Comments from presenters and attendees:
“The Alternative Histories of Electronic Music conference was a great achievement. As the first conference of its kind it was both a landmark and a formidable benchmark for others which must surely follow. It was both broad, covering a wide range of genres and approaches, and had many papers of great depth with detailed examinations of the history of technologies, apparently neglected studios, practitioners and countries, as well as gender and social issues. A web of associations emerged between these themes and across many contributions which forged a powerful critical force. My profound thanks to the organisers.”
— Prof Simon Emmerson, De Montfort University, UK.
“At the end of the conference it was apparent to all who attended that the history of this subject had been re-written before our very eyes. I can’t actually recollect a conference ever bringing to light so much new information across such a broad range of topics.”
— Paul Gilby, co-founder of Sound On Sound magazine
“Many thanks to you all for having the energy and courage to organize this long-needed conference. You have all done well and brought about an important new perspective within the electroacoustic community, national and international. It is my hope that in a few years from now, we will be able to look back and see this event as part of the development of a wider and very important understanding of the nature of ‘histories’, and broad connections across this, and cognate disciplines.”
— Prof Kevin Austin, Concordia University, Canada.
“The AHEM conference was one of the most interesting I have attended for several years. It blended theoretical work on the problems of writing Alternative Histories with many histories of long-forgotten and neglected parts of electronic music, including women pioneers and marginalized countries. What was exciting was that we had papers on so many different countries, previously unknown pioneers, and neglected instruments and approaches. As a scholar from STS (Science and Technologies Studies) I felt welcomed by those in electroacoustic music and musicology. It turned out that STS approaches were inspirations for some of the work presented, which I found personally gratifying. This was all wrapped up with some inspiring and unusual musical performances.”
— Prof Trevor Pinch, Cornell University, USA.
“AHEM will likely be seen as a signal moment in the growth of electronic music studies into a robust field of inquiry rich with connections to some of the most vital concerns of our time. It was a powerful confirmation of convergences in the study of electronic music–between traditional musicology, sound studies, and history of science and technology, to name a few–that we all knew were happening, but hadn’t yet had a chance to discuss in such concentrated way. Conferences are as much about the people as about the intellectual content, and AHEM was a wonderful mix of personalities, backgrounds, viewpoints, and attitudes.”
— Dr Thomas Patteson, Curtis Institute of Music, USA.
“Alternative Histories of Electronic Music (AHEM) offered a wealth of historical and contemporary inspirational materials! Good to hang with a fast-thinking crowd that agrees it’s okay to experiment and push the boundaries of what music may be …”
— Prof Hillegonda Rietveld, London Southbank University, UK.
“Alternative histories need alternative voices to investigate and explain them. In amongst the academics, AHEM gave an opportunity for independent researchers to speak about their work and findings; this was an important and positive move forward, and bodes well for more AHEM conferences in the future. After all, three days hearing about and discussing electronic music from across the world and through time, has to be a good thing. I hope the organisers and delegates will keep this valuable momentum going in the months and years ahead.”
–Ian Helliwell, multi-media audio-visual artist and author of Tape Leaders: A Compendium of Early British Electronic Music Composers.
“AHEM2016 was a stimulating, very successful event bringing together specialists from a wide range of fields and interests to address the urgent question regarding how this body of work can be treated within a historical framework. Presentations ranged from broad overviews to specific ‘angles’ for historical research to very specific case studies. This provided an excellent chance to share views with people in music and musicology, social sciences, technology, museum studies and sound studies. The event was efficiently run and the Science Museum’s Dana Centre was an ideal venue.”
— Prof Leigh Landy, De Montfort University, UK.
“The most exciting talk for me was Georgina Born’s final keynote. She brought in arguments from the other speakers and argued eloquently for a more inclusive way of writing and speaking about alternative histories.”
— Dr Margaret Schedel, Stony Brook University, USA.
“The AHEM Conference was a groundbreaking collection of engaging presentations, and a meeting of the minds… An entirely new research context, connecting neglected individuals, women and men alike.”
— Chelsea Bruno, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
“The conference was a genuine eye-opener into the myriad ways one might think about the history of electronic music, indeed history itself. The breadth of perspectives was very refreshing, both in content but also the background of the speakers. The atmosphere was open and friendly, and the high turn-out for the final guest speaker late on the Saturday afternoon said it all. I would certainly suggest another similar event would be very worthwhile.”
— Dr Geoffrey Cox, University of Huddersfield, UK.
“AHEM was a brilliant event – truly interdisciplinary, and the quality of the research was exemplary. A key finding for me was that there are so many healthy challenges to the generally accepted academic history of electronic music, and that they come from performers, enthusiasts, makers, archivists, fans, sociologists, STSers, anthropologists, as well as musicologists. The atmosphere was warm, friendly and intellectually charged, and we heard presentations using a rich a varied array of different research methodologies. You managed to create exactly the right kind of forum within which these different approaches could mix and create room for discussions, attested to by the fact that these discussions carried on in the pub every evening until late. This is a very rich vein which you have tapped into, and I sincerely hope that AHEM will become the regular fixture that it so richly deserves to be.”
–Dr Sean Williams, University of Edinburgh, UK.
“Thanks for the excellent conference! This really helped me to look at my own work from a different perspective and only now do I understand what it really means to talk about alternative histories and the various ways the past can be understood and approached. Good things will surely come from this – already have, both on the spot and during the week after! I really hope that there will be a continuation of this…”
–Mikko Ojanen, University of Helsinki, Finland.
“It was a privilege to take part in the AHEM event. Highlights for me included You Nakai’s clever analysis of David Tudor’s arcane modular electronics setup; Trevor Pinch’s ANT-inspired institutional and social history of the Moog and Buchla synthesizers; Joe Watson’s intriguing historicisation of the ‘muffwiggler’ community, with links to information theory and cybernetics; Owen Green’s entertaining reflection on the self-abnegating conservatism of some electroacoustic music composition students; and Valentina Bertolani’s explication of the early contestations over the definition of ‘live’ electronic music.”
–Dr Christopher Haworth, Oxford University, UK.
“The Alternative Histories of Electronic Music conference is vital for the community of electroacoustic composers and historians, but also, for beyond that specialist field, for everyone interested in different perspectives on the past, and for everyone seeking to understand the complex motivations, visions, theories and cultural actions that make us perceive the musical and artistic world the way it seems to be.”
–Dr Ricardo Dal Farra, Concordia University, Canada, and Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection, Argentina.