The 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) 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 gesture-based real-time composition in combination with a growing repertoire of pre-composed structures that are fluidly traversed and integrated spontaneously during performance. The gestural-compositional conducting language used with the group draws upon Van Nort's experience in electroacoustic improvisation and its unique approach to sound sculpting, shared signal manipulation, the distinct relationships to time/memory/causality that electronics afford, and works that integrate improvisation with pre-composed structures or generative systems. The language is built upon Soundpainting, with many modifications and additions for this project. It imports the same approach to composition and spontaneity which is to say, In the words of that 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 often involves members of the professional ensemble and guest performers, once the group is up and running.

thee Doug Van Nort Electro-Acoustic Orchestra, the professional and established group, which has now had a fixed membership over a longer time scale. This version emerged from the pandemic, integrating select long-term members coming out of the class-based version of the ensemble, with members of the international community of electro/acoustic improvisers (and notably, collaborators from the international Deep Listening community), via telematic connections.

These are both often colloquially referred to as “EAO”, and sometimes the latter group as “DVN-EAO”, to differentiate.

In practice, the course-based version 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. This also allows a pathway for students and any other performers who wish to take part to potentially joint the DVN-EAO.  The professional ensemble has converged to a much higher degree of refinement and specificity, with Van Nort able to compose more involved sonic structures that can be called upon and nonlinearly combined in performance, as well as much more “two-way mind reading” that happens in the moment.

Current members of DVN-EAO: Chris Anderson-Lundy, Tom Bickley, Viv Corringham, Björn Ericksson, Rory Hoy, Kathy Kennedy, Omar Shabbar, Danny Sheahan

Past members, EAO more broadly (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, Fern Gu, Glen Hall, Rory Hoy, Melanie Jagmohan, Ian Jarvis, Maximus Lam, 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, Xi Lu, Sam Mason, Mark Mcgugan, Caleb Martin, Matt Miller, Michael Palumbo, Shidsa Pourbakhsh, William Osmon, Ted Phillips, Diane Roblin, Taraneh Sanati, Fae Sirois, Sean Stover, Dan Tapper, Gayle Young, Adam Walters, Jacob Whitehead, Arthur Zhou.


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.

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