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SEAMUS Conference breaking down barriers

GSU hosts Society of Electro-Acoustic Music conference, partners with Averitt Center to bring it to


February 09, 2016

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    If you’ve never heard of electro-acoustic music, you’re in luck: The music department of Georgia Southern University and the Averitt Center for the Arts are teaming up to bring a full weekend of concerts to Statesboro as they host the SEAMUS Conference 2016. Shows will play in venues both on GSU’s campus and in Statesboro’s downtown performance spaces, bridging the town-and-gown divide — and they are all offered completely for free.    
    The SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States) Conference explores and celebrates the academic field that examines the relationship between humans and technology, specifically in the artistic sphere. Experimental and exploratory, electro-acoustic music is the marriage of sound and technology, a bold but playful foray into the uncharted future of music, blurring the distinction between science and art.
    Since 1985, a year after SEAMUS was founded, the conference has been hosted by schools including Virginia Tech, Wesleyan, the University of Oregon, Louisiana State University, the California Institute of the Arts and New York University — among many others. 
    "We are happy to count ourselves among those great universities," said Dr. John Thompson, director of music technology at GSU. Thompson was instrumental in bringing the conference to Statesboro, having participated and had his pieces performed in past SEAMUS events for several years. Last year, two SEAMUS board members approached Thompson personally to encourage him to put in a bid for GSU to serve as the 2016 host. 
    "Georgia Southern has been developing their music technology program since 2007 and has made a bit of a name for itself," Thompson said. "... It speaks a little bit to where Georgia Southern has come, for (SEAMUS) to even consider us to put on the radar."
    But while hosting the conference is a major feather in the cap of GSU's music technology program, Thompson and the rest of the department are carrying the event further by using it as an opportunity to connect the campus and downtown areas. 
    “Many times, these events happen on campus, and they are already complicated enough to organize on the campus," said Dr. Martin Gendelman, director of music theory and composition and coordinator for the On the Verge music series in the fall. "But we decided that a good part of doing this was the decision to make it both here and downtown, to take it off the campus.”
    Shows will be held in GSU's Carol A. Carter Recital Hall, blackbox theater and planetarium, and downtown concerts will be held in the Emma Kelly Theater in the Averitt Center and in the Whitaker Blackbox Theater, in addition to informal late-night music sessions at Eagle Creek Brewery. 
    The performances run the gamut from multiple live performers (both American and international) interacting with each other, to performers taking the stage solo, using technology to manipulate sound before the audience's eyes. Some shows are "fixed media" performances in which the audience listens to disembodied sound, and some, like the full-dome planetarium shows, have audio-visual elements. Additionally, installations — like art exhibits using sound as the medium — will be open to view in spaces across the community. 
    All performances and installations are free and open to the public. The only limit for each performance is the seating in the chosen venue.  
     “I think it benefits Statesboro to be full of art and music. I think, as a community, we need that," Thompson said, adding that the Averitt Center has become the lifeblood of the downtown arts scene. "... The more we can show people that the arts and music are fun and interesting, and invite them in to experience new things, I think it’s really good for the city. It’s really good for everybody: It’s good for the campus, it’s good for the city, it’s good for everybody from out of town to come see that Statesboro is a good place to be.”
     Several GSU students and faculty, as well as at least one artist from the Averitt Center, will perform or have works featured in the conference. Graduate student Aaron Anderson will even take the stage with the conference's featured artist, international performer Pamela Z. 
    “That selection process is done by double-peer review," Johnson said. "We didn’t just cherry-pick them; they actually made it through the real adjudication process.”
    An undertaking of this size requires a lot of community support. In addition to their partnership with the Averitt Center and the music school that has invested in the music technology program, Thompson and Gendelman credited conference sponsors Three Tree Coffee Roasters and Pladd Dot Music for their support of SEAMUS. 
    Now, of course, all they need is the audience.
    The conference will run from Thursday, Feb. 11, to Saturday, Feb. 13. A full, detailed schedule of concerts and installations is available at  class.georgiasouthern.edu/seamus/.

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