Talking about SIME

SIME 2016rIn conversation with Maria Cristina Kasem and Ricardo Mandolini, artistic directors of the international electroacoustic festival SIME.

Asymmetry: The SIME festival (Semaine Internationale de la Musique Electroacoustique) has established itself as a very important festival in only a few short years. Can you say something about how it got started?

Ricardo Mandolini: The first SIME festival was in 2013. Originally an idea of M. Cristina Kasem’s, it consisted simply in using the installations of the University of Lille III to support a festival of electroacoustic music. Before 2013, these installations served exclusively for a week of exams. We had very good audio and performance equipment at our disposal, but we didn’t realize we could use that for other purposes than performing students’ music.

And this idea of Cristina’s worked perfectly. This is the fourth year of the SIME Festival, which gives a good continuity to our activities. The festival consists of an international colloquium during the morning where our invited personalities participate and concerts in the evening which exemplify what has been discussed in the morning. This year the subject of our Colloquium is “Composition électroacoustique en temps différé, instruments acoustiques, interactions” (Electroacoustic composition for pre-recorded sounds with acoustic instruments and interactive).

Apart from the works of our guests, we present six pieces throughout the week that have been selected from the electroacoustic music competition.

We like to present older submissions, too, giving new opportunities to creators to make their music known. That’s why this year we will be playing several finalist works from the SIME 2015 competition.

Asymmetry: Is the SIME festival for fixed media only, or do you also include EAI?

María Cristina Kasem: We try to concentrate on fixed media electroacoustic composition. Classic studio composition involves problematics of its own, totally different from interactive real time realisations. In the classic studio electroacoustic, the interaction with the acoustic instrument is illusory, because the electroacoustic support does not change. What are the principles of this illusion? How do interpreters manage to synchronize and produce the feeling of interaction? These are some of the questions our Colloquium will try to address.

Of course there are many forms of complementarity between fixed media and real time, interactive procedures. But this is should be the subject of our next Colloquium in 2017.

Asymmetry: Tell me more about the electroacoustic music competition. This is a new addition to the festival, right?

Kasem: Yes. The competition dates from last year, and its objectives are to promote electroacoustic music production and give the biggest publicity we can to creators. As composers ourselves, we know exactly what young composers need: promotion, relationships with other sound creators or artists in general, and recognition from a specialized jury. We wanted our competition to be very serious and impartial, so we chose people for the jury from different regions and cultural backgrounds. We hope that this will help to diversify the aesthetic possibilities for composers.

This year’s jury was composed of Michael Obst (Germany), Natasha Barrett (England/Norway), Patrick Kosk (Finland), José Augusto Mannis (Brazil), George Brunner (USA), Ricardo de Armas (Argentine), Diego Losa (Argentina/France), and André Dion (France). As the promoters of SIME 2016, Ricardo and I decided not be part of the jury, and there is no pre-selection of works, meaning that the jury must hear and evaluate all the submissions (about 135 from 35 different countries). These two conditions assure that the results will be impartial.

Asymmetry: So does SIME get all its funding from the university?

Kasem: Yes, and this is a serious problem for the survival of this project. We need more money, for example, to establish a 1st and 2nd prize for our competition! That’s why we have created the Univers Sonores Parallèles, an association for soliciting institutional subventions, making SIME more independent from Lille III.

Mandolini: We intend, however, to continue our promotion of electroacoustic music by all the means we can. Univers Sonores Parallèles will lead to the organisation of new concerts all over the Region Nord Pas-de-Calais, at first, and eventually all of France. We certainly have enough material to perform–we have received about 400 pieces already for the two international competitions we have held so far.

As a composer with a long experience in the electroacoustic field and also as a professor of electroacoustic music composition at the University Lille III, I can affirm that the worst enemy of a young composer is loneliness. Nowadays it is not wise to remain isolated, and when we have through the Net extremely powerful ways for communicating, it is also not necessary. The number of letters I have received from young composers eager to have some orientation makes me think it would be useful to open a page on-line to receive music from them and give them my ideas about aesthetics, form, technique or whatever.

Another idea, related with this, is to realize a collective composition with some young composers, producing a sort of bonsai in a creative dialog, if you understand what I mean. I am sure that this praxis is the best pedagogic orientation.

This same page may work as a planetary forum of exchange and discussion between composers, centralizing information about festivals, competitions, commands, grants, and so forth. All the realities of life as a creative artist.

Asymmetry: SIME is quite inclusive, too. One thing I have noticed about the festival is that there are a lot more women involved than in other electroacoustic music festivals. That is by design, isn’t it?

Kasem: Yes, you’re right. We pay particular attention to include woman composers in the different editions of SIME. The situation of the woman composer in general and in the field of electroacoustic music in particular is still very disadvantageous.

Although there are so many good women composers, composing music continues to be seen as a man’s activity. It seems that women must always keep proving how good they are, through prizes, diplomas, concerts and just generally having a noticeable professional background. But it’s never enough!

Asymmetry: I have heard it said that women always have to bring their “A-game.” Men could offer second and third-rate work without fear of rejection, but that is a luxury women have never had. Even the IMEB festival from Bourges, in whose footsteps SIME seems to be following, was not entirely successful at achieving a good balance in this regard, though they did manage to encourage electroacoustic music in almost every country in the world.

Mandolini: We do try to follow their heroic example, and the time tell if we can maintain the ideals we share with them as well as making the gender situation more balanced.

Asymmetry: When is the festival this year? Or I should say, where can people go on-line to find out about the festival, where it takes place and when.

Mandolini: We will very soon publish the festival’s program in SIME’s page:

In the meantime we can say that SIME 2016 takes place the 20th, 21st , and 22nd of April, at the University of Lille III. The activities begin on the 20th from 9h to 12h with the opening of our International Colloquium, (Salle de Colloques, Maison de la Recherche.)

The inaugural concert will take place the same day at 18h (Kino) where we will present a very accurate diffusion of electroacoustic music in almost all its forms (octophony, quadrophony, stereo pieces, video, mixed music with acoustic instruments). After this concert we invite our guests to a welcome buffet, where it will be possible for the public to meet the creators and interpreters.

On the 21st, the colloquium continues from 09h to 12h (Salle 042, Maison de la Recherche). This day we will produce two concerts: the first one “in memoriam Lucien Goethals” will take place from 15h to 16.30h (Kino). The second concert follows at 17.30h.

On the 22nd we repeat the same morning schedule and at 15h (Kino) will be the last concert of SIME 2016.

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