Electro-Acoustic Orchestra

The Electro-Acoustic Orchestra (dir. Doug Van Nort) is an ensemble comprised of a mixture of acoustic and electronic performers. It is an emergent sonic organism that evolves through collective attention to all facets of sound, and soundpainting-based real-time composition.

The Electro-Acoustic Orchestra (dir. Doug Van Nort)

The Electro-Acoustic Orchestra (dir. Doug Van Nort) is an ensemble comprised of a mixture of acoustic and electronic performers. It is an emergent sonic organism that evolves through collective attention to all facets of sound, and soundpainting-based real-time composition. The conducting language used with the group is based on Soundpainting, with modifications and additions by Van Nort for the electro-acoustic context. In the words of the language’s inventor, Walter Thompson: “The Soundpainter (the composer) standing in front (usually) of the group communicates a series of signs using hand and body gestures indicating specific and/or aleatoric material to be performed by the group. The Soundpainter develops the responses of the performers, molding and shaping them into the composition then signs another series of gestures, a phrase, and continues in this process of composing the piece.”

The ensemble begins from a place of improvisation and exploration, but through iteration, repetition and rehearsal, arrives at compositional specificity. Echoing Thompson:

“At what point does the Soundpainter’s creative direction lapse to be overtaken by the creative impetus of the ensemble or the individual?

Never. Each Soundpainter chooses how active, how simple and/or how complicated the phrasing will be according to what is taking place in the moment. If the Soundpainter decides to sign less, for a few minutes or so, they are doing so because they would like that point in the composition to be more open to the players. The Soundpainter would be signing less for a couple of key reasons. 1 – they desire the performers to develop a certain section of the piece at their own rate. 2 – they are leaving the section open to chance where the Soundpainter will search for material to further the composition…The Soundpainter is the composer at all times. They decide and govern every aspect of the piece just as the traditional composer does. It is a very interesting question you pose because I have had this discussion with traditional composers who argue Soundpainting is not composing but a form of guided improvisation. The main reason for their belief is the ability to edit – though, as I have stated above, a Soundpainting composition is edited in real time.”

There are two versions of the ensemble, which performs year-round:

-The YorkU-centred Electro-Acoustic Orchestra, which emerges from an integrated undergraduate/graduate course Van Nort teaches annually, and which also involves members of the professional ensemble, once the group is up and running.

-The Doug Van Nort Electro-Acoustic Orchestra, the professional version involving invited performers. This version integrates members from YorkU, the larger Toronto electroacoustic and improvising communities, and the international community of electro/acoustic improvisers via telematic connections.

These are both often colloquially referred to as “EAO”.

In practice, the course allows people to establish their own self-idiomatic setup and sonic composition at the level of the instrument/system, while learning the basics of the language. The professional ensemble tends to converge to a much higher degree of refinement and specificity, with Van Nort able to compose more involved sonic structures, and much more “two-way mind reading” happening in the moment.
**Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Since June 2020, EAO will perform over the internet using Zoom and related networking technologies.**

Current members of DVN-EAO 2021: Eric Bhatnagar, Tom Bickley, Viv Corringham, Björn Ericksson, Rory Hoy, Kathy Kennedy, Kieran Maraj, Omar Shabbar, Danny Sheahan

Past members, both versions (which needs updating!): Eric Bhatnagar,Lo Bill, Wei Chen, Kelin Deng, Winston Frederick,Colin James Gibson, Shian Grace,Aida Khorsandi, Omar Shabbar, Ahsan Shabbir, Antonia Sinn, Chris Anderson-Lundy, Aaron Corbett, Darlene Dunn, Alex Gage, Glen Hall, Rory Hoy, Melanie Jagmohan, Ian Jarvis, Ian Macchiusi, Kieran Maraj, Mackenzie Perrault, Paul Petrocelli, Danny Shehan, Lauren Wilson, Brian Abbott, Robert Appleton, David Bandi, Michael Brown, Joshua Buckley, Matheus Caldas, Chris Cerpnjak, Sabatino Muccilli, Paolo Paglucan, Liz Petzold, Carlos deLeon, Peter Elleman, Marcello Fiorini, Alex Laurie, Sam Mason, Mark Mcgugan, Caleb Martin, Matt Miller, Michael Palumbo, William Osmon, Ted Phillips, Fae Sirois, Sean Stover, Dan Tapper,Gayle Young, Adam Walters.


Dec 21: Quarantine: A Telematic nO(t)pera  (streaming via Youtube)

Cancelled!: April 3 – the Electro-Acoustic Orchestra perform two sets featuring interactive conducting and 28 channel spatialization

Cancelled!: March 29 – the Electro-Acoustic Orchestra and York Wind Ensemble perform Eric Whitacre’s Deep Field


December – Dispersion Relation #4: Doug Van Nort with the Electro-Acoustic Orchestra. The fourth event welcomes a special performance with the Electro-Acoustic Orchestra. Two pieces will explore new modes of composing for attentional strategies that blend Soundpainting conducting, cross-performer live processing, interactive spatialization and lighting.

April – Electro-Acoustic Orchestra at the Toronto Media Arts Centre (TMAC). Opening performance for the YorkU Digital Media Exhibition.

April – Doug Van Nort and the Electro-Acoustic Orchestra perform “Intersubjective Soundings vol. 3” for Soundpainting, MYO sensors and ensemble processin in the rich reverberance of the Vari Hall Silo Part of the CBC-Produced CRAM Toronto Event. https://cramtoronto.com/

January – EAO performs at the Tranzac Club in Toronto as part of Synaptic Circus Sundays. Also on the bill: The Nilan Perera Quartet feat: Colin Fisher (drum kit) Bea Labikova (reeds), Wes Neal (contrabasse) and Nilan Perera (guitars etc.).


April –  Telematic Performance: Electro-Acoustic Orchestra (DisPerSion Lab, Toronto), Mary Edwards and Michael Dessen (Institute for Advanced Computational Science, Stony Brook, NY), part of “Network Music: Artistic and Technological Strategies for Public and Private Networks”


December – Malcolm Goldstein / Doug Van Nort / Electro-Acoustic Orchestra @ Array Space, Toronto

October – Real Virtuality: Electro-Acoustic Orchestra in telematic performance with Stream Ensemble (dir. Thomas Gerwin), Connecting DisPerSion Lab and Potsdam, Germany. Part of intersonanzen, Brandenburg New Music Festival.

July –  International Conference on Movement and Computing (MOCO)
Intersubjective Soundings: Doug Van Nort (Soundpainting, MYO-based Sound Transformation) – Deptford Town Hall, Goldsmiths, London, UK with Electro-Acoustic Orchestra – DisPerSion Lab, Toronto

February – New Adventures in Sound Art’s Deep Wireless Festival @ DisPerSion Lab
Tele-Conduction: commissioned works for EAO by Glen Hall, Thomas Gerwin, Doug Van Nort and Sarah Weaver.


November – John Driscoll (founding member of Composers Inside Electronics) / Electro-Acoustic Orchestra  @ DisPerSion Lab
November – EAO @ 416 Creative Improvisers Festival, Tranzac, Toronto.
May – Double-bill with Tout Croche  @ DisPerSion Lab
May – Hour-long set at International Society of Improvised Music (ISIM), Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, ON.


December 10th – EAO performing with guests Anne Bourne and Rick Sacks @ Array Space, Toronto
December 7th/8th – Electric Messiah at the Drake, produced by Soundstreams
November 12 – Debut performance, York Tribute Communities Recital Hall, with guest composer Margaret Schedel