Musicologist Alexa Woloshyn writes, in the prologue to her book, An Orchestra at my Fingertips, “I first heard about the Canadian Electronic Ensemble (CEE) during the first year of my PhD program at the University of Toronto, when I was roommates with founding member David Jaeger’s daughter, Anna. Knowing that I was far from my family back in Saskatoon, David and his wife Sally hosted me several times during that first year. Our friendship was established, and I continued to stop by a few times a year during the remainder of my doctoral studies.” A few lines later, she adds, “I knew David first as a composer and producer, but I soon began to understand another significant activity of his: The Canadian Electronic Ensemble, the live electronic group he co-founded in 1972 and continues to participate in to today.”
A number of years later, Dr. Woloshyn, now an associate professor of musicology at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) reached a remarkable achievement: the completion and publication of a history of the CEE, the above mentioned An Orchestra at my Fingertips. The McGill-Queens University Press publication took many years to complete, with extensive consultation, interviews, research and listening preceding the writing.
In early 2022 Dr. Woloshyn organized a week-long residency for the CEE to visit the campus of Carnegie-Mellon University, where the members of the group gave lectures on and demonstrations of their artistic practice, and they rehearsed and performed in concert with the resident student live electronic group at CMU, the Exploded Ensemble. Dr. Woloshyn also organized a hybrid symposium in October of that year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the CEE.
On October 19th 2023, a public event was held at the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) in Toronto, to officially launch the publication of An Orchestra at my Fingertips. The members of the CEE performed two works of improvised live electronic music, Dr. Woloshyn spoke about her experiences during the long process of writing the book and the collective company shared memories of CEE over its long history.
Sally Jaeger has offered the following additional personal perspective:
“The CEE was newly formed by the four original members, David Jaeger, David Grimes, Larry Lake and Jim Montgomery, in 1971, and their first concert was in 1972, after my arrival in Toronto as a newlywed to David.
“There are so many stories I could tell you about the CEE: a great range and variety of rehearsal spaces, sometimes in wacky old buildings, concerts, tours, parties, learning to drink whiskey, and a general time of discovery and adventure.
“When you do what you love, day after day, year after year, and then suddenly you realize 50 years have passed, it makes you think ‘wow, did we really do all that?’
“The fact that Alexa has captured so beautifully the history of the CEE is a great achievement, joy, an honor and a very emotional experience for me, one who has been there almost every step of the way.”