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Steven Takasugi: "A machine for deception: Electro-acoustic composition as sleight of hand"

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A Distinguished Lecture by a guest from the Harvard University Music Department, USA.

  • Distinguished Lecture
When Feb 21, 2019
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where Tanna Schulich Hall, 527 Sherbrooke St W
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The lecture will take place in TANNA SCHULICH HALL, followed by a wine and cheese reception in the lobby of the Elizabeth Wirth Music Building. 


Fact or fiction? Actual or virtual? Live or recorded? Honest or deceptive? The mixed-media work, especially those that bring together recorded samples of acoustic instruments with their live counterparts, offers the electro-acoustic composer a unique opportunity to reflect on today’s ambiguous, uncertain, paradoxical, and contradictory world. It is a musical realm where the predictive faculties are thwarted, where assumptions are tested: in short, a house of mirrors, whose reflections and actualities become confused and exchanged. It is an art of misdirection, sleight of hand, ventriloquism, imposters, and role reversal. It is an artform…a music theater…that is both critical and complicit, offensive and empathic, concrete and illusive, pragmatic and impossible. This lecture offers insights into these ideas through the composer’s work Sideshow and others, and how this is achieved via a peculiar take on a basic concept of orchestration: “a strange doubling”.


Steven Takasugi headshotSteven Kazuo Takasugi, born 1960 in Los Angeles, is a composer of electro-acoustic music. This involves the collecting and archiving of recorded, acoustic sound samples into large databases, each classifying thousands of individual, performed instances collected over decades of experimentation and research, mostly conducted in his private sound laboratory. These are then subjecting to computer-assisted, algorithmic composition, revised and adjusted until the resulting emergent sound phenomena, energies, and relationships reveal hidden meanings and contexts to the composer. Against this general project of fixed-media is the addition of live performers, described as an accompanying project: "When people return . . ." This relationship often creates a "strange doubling" playing off the "who is doing what?" inherent with simultaneous live and recorded media: a ventriloquism effect of sorts. 

Takasugi received his doctoral in music composition at the University of California, San Diego. He is currently an Associate of the Harvard Music Department. He was the 2016 Riemen and Bakatel Fellow for Music at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and is the recipient of awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, two Ernst von Siemens Foundation Commissions, and a Japan Foundation Artist Residency. His work has been performed extensively worldwide. Takasugi is also a renowned teacher of composition associated with masterclasses in New York, Singapore, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Darmstadt, Bludenz, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has taught at the University of California, San Diego, Harvard University, California Institute for the Arts, and the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo. Takasugi is also an extensive essayist on music and was one of the founding editors of Search Journal for New Music and Culture. He has organized numerous discussion panels and fora on New Music including colloquia and conferences at Harvard Music and the Darmstadt Forum.

For more information on Steven Takasugi, please visit his website:

Photo credit: Marco Giugliarelli for Civitella Ranieri Foundation©


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