginning primarily after World War II. From this research, Beecroft has extracted some of her comments in this presentation to the Audio Engineering Society. For her service to Canadian music, Norma Beecroft was awarded a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from York University in Toronto in 1996. She is an honorary member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community.

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David Jaeger is a music producer, composer and broadcaster who was a member of the CBC Radio Music department from 1973 to 2013. In 1978, he created the radio show Two New Hours, which was heard on the national CBC Radio Two network until Spring 2007. In the early 1970s, Jaeger established a digital sound synthesis facility at the University of Toronto, one of the first in Canada. During this time, while working at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio he met and became a colleague of Hugh Le Caine. In 1971, together with David Grimes, Larry Lake and Jim Montgomery, he founded the Canadian Electronic Ensemble (CEE). From 1974 to 2002 he served as the CBC Radio coordinator of the CBC/Radio-Canada National Radio Competition for Young Composers. In 2002 David Jaeger was elected President of the International Rostrum of Composers and was the first non-European ever to be named to this post in the 55-year history of that organization.

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Jim Montgomery has been involved with electroacoustic music since 1970 when he came to the University of Toronto as a graduate student, where he studied composition with Gustav Ciamaga and John Weinzweig. He is a founding member of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble (CEE), the world’s longest-lived electroacoustic group. He has composed many works combining acoustic and electroacoustic instruments and has developed several new procedures for collective composition and structured improvisation. The culmination of this series so far was Megajam (1992), which involved twenty live-electronic performers. In his parallel career as an arts administrator, Jim Montgomery served as Managing Director of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble from 1976–83 and Administrative Director of New Music Concerts from 1984–87. From 1987–2005, he was Artistic Director of the Music Gallery. He is a past president of the Canadian League of Composers and has served as a lecturer in the Faculty of Education of the University of Toronto (Electronic Media).

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Pauline Oliveros is a senior figure in contemporary American music. Her career spans fifty years of boundary dissolving music making. In the ’50s she was part of a circle of iconoclastic composers, artists and poets gathered together in San Francisco. Recently awarded the John Cage award for 2012 from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts, Oliveros is Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy NY) and Darius Milhaud Artist-in-Residence at Mills College. Oliveros has been as interested in finding new sounds as in finding new uses for old ones — her primary instrument is the accordion, an unexpected visitor perhaps to musical cutting edge, but one which she approaches in much the same way that a Zen musician might approach the Japanese shakuhachi. Pauline Oliveros’ life as a composer, performer and humanitarian is about opening her own and others’ sensibilities to the universe and facets of sounds. Since the 1960s she has influenced American music profoundly through her work with improvisation, meditation, electronic music, myth and ritual. Pauline Oliveros is the founder of Deep Listening, which comes from her childhood fascination with sounds and from her works in concert music with composition, improvisation and electroacoustics. Oliveros describes Deep Listening as a way of listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, of one’s own thoughts as well as musical sounds. “Deep Listening is my life practice,” she explains, simply. Oliveros is founder of Deep Listening Institute, formerly Pauline Oliveros Foundation.

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Paul Pedersen is a Canadian composer, arts administrator and music educator. An associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers, he is particularly known for his works of electronic music, a number of which utilize various forms of multimedia. In 1961 Pedersen joined the music staff at Parkdale Collegiate Institute in Toronto. He left there in 1962 when he was appointed music director of Augustana University College, a post he held through 1964. In 1966 he was appointed to the music faculty at McGill University where he remained for the next 24 years. He served as the chairman of McGill’s theory department from 1970–74 and was head of the school’s electronic music studio from 1971–74. He served as Associate Dean of the music school from 1974–76 and then was Dean of the school from 1976–86. He was also director and executive producer of McGill University Records from 1976–90. In 1990 Pedersen left McGill to become the Dean of the music school at the University of Toronto.

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