Sonology Course Offerings for Free Electives / Minor

The Minor offered by the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague consists of separate modules in the field of electronic music production, algorithmic composition, sound analysis and synthesis, sound perception, aesthetics of electronic music, spatial reproduction and live electronic music. The subjects can be followed individually and in any order. When at least 18 study points have been earned following courses from the offerings of the Institute of Sonology, this qualifies as a Sonology Minor. All courses in the Sonology Minor programme are in English. The courses can be selected through the electives pages of the Royal Conservatoire.

The Institute of Sonology offers the following courses as electives:

Aesthetics & Performance in Electronic Music  Joel Ryan

Electronic music is perhaps the only music to emerge without a performance practice. Although this is no longer the case, basic issues remain in dispute such as whether it is in fact possible to make music without reference to the act of performance. The paradigm of music creation has been under strain since the invention of recording; it is now cracked and, as a result, it is not always possible to make a clear distinction between concepts like author, score, copy, interpretation.
We therefore need to ask whether we need totally new concepts, or is the break with the past greatly exaggerated; what is the concrete connection between electronic and modern western art music. Is the purpose of music to give pleasure? Is listening a solitary activity?

Composing with Algorithms — Bjarni Gunnarsson

This course provides an introduction to algorithmic composition, its applications, history and implementation. Students will learn to program sound, control and musical behaviour. Topics such as using probabilities, generative algorithms, complex systems and selection principles will be presented. Each of these will cover technique but also practical applications and musical examples. The course uses the SuperCollider environment as well as providing short presentations of other platforms.

Digital Studio Introduction — Johan van Kreij
 3 ECTS (beginning 1st semester)

The basic tools for contemporary electroacoustic music production are a computer, a digital mixing desk and multiple loudspeakers. This course provides an introduction to working with a digital mixing desk and a number of standard sound production computer programs. Typical practices in a digital studio are explained, such as music production, recording and live performance.

Field Recording / Phonography — Justin Bennett
 4 ECTS (workshop in the springtime)

Field recording is a useful technique for gathering material for electroacoustic music and sound-art, but can also be seen as an artistic practice in its own right. The course includes lectures, guided recording and listening sessions, individual recording sessions according to a set task, group discussions and a group presentation. Field Recording encompasses listening analytically to and recording in urban and natural environments. The course focuses particularly on notions of space, place and mobility in connection with binaural and/or ambisonic techniques. Students are encouraged to explore diverse theoretical frameworks and aesthetic approaches to using sound recordings as a musical and artistic material.

History of Contemporary Music Composition — Gabriel Paiuk and guests
 2 ECTS (2nd semester)

This course gives the student a chance to explore in detail many of the main currents and counter-currents of thought and practice in composed music since the Second World War. We will discuss the aesthetics, the compositional techniques and the career histories of many of the most influential artists who came to prominence in these decades. The ways in which western compositional traditions have enriched themselves through encounters with other art forms, non-traditional notations, and with jazz, various forms of popular music, electronic music and the music of other traditions, will be important themes throughout. We will look at the writing and the scores of a range of significant creative musicians from the late 1940s to the present and listen closely to recordings of their work.

Live Electronic Music — Johan van Kreij 6 ECTS

The aim of this course is to put improvisation with electronic musicians and traditional instrumentalists into practice. Various kinds of improvisation are analysed, and the ways that electronic processes have influenced thoughts about improvisation are discussed. At some point, the group will be split up into smaller improvising groups. A final presentation will be organised in the form of a concert at the end of the course.

MIDI Instrument Design — Frank Baldé
 4 ECTS (workshop in the fall)

Participants learn how to design a new electronic musical instrument and to program it for the purposes of a performance. The point of departure is STEIM’s junXion hardware/software package, comprising a sensor interface to which various sensors can be connected, and the junXion software, which can translate and process the sensor data into MIDI or OSC messages. The participants will also learn how to use this package together with STEIM’s live sampling software, LiSa.

Music and Time — Joel Ryan 3 ECTS                                                   

The use of digital and analogue electronics has presumably changed our relation to time in music, and the relation of technique to content is a puzzling one. As electronic musicians we therefore have to examine some basic questions: Can we learn to perceive time in a different way; can we imagine a sound we have never heard before; is time in music the same as time in nature; how does our perception of time relate to time measured by a physical process; is counting the same as measuring duration?
During the course, ideas drawn from traditional music, natural processes, mathematics and cognitive science will be examined as inspiration for a new theory of time and representation in music. 
Students who follow this course will gain an insight into number theory, adaptive systems, generative grammar, linear and non-linear dynamics and the phenomenology of time perception.

Physical Models and Analysis/Re-synthesis 1 — Peter Pabon

The central topic of this course is the liaison that perception has with the spectral and physical representations of a sound. A sound can be analysed and exactly resynthesised from its spectrum with the so-called Fourier Model, which presents a series of interesting and characteristic processing options. The sound qualities that come out of this model do not necessarily represent the familiar physicality that perception expects from acoustical sounds. The predisposition of perception to listen for those acoustical markers that define a sound production mechanism triggered an interest in a different synthesis technique called Physical Modelling. Here, vibrating masses coupled together by springs that undergo frictional forces are the modelled abstractions, which can be implemented in real-time too.

Psychoacoustics — Bert Kraaijpoel

Psychoacoustics describes the relation between sound as we perceive it and sound as a physical fact. The lessons address four areas: perception of loudness, pitch and timbre, directional hearing, and an introduction to Auditory Scene Analysis.

Real-time Processes with Max/MSP — Johan van Kreij
 7 ECTS (starts after the Digital Studio Introduction course ends)

Max is a programming tool that is relatively easy to learn, and it is especially suitable for creating and exploring real-time generative processes and the interaction with them. In Max, such processes can be defined as data streams or as audio generating structures. The aim is to research musicality in the interaction, and to define personal approaches and methods. The course starts with a brief introduction to the basics of Max.

Richard Barrett Lectures

The lectures form a comprehensive individual view of a variety of interconnected issues of musical composition: the evolutionary origins of music and their implications for thinking about compositional parameters, the nature and scope of musical structures, improvisation as a method of composition, relationships and combinations between acoustic and electronic music on both conceptual and practical levels, and so on, illustrated with examples from a wide historical and geographical range as well as from Richard Barrett’s own ideas as expressed through his work as composer and performer.

Signals and Systems 1 and 2 — Peter Pabon
 6 + 6 ECTS

These classes are designed to provide a solid background for dealing practically with the physical and mathematical representations of sound signals and sound processing systems. The course treats standard topics like the decibel, sampling, fundamental periodicity and the build-up of acoustical wave fields. By the end of the first year, student will have an in-depth understanding of the Fourier Transform. In part 2, attention shifts to system characterisation and the concepts of filtering, convolution, impulse response measurement, nonlinear systems and modulation techniques.

Sonology Electroacoustic Ensemble — Richard Barrett
 ECTS varies on the basis of participation

The Sonology Electroacoustic Ensemble (SEE) consists of an alternating line-up of between five and fifteen performers of both acoustic instruments/voices and live electronics, most of whom are students at the Institute of Sonology, although the SEE is also open to musicians from throughout the Conservatoire, and indeed outside it. The ensemble has also given workshops and performances with guest musicians including Evan Parker, Peter Evans and Sarah Nicolls. Its work is based on a structural-compositional approach to freely improvised music, bringing together players/composers from diverse stylistic backgrounds to create a composite personality which is recreated in a novel way for each performance. SEE appears regularly at Sonology concerts and other events at the Conservatoire, and in June 2014 performed three times in Amsterdam as part of the Holland Festival.

Sound and Space — Raviv Ganchrow

Sound and Space is a seminar exploring interconnections between modes of sonic attention and concepts of space. The seminar is grouped around the themes of echo, resonance and oscillation, providing a cross-disciplinary reading of developments in spatial composition, sound art, audio technologies and architectural acoustics. The course covers examples from a broad range of sources serving to highlight distinctive correlations between epistemologies of sound and ontologies of space and place.

Voltage Control Techniques — KeesTazelaar

The methods used in the Institute of Sonology’s analogue studio are inseparably linked to a serial approach to composition. Whereas with serially composed instrumental music the musical dimensions such as pitch, duration and dynamics are treated as separate parameters, with serial electronic music the sound is also broken down according to various parameters. While that is a fairly abstract phenomenon in computer music, in an analogue studio the parameters of sound structures are visible and tangible: the individual ‘modules’ of the analogue system have specific functions that are combined into a greater whole by means of control voltage. The links between the modules are not programmed but created physically with cables on a patch board. The planning and analysis of such configurations is the main subject of the lessons in the analogue studio.