Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Select elite cults of the world, Part 1 – Acoustic Ecology

It’s funny what you find when you look up the loose threads of a Gen X public individual’s existence on the net. There aren’t many of them of course, and of those that there are, most are narrow specialists in their public profile (e.g. sports figures).

No plodding specialist is Melbourne composer and arts czar Jonathan Mills – most freshly famous for making today’s “Smart 100 Australians” list. My curiosity was piqued by the list’s brief bio of him:

Jonathan Mills, director of two Melbourne festivals, and professor in environmental acoustics at RMIT

Knowing a bit about RMIT (and much more about the abysmal state of Australian academia), I was intrigued – Australia has very few professors under the age of 40; and what was “environmental acoustics”, anyway?

Sadly for me (hoping for a true Gen X success story), Jonathan turns out to be an adjunct professor only. Which title (in Australia, but not the US) means little, if anything, in terms of academic achievement. Worse, a similar zero seems to attach to the whole discipline of “environmental acoustics”, or its synonym (at least in Jonathan Mills’s case) “acoustic ecology”.

For an organisation only founded in 1993, Jonathan has indeed been at its very leading edge, having been an Australian delegate to the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology between 1991 and 1996.

With the grandly-titled World Forum apparently having hit Melbourne earlier this year, I expected to find a lot of local coverage of the event. Alas – only one internet record of the March 2003 festivities seems to have been made (ironically enough, as a passing reference in a blog!). No word, however, on what contributions local-boy Jonathan may have made to the event. Perhaps he was tied up in one of those pesky culture-industry board meetings he is forever getting dragooned into.

The final piece of the Jonathan Mills and “acoustic ecology” jigsaw is here. Nigel Frayne, a Melbourne-based “sound designer” (and, judging by his quote “sound recording is not the main focus of our business”, general wanker), turns out to be “chair of the board of the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology and the president of the affiliated group in Australia”. In other words, Jonathan Mills’s mate, and vice versa.

Acoustic ecology – nice prestige bludge if you can get it.

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