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Ana Dall'Ara-Majek

Visiting professor of digital music

An encounter with Ana Dall’Ara-Majek, visiting professor of digital music at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Music.

  • Could you talk to us about your background?

As a child I played piano and harp. And later on I sang in bands. Electroacoustic creation came along thanks to the discovery in particular of the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s work Gesang der Jünglinge and the Björk album Homogenic. I wanted to dig right in. When I joined Christine Groult’s electroacoustic composition class at the Conservatoire de Pantin I felt at home right away. I was fascinated by the proximity with the sound material during recording sessions and by the fact of being able to free oneself from the mechanical logics of the physical world to produce one’s own sounds based on electricity. Today I play the augmented theremin! I use that instrument as a gesture interface that controls computer-generated sounds. This allows me to reconcile the “physical” side of the performance and the “supernatural” side of electroacoustics. There’s something magical that emerges from it; the possibilities are immense!

  • Could you tell us about a concert, exhibition or conference experience that was memorable?

The multidisciplinary artist Ryoji Ikeda’s survey exhibition at the PHI Foundation in Montréal in 2012 was my first contact with radically digital and glitch esthetics. That was when I realized to what extent data flows are anchored in our existence. It was like discovering a parallel world that nevertheless had been right in front of me from the outset! There were billions of numbers there busy circulating, teeming, generating beeps and clicks in a strange insect language, creating inside a chaotic effervescence of incredibly organized shapes: I was dumbfounded. It was after that visit that I truly turned in the direction of digital and that I began to combine my passion for insects with music. There was truly a before and after.

  • In what way have the directives surrounding COVID-19 modified your way of teaching? Do you see any positive effects in it?

The confinement intensified certain forms of communication. In my case I was lucky, because the content of my courses was relatively easy to adapt online. The true challenge was to preserve a human experience with students despite the screens in between us. More than usual we shared our experiences, our concerns and our solutions to motivate ourselves in spite of the loss of bearings. I found students to be truly brave in dealing with the situation. I wonder quite a bit about how to make the experience even more absorbing. I think of the form of video games or role-playing games. You can spend hours playing them without realizing it, it occurs to me.

November 2020