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AES President Agnieszka Roginska Discusses Diversity, Immersive Audio, COVID-19

31/03/2020

AES president Roginska discusses diversity, immersive audio and COVID-19 By David Davies

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 11:52

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A week in pro-audio can be a long time - especially when a global pandemic is beginning to assert its influence on everyone's daily lives. At the time of SVG Europe's conversation with new AES president Agnieszka Roginska, Prolight + Sound had just been postponed - it has since been cancelled outright until 2021.

Agnieszka Roginska: One of the really positive aspects of the last few years is that the age range is getting young and younger

The NAB Show is among the other major industry events to have fallen victim to COVID19, while registration for the Vienna AES Europe convention in late May has been suspended - although at time of writing, the event had not actually been postponed or cancelled. Increasingly stringent controls imposed on sizes of gathering may soon mean that no trade events are possible for many months. Whatever the immediate future brings, Roginska is certain that the industry has been right to err on the side of caution to date.

COVID-19 is a virus that we are still learning more about. So I think it is absolutely correct for everyone to be vigilant and prudent, she said. Of course, it's also important that we shouldn't be driven by fear, but cautious and carefully thought-through decisions that protect the health of the public are clearly [the best way forward].

With regard to AES' own schedule, Roginska confirmed that discussions have been taking place several times each day as to the viability of the Vienna convention and other planned events. We are in close and continuing contact with industry partners and our representatives. We are monitoring the situation and considering all options and will make a final decision about Vienna in the near-future, she said.

As global markets undergo the kind of tumult unseen since the dark days of the 2008 crash, it's impossible not to be concerned about the long-term economic impact. Many businesses are likely to collapse or at least be forced to downsize in the months ahead, and Roginska does not downplay the scale of the challenges that may lie ahead: The longer this goes on, the greater the impact is going to be on the entire supply chain. Situations of this kind are always going to be extremely difficult for individuals and companies alike, and it's something of which [the AES] is very mindful.

Enhancing communication

Listening and providing guidance to AES members will be critically important in the months ahead, so it's fortunate that Roginska has already established that enhanced communication both within and without the organisation as one of the main objectives of her presidency.

We have been having a really productive period thinking about the general issues of accessibility and connectedness, and how we leverage some of the technologies available to allow us to experience an uninterrupted flow of communication, education and networking, she said.

Ideas are still formulating here, but Roginska ultimately envisages the development of a better platform that makes it easier for members to connect with each other, regardless of whether it's at conference events or online. There are tremendous resources of knowledge [within our membership] and I would like to further develop the means by which we share expertise.

Roginska's emphasis on the dissemination of information is unsurprising given her own

(L/R) Then AES president-elect Agnieszka Roginska with president Nadja Wallaszkovits, secretary Valerie Tyler and executive director Colleen Harper during AES New York 2019

distinguished career in academia. She currently holds two positions at New York University - vice-chair of the Music and Performing Arts Professions Department and professor of Music Technology - and in the latter role is currently conducting research into the simulation and application of immersive and 3D audio, including the capture, analysis and synthesis of auditory environments, auditory displays and applications in augmented acoustic sensing.

She has also written or contributed to publications about the acoustics and psychoacoustics of immersive audio and auditory displays, and is co-editor of the recently published book Immersive Sound: The Art and Science of Binaural and Multi-Channel Audio'.

Her involvement with AES has been similarly productive. She is currently celebrating her 20th year as an AES member and has served on the AES executive committee and board of directors, the AES Educational Foundation, and the committees for Awards, Conference Policy, Education, Laws & Resolutions, and Diversity & Inclusion. Of course, the last-named subject has been a major focus for the last few presidents, and Roginska is enthusiastic about making further progress during her term.

We have come a long way as an organisation, she said, and you can see this in the fact that we now have a 50-50 gender balance at the highest levels of the association: four female and four male directors. [Moving forward] we are continuing to take steps that mean we improve representation and diversity across our organisation - and when I say diversity', I mean that in its fullest sense, including bringing emerging audio fields and more diverse genres [into the fold].

Last year's US Convention marked a decisive step forward in this regard with extensive sessions on EDM and hip-hop. These proved hugely popular with the student participants of the convention, who helped curate their own track of competitions, mentoring and Student Delegate Assembly meetings across all four days of AES Conventions.

In addition, high school teenage attendees visiting on the Schools Day had the opportunity to find out more about the recording and mixing of these genres and w
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