The Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival will return to Richmond for its eighth year this weekend.

This two-day festival explores both the electroacoustic tradition's variety and its connection to past musical practices, according to the event's Web site, and is devoted to introducing new works through commissions and premieres.

Benjamin Broening, associate professor of music and the event's artistic director, founded Third Practice and has been involved with the festival ever since.

There was a void in electroacoustic music throughout the Richmond area, he said, and this event has offered the opportunity for people to get more regional exposure to the industry.

Broening described electroacoustic music as a genre that presented music involving various degrees of technology - there could be pieces for instruments, computer, video, invented instruments or a mixture of any of these things.

Since its first year, Third Practice has grown from a two-concert event to one that features anywhere between five and seven concerts during a two-day period.

Staff from the music department and the Modlin Center for the Arts put on the entire festival. There will be five concerts this year, all of which will be free and open to the public and will take place in Camp Concert Hall on Nov. 7 and 8.

The performers and composers featured in this year's program include ensemble-in-residence eighth blackbird, Estonian composer Toivo Tulev, Ken Ueno, Lina Bahn, Richmond alumnus Chris Chandler and others.

For the past four to five years, Broening has chosen the material for Third Practice and collected it from various festivals and concerts he has attended around the world. He said people had also sent him recordings, and he tried to bring a good mix to campus each year.

"I try to find a balance of style - serious versus non-serious, video and no video," Broening said. "It's a very complicated blending process."

Eighth blackbird performs at the festival each year. This year, the group will be featured during Saturday evening's program with its performance of Tulev's electroacoustic composition commissioned by Third Practice.

There is an overall Estonian theme for this concert, Broening said. This is the only concert this year with a specific theme, which differs from some years past when the entire festival had been focused on a single overarching theme.

Festival organizers also try to include the work of current students and alumni each year, Broening said, and this year will showcase pieces composed by two current students and an alumnus.

"They stack up well against what people are doing out there [in the industry]," he said.

Chandler, a 2008 graduate, will be performing his nine-and-a-half minute piece titled "the resonance after..." Chandler has been working part-time in the music department as a music technology specialist since graduation.

This is his fourth year involved with the technical aspect of Third Practice, and the first year his own work will be presented. He was previously a technical assistant and worked to ensure that things functioned and flowed well and were fully set up for the event, he said. This year, there were six technical assistants who have helped put the event together.

"It's really fun just to be involved and put it all together," Chandler said. "When it's all over you're like, 'Wow, I did that.'"

He received a fellowship for the summer of 2007 and took that time to stay in Richmond and work on the acoustics for the piece he will perform Friday afternoon.

Chandler worked on this part of the piece for a large portion of his senior year before deciding to add electronics. The piece begins with very sharp, direct "attacks," he said, and the resonance of the instruments is left behind.

"It's a chance to have other people hear [the composition] and get feedback," he said.

After this event, Chandler's piece will be performed in February by eighth blackbird and be accompanied by the University Dancers.

Third Practice gets a lot of recognition in the electroacoustic industry, Broening said, and people come from the Richmond community and all over the world.

"It brings something to the cultural life of the department," he said.

A few of the festival's notable attendees in the past have been electroacoustic composers Mario Davidovsky, who was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his electroacoustic composition, and Paul Connolly, whose composition has been used for some of Radiohead's songs, Broening said.

Broening recommended both the eighth blackbird concert and Friday evening's concert, which will include the premiere of Ueno's commissioned piece played by Bahn, a violinist.

Putting the event together was a collaborative effort that took months of preparation. Broening said he had finalized much of this year's program between July and August, and had already begun planning for the 2009 and 2010 shows.

Contact staff writer Jessie Murray at jessica.murray@richmond.edu