Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call

The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) has become a forum for the education, promotion, and development of electronic music both in the U.S. and abroad. Founded in 1984, SEAMUS is made up of composers, performers, and teachers who specialize in electro-acoustic music.

The organization’s promotion and development of new music is wide-reaching. Each November, SEAMUS sponsors Electro-Acoustic Music Week (which this year takes place from November 7 to 13) to encourage schools and presenters across the country to dedicate their programming to electronic music. The society doesn’t sponsor the individual concerts, instead, according to SEAMUS president Stephen David Beck: “We create an umbrella through which other local organizations or local universities or local people can put together events, whether they’re open houses, lectures, concerts, or radio broadcasts. [The week is] simply a rationale, a reason to do something. By doing that we’re encouraging the presentation of electro-acoustic music on the local level, and therefore, the creation of it.” On the Web, SEAMUS hosts an audio clip Web concert that runs all through the month of November. The works are submitted by members, are under two minutes, and can be heard via streaming audio.

Another major service of the society is their annual convention. The conference is a three-to-four-day national showcase for electronic music, including concerts, lectures, panels, videos, and papers. SEAMUS aims to represent all of their members equally: each year, the music featured at the conference is chosen by blind audition. The SEAMUS Y2K Conference will be held from March 9-11, 2000 at the University of North Texas in Denton (outside Dallas).

The conference also includes one of the highlights of SEAMUS’s active role in the development of electronic music. In association with ASCAP, SEAMUS sponsors a student commissioning program, which awards prizes to two student composers annually. The new works are presented at the national conference and included in SEAMUS’s annual CD.

According to Beck: “Because we’re an organization that has composers working on what you might call the ‘bleeding-edge’ of technology, our members are constantly involved with the latest technologies as they are applied to music-making.” Yet, the SEAMUS membership is, “really a hodge-podge of a lot of different levels of technology and technical sophistication. As it is with most composer organizations, you have composers who will never step in front of a computer and you have composers who won’t step in front of a drawing-table with music paper.”

Beck, a composer and professor of composition and computer music at Louisiana State University, feels SEAMUS is moving to make itself even more of a presence and fully available on the Internet. New members almost always have an Internet connection. After SEAMUS went online in 1996, its membership grew almost 40% over the next two years. “We have reached just that much more of our actual constituency.” Beck comments. “That says volumes for how effective communicating over the Internet can be.” The 2001 conference will be available through live Webcasts, and the society currently hosts the SEAMUS forum, a discussion board for people interested in talking about issues in electronic music. The SEAMUS database is open to the public, but in conjunction with the Electronic Music Foundation, members receive monthly informational updates (seamus-1) via e-mail. Offline, SEAMUS offers the bi-annual Journal SEAMUS, the bi-annual SEAMUS Newsletter, the SEAMUS Archives at the University of Texas at Austin, and a CD series that features works presented at the national conference.

From Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call
by Karissa Krenz
© 1999 NewMusicBox

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