WFAE President’s Report by Eric Leonardson
With this last issue of the WFAE News Quarterly for 2013 we end a busy year of transition for our organization.
The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) was founded twenty years ago in August 1993 at the Banff Centre for the Arts, in Alberta, Canada. The purpose of the WFAE then, and now, is to provide an international forum for affiliated groups that have formed, and continue to form around the world.
Some may wonder how the WFAE operates. It is a totally volunteer based organization. There is no paid staff. An elected representative from each WFAE Affiliate serves on the WFAE Board and assists in guiding the forum in meeting its mission as an active voice for acoustic ecology. A portion of Affiliate membership fees supports in part, the production of our annual scholarly publication, Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology.
International conferences are occasionally held by WFAE Affiliates, who self-support such events, and in some cases by partnerships with our members and outside sponsors. The WFAE, as a representational body, may endorse conferences and other activities based on each organization’s proposed goals and objectives. Endorsements encourage WFAE member participation and promote conference events to the broader acoustic ecology community.
Speaking of conferences, the WFAE is pleased to endorse the Symposium on Acoustic Ecology at the University of Kent 8-9 November, 2013. It is being organized by The School of Music and Fine Art and partnered with the UK and Ireland Soundscape Community (UKISC) a WFAE Affiliate. The symposium investigates soundscapes as complex sounding systems that change in space and time, and shape our understanding of the surrounding world. Guest speakers include Barry Truax (CASE), Katharine Norman, and Richard Ranft.
Membership in the WFAE is relatively and even surprisingly small compared to the global importance of the field. This is especially poignant when we are in the midst of a virtual explosion of interest in sound and the environment in its relationship to art, technology, education, and sustainability. Why this is so has as much to do with the energy of a volunteer organization as much as it does with divergent ideologies and broadening ecologies of sound. For the WFAE, where there is focus, direction and energy within an Affiliate group there is growth and development.
As founding members of the WFAE retire from their leadership positions in the WFAE, new members are taking on these roles and learning how the organization works. Last year Hildegard Westerkamp retired as founder and editor of our annual journal and we are happy to announce that Dr. Phylis Johnson, Professor of Media Practice and Studies at Southern Illinois University, as the Editor-in-Chief for Soundscape. In her interim role Phylis was instrumental in publishing the 2012 edition of the Journal. Phylis is now working with guest editors Makis Solomos and Kostas Paparrigopoulos, on the 2013 issue, due for publication before the end of the year. The 2014 edition of the Journal will be guest edited by members of the ASAE.
As the WFAE moves forward into its third decade, I’m optimistic that it will continue to grow and evolve as an exciting organization serving the needs of its diverse membership worldwide.
When I last reported I was co-editing Ways of Listening, Figures of Thought: A Festschrift for R. Murray Schafer on the Occasion of his 80th Birthday with my colleague and fellow WFAE member, Sabine Breitsameter. With a diligent, collaborative team of students from the Hochschule Darmstadt in Germany and a team of North American ASAE and CASE members, we coordinated and produced, within two months, this beautiful publication honoring Schafer’s life and work. We thank the Hochschule Darmstadt for essential support for the publication.
The Stratford Summer Music Festival hosted a tribute dinner and concert on Thursday, July 18th, honoring Murray Schafer on his 80th birthday. Along with the dinner and performances of six of Murray's compositions, many friends and colleagues gave short speeches. Sabine Breitsameter and I presented Murray with his Festschrift
, along with a copy of the latest issue of Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology
. His wife Eleanor reminded everyone that this day was also World Listening Day
. The audience was both appreciative and impressed that we, a German and an American, produced the Festschrift and traveled so far to honor Murray. I learned that most Canadians know Schafer for his musical achievements, as a composer not for his historic breakthrough in starting acoustic ecology. More than 35 years after the publication of The Tuning of the World
, and 20 years after the founding of the WFAE, some at Murray’s tribute were just now learning about acoustic ecology. (Photo by Irene Miller: L-R Eleanor James, Sabine Breitsameter, Eric Leonardson, and R. Murray Schafer)
For me it was a productive visit. Murray and I talked about what he could do to help increase involvement and activity in acoustic ecology in Canada and beyond. We discussed this further at lunch the next day, with Carol Weaver whom we met at the 2012 Global Composition conference in Dieburg, Germany. She is organizing a conference at the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) called Sound In the Land, to be held in early June 2014.
[As a side note: Individuals interested in how to obtain a copy of the Festschrift for R Murray Schafer should email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. It is a rewarding historical overview of Schafer’s contributions to the field and will be of value to anyone interested in expanding discourse of sound, listening, and environment and the future of acoustic ecology will benefit from reading her thought-provoking essay. The 72-page publication features statements by 25 notable, internationally respected writers, designers, scientists, educators, and artists who know and have been inspired by R. Murray Schafer’s work.]
While working on the Festschrift I simultaneously attended conferences and gave presentations in Europe and the US including one at the New England Forum for Acoustic Ecology in Boston, and at the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC. When I attended the Music and Ecologies of Sound Symposium in Paris and the Sound Thinking conference in Frankfurt, I was reminded that acoustic ecology has established its place in the international discourse on sound. I am glad that the 2013 issue of Soundscape: The Journal for Acoustic Ecology will feature articles from the symposium, guest edited by Makis Solomos, the organizer of the Music and Ecologies of Sound symposium.
Finally, I would like to speak briefly about the importance of individual memberships in the WFAE when no WFAE Affiliate exists near by. It is important that those interested in the field be they in engineering, the sciences, or the arts find a home in the WFAE. I would like to encourage you to join us and I invite you to visit the WFAE Membership page for individual membership instructions.
I hope you enjoy this year-end edition of the WFAE News Quarterly. I look forward to working with you in the coming year to continue to grow and develop the WFAE as an international leader in the field of acoustic ecology.
Header Photo by Donald K. Strike. Mr. Strike is an Acting Supervisor and Professional Training Development Advisor for Saudi Aramco in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. He travels extensively throughout the Middle East and photographed this rugged landscape while visiting Jordan.