A Summary of the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio Survey

October 31, 1991

28 October 1992 will mark the fortieth anniversary of the landmark concert of electroacoustic music that was promoted by the American Composers' Affiance at the Museum of Modem Art in New York City. While the concert only employed tape recorders as the electronic component, it nevertheless ushered in a new medium of musical composition. The late 1950s saw the first electronic and computer music studios established at key universities in the United States and Canada. Each succeeding decade saw more and more schools joining the ranks of those first institutions. Within the past eight years alone, the availability of affordable electronic music gear and computers have made it possible for music departments of all sizes to claim an electro-acoustic music studio.

In order to gain a clearer picture of the state of electro-acoustic music in academic institutions in the United States and Canada, the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio Survey (EAMS Survey) was initiated in October 1990. The six-page survey was disseminated to 1,580 colleges and universities.

The EAMS Survey has a four-fold purpose: (1) to gain information on instructional and support staff and operating expenses of each studio; (2) to assemble a list of the most frequently used hardware and software items in those studios; (3) to indicate what types of courses are being taught types of enrollment figures in those courses, and whether or not these courses are part of a major in composition, theory, or electro-acoustic music; and (4) to be used as a guideline for existing studios or for schools that may want to start a studio.

Three hundred ninety-two institutions responded, which comprised nearly 25% of the initial mailout. A set of criteria was used to determine whether or not an the institution had an electroacoustic music studio. These criteria included:

  1. An electronic sound source in the form of an analog and/or digital synthesizer.
  2. A means to record and disseminate the sounds, either through an analog recording device (cassette tape, reel-to-reel) or a digital recording device (DAT or PCM).
  3. A computer and software packages for music sequencing and/or music printing.
  4. Instruction and/or independent research in electro-acoustic music in the form of private lessons or enrollment in a course.

These guidelines are flexible, because several different types of studios may be created by combining items 1, 2, and/or 3. For example, studios may not need a computer and software packages, because the digital synthesizer they own may have an on-board sequencer. Computers and software may not be needed if studios only own analog synthesizers. Technically, studios would not necessarily require recording equipment to disseminate music, although only six schools responded that they did not own any recording equipment.

There were only a handful of schools that reported they did not have a separate facility to house their equipment In these instances the studio director reported that his or her office was being used to house the studio because of lack of space in the music department. Other exceptions to the above criteria exist, but they are beyond the scope of this summary. Regardless of the type of electronic environment, instruction was the common element that all studios shared.

Within the initial response group 117 respondents either did not have a studio or were using a computer, synthesizer, and software package as part of a computer-assisted-instruction theory lab. Computer-assisted instruction in theory was outside of the scope of the EAMS Survey, so that left 275 surveys from which to collect data.

While this writing serves only as a brief summary, one interesting statistic should be mentioned. There are more undergraduate music majors enrolled in electro-acoustic music courses than non-majors. This statistic runs contrary to some recently-held opinions that electro-acoustic music courses are being taught to more non-majors than majors at the undergraduate level. When the schools are tallied by faculty size, the ratio of undergraduate major to non-major is 1. I to 1 for schools with fewer than eleven faculty (full-time and/or part-time). Schools with 11-20 faculty report a ratio of 1.5 to 1. Schools with 21-30 faculty show a ratio of 2.5 to 1, while schools with 31-40 faculty have a ratio of 1.4 to 1. The undergraduate ratio for major to non-major at schools with 41-50 faculty is 3 to 1, while schools with 51-60 faculty have a ratio of 1.5 to 1. Lastly, schools with more than 61 faculty show a ratio of 7.3 to I of undergraduate majors to non-majors enrolled in electro-acoustic music courses. When the enrollment figures for all schools are tallied together, undergraduate music majors outnumber non-majors by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1.

The EAMS Survey is scheduled to be published in the fall of 1991 by the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States. The first part of this survey will appear in their publication Journal SEAMUS.

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