Research


Research is a systematic investigation of some aspect of thought or reality which leads to transferable knowledge. 
In artistic research, this knowledge, embedded in compositional or performative work, may be expressed through diverse media, including but not confined to written text.

 

Guzmán Calzada (1st-year master's)

With site-specific locations in mind, I am expanding the aural conception of what a room is and how it operates. As a general strategy, I plan to understand acoustic spaces as energetic places, locations with inherent autobiographies that can be manifested by articulating and uttering their resonances. This primarily occurs when working with room reverberation and electromagnetic activity, and by even exciting objects which inhabit a room through different vibrational methods. Within this framework, a piece of music may stand as a sort of adaptive sculpture, articulating a room’s history.

One branch of my research focuses on electroacoustic pieces for specific venues, working with audio sources that trigger fixed oscillators when they have certain coincidences in their frequency spectrum. These electronic instruments or a particular audio source are related to a venue by both expressing a perspective of their acoustic-physical properties and their poetic dimensions. While another branch of my work, involves approaching the process described above by filtering and re-synthesizing an original audio source, where transformations of a musical or audio source can be understood by the way in which a room affects them. 

Practically, investigating this will involve realizing several solo and ensemble pieces — ones that directly emerge from different filtering and re-synthesizing of audio and also graphic sources (e.g. scores). Overall, I expect this project to address notions of how understanding a space can reveal many different spheres of meaning. 

 

Tony Guarino (1st-year master's)

Practicing percussion tunes our experience of vibrant, graspable [things] in the world. They appear charged with instrumentality, reflecting our compositional aims and tactile fluency.  However, this projected musicalization may restrict the potential agency of objects we find.

By prolonging periods of experimentation — suspending crystallization — we can unearth distinct relationships to materials beyond timbral extraction.

Objects then take the lead while remaining vitally rooted in their found situation or purpose. Gradually, site-specific performances, installations, and document-artifacts emerge through these personal moments of discovery.

Each work requires particular methods for transferring energy between assembled elements.  To expand upon conventional percussion techniques, I develop indirect approaches (electrostatic conduction, wind-powered resonance, rain collection, etc.) to facilitate negotiations between intended action and material response.  Railings, glass bottles, and office trays become animated associates that inform rhythmic, spatial, and formal decisions.

Participants are invited to slip through their immediate identification of the sounding object and remain continuously attentive to intersensorial differences. Attempting to comprehend the totality of each social-material-acoustic encounter generates unique states of dissociative listening.  My intention is to tune into this affective exchange between cooperative bodies — recalibrating the experience of a beach, a city street, a concert hall.

 

Eunji Kim (1st-year master's)

Given that computer games are being highlighted as a platform that can be used with interactive media, I am proceeding with research examining connections between the hierarchical nature of such games and their similarity to many examples of algorithmic art. Algorithms used in computer games reveal a hierarchy, where the control of a system manages objects and records data associated with these objects. In short, I see a similarity between many of the algorithms used in games and those I use to make my own algorithmic music. Thus, I believe it is possible to switch the systems used in a game and turn them into a musical composition; thereby allowing musical parameters to be derived from numeric data of game objects.

My compositional approach, uses algorithms to make it possible to get rid of the fixed idea of the musical work. The algorithm, when seen through an art game, presents a model that determines how to generate sound textures in real time. Designing musical textures in this way means that one algorithm can make thousands of potential choices. This does however mean that the type of data used as input has a massive impact on the generated music. Also, when using rapidly changing data, it is necessary to arrange the movements of data in appropriate sound movements (a similar type of data processing seen in the area of sonification).

I am additionally trying to deal with data that is not a part of commercial games. For instance, I want to visualize various types of data that can be encountered in real-life; designing a model that allows users to play with data and to convert it into artistic output. The aim of this is to allow the user/audience to more actively interact with musical works, making it possible to manipulate music, by adding ‘time’ as a dimension. This area of appreciation can also be extended by adding a dimension of ‘direct experience’, whereby the audience(user) can directly manipulate the music.

 

Atte Olsonen (1st-year master's)

For the purpose of making sound design and stage performances, I am researching the concepts of presence of mind and listening as a compositional strategy. This research delves into how active listening and having an acute awareness of a present moment can be used to reform sound design. Ultimately sound design can then become a more fluid, dynamic, reactive, and even a central or leading part of a performance.

Presence exists in moments where the performer is aware of the current situation of a performance—following her/his co-performers closely, knowing what are the possible paths that can be proposed with the individual output and then just feeling what is the right thing to do next. This experience can be referred to as a kind of flow experience: a non-verbal connection with both the performing team and the space the performance takes place in; a state of mind where decisions happen more intuitively than at a conscious level.

My research takes form in practical trials where these different modes of presence of mind and listening as a compositional strategy are applied to my creative process. The theoritical aspect of this research therefore combines theatre research, sound studies, studies in improvisation, dsp-coding, phenomenology and the philosophy of presence.

 

Simone Sacchi (1st-year master's)

“Can you hear that?” — Amplifying Discreet Sounds for Live Performances and Installations

Technology allows us to extend the limits of human senses and my research aims to give the listener a new perspective on what can be perceived aurally. In essence, my work builds out of this interest by exploring soundscapes generated by electromagnetic fields. However, my current research extends this by bringing the act of hearing into the realm of the “microscopic” — vis-à-vis rescaling the amplitude of hidden sounds, ranging from almost imperceptible ones to those that are truly inaudible.


My present work exists in categories where I either work with a variety of materials as well as living beings and mechanical objects (i.e. animals, humans and plants, or machinery such as recording devices and studio equipment). Additionally, I plan to work with musicians who will prepare performances for “mute instruments”. The latter refers to when only the tiniest sounds of instruments and performers' movements (or their bodies) are amplified. This approach gives the audience an idea of what happens inside an instrument, even while it is not being played. 

The micro-scale in sound is attributed to the time domain, yet there is another side of this scale to consider; in this respect my work originates from sounds that are on the verge of the audible, encouraging the listener to hear fainter and fainter sounds by using different and unorthodox technological approaches for microphoning and amplifying. Consequently, my work also focuses on minimising the noise-floor and avoiding unwanted feedback in order to explore different ambiences and materials.


I plan to use the above strategies for installations, where discreet sounds occur all the time despite our senses being able to perceive them. In this sense, installations can be understood as sound lenses for examining intimate worlds we cannot normally access. For example, a miniature anechoic chamber may act as a controlled environment from which sounds can be projected into the external world.

 

Jad Saliba (1st-year master's)

My present research primarily builds upon experiments with circuit-bending radios. A central focus of this involves a live performance setup made out of several receivers and transmitters continually interfering with one another to generate new sounds. This includes discovering new random combinations of inharmonic tones whose frequency spectrum shifts completely when modifying the tuning frequency of a given radio as well as employing micro samples of local radio broadcasts. However, these sonic processes or results are not solely dependent on the idiosyncratic elements of a circuit, as electromagnetic transmissions in the microenvironment inherently have an effect.

My initial reasoning for wanting to use circuit bending was inspired by the unpredictability of radio sonic artifacts emerging in the frequency band between stations. Likewise the intricate sound patterns evolving from static noise frequently feature abstract voices in the background. These qualities are often heard on shortwave transmissions, long distance AM broadcasts, and other types of radio satellite broadcasts. However, tweaking into these frequencies/artifacts is largely dependent on ecological factors such as weather, natural sunlight, and electromagnetic interferences—as these factors all shape the final result of the information received.

 

Ernests Vilsons (1st-year master's)

Birds. Thousands of different species, their songs and calls varying in kind and complexity. Both within the individual acts of vocalization and in the way these vocalizations succeed one another, patterns can be observed. Bird vocalizations are produced within and are influenced by their immediate environment – flora, fauna, light, wind, etc., they are a means of communication. But from the recognition of bird vocalizations as fascinating sonic structures, to composition of sound and its organization that would derive from them, a series of intermediary steps are to be taken. My research is concerned with these ‘intermediary steps’ as much as with bird vocalizations.

The research originates within the aural, within the experiential. Hearing as a mode of being, from which a network of relations unfold to become re-contextualised, taken apart, qualified. Through this unfolding, the aural — the fleeting origin — is exceeded while being preserved in the unfolded; a temporary move away from hearing/listening to their ‘product’ — the actions (analysis, classification, re-synthesis, etc.) and material reconfigurations (recordings, scores, programs, etc.) they instigate.

Analysis and formalization as a reduction of sound (birdsong) to a limited amount of parameters; a reduction that eventually will determine the synthesis of the imitation. The parameter space, shaped by, yet not limited to, that which is analyzed and formalized, provides a possibility for gradated movement away from the object of analysis (a specific birdsong) toward sound structures that are situated anywhere between close resemblance to the object represented and a complete non-resemblance.

Through the research, a limit of imitation is pursued. A double endeavour: a striving to become birdsong without becoming a bird, and a reflection on the abundance of by-products (ideas, experiences, insights, etc.) this striving generates.

 

Laura Agnusdei (2nd-year master’s)

Combining wind instruments and electronics within the timbral domain

My research at the Institute of Sonology is focused on composing with wind instruments and electronics. The starting point for this is my background as a saxophone player and my compositional process aims to enhance the timbral possibilities of my instrument, while still preserving its recognizability. In line with the artistic interest of blurring the perceptual distinction between acoustic and electronic sounds, I process acoustic sounds from my instrument using digital software like Spear, CDP and Cecilia – carefully selecting procedures based on analysis and resynthesis techniques. Furthermore, future developments of my project will lead me to work on different recordings techniques and to explore how the perception of wind instrument sounds can change on the basis of their position to a microphone and the space in which a recording takes place. 

Musical points of reference in my compositions are chosen from different contexts – such as free jazz, electroacoustic composers, experimental rock, and my interest in timbre has also encouraged me to explore many extended techniques on my instrument. Additionally, when composing for saxophone I consider the special position that instrument occupies in music history, straddling influences between Afroamerican culture, pop music and contemporary classical music. Aside from the saxophone however I plan to use other wind instruments for the sake of investigating their specific timbral peculiarities and how to use their sonorities in a personal way. 

More precisely, I am interested in working with acoustic instruments because of the possibilities they offer not only to timbre but also to expressiveness and how it is possible to translate this into the electronic domain. Therefore, my research will take place in the studio dimension as well as in live performance. The final outcome of my studies should be to incorporate discoveries I made mixing and processing into my live set. Moreover, in my improvisational practice (both solo and group) I want to expand my research in order to combine live processed sounds with purely acoustic ones as well as experimenting with different amplification techniques.

 

Görkem Arikan (2nd-year master's Instruments & Interfaces)

Interactive Chair: A Physical Interface for Live Electronic Music Performance

In live computer music, many remarkable works have been created that utilise new sound sources and digital sound synthesis algorithms. However, in live electronic music concerts, we may be encountering a lack of visual/physical feedback between the musical output and the performer, since looking at a screen doesn't really convey much to an audience about a performer’s actions. Therefore, in my concerts, I have been looking for ways to minimise the need to look at the screen by using various kind of setups, largely those consisting of MIDI controllers and sensor-based systems to transform physical acts into sound. 

At the Institute of Sonology, I am focusing on building an interactive system consisting of an office chair equipped with various sensors that provide the performer with the ability to emphasise their movements, specifically tilting, rotating and bouncing. Inevitably, a crucial part of the project is how I interpret these movements, which rely on mapping strategies as well as the quality and functionality of the sound engine. Overall, my goal is to design an interface mediating between the system and the performer in order to provide an expressive performance.

During my research I will explore prior studies and methodologies including sound synthesis techniques, digital signal processing algorithms, mapping strategies, micro-controller programming, wireless data-transfer techniques and devices, as well as the potential use of compatible sensors. Following the realisation of such a system I will conduct a user study and then discuss the results in the written part of my thesis (including its entire construction, a user evaluation, and future implementations of the system). 

The system will be presented in a public performance by a musician familiar with the system, in addition to an exhibition where the audience will have the opportunity to physically experiment with the system simply by sitting and moving in the chair.

 

Matthias Hurtl (2nd-year master’s)

DROWNING IN ÆTHER
software defined radio – a tool for exploring live performance and composition

In my practice I am often fascinated by activities happening in outer space. Currently, I am interested in the countless number of signals and indeterminate messages from many of the man-made objects discreetly surrounding us. Multitudes or satellites transmit different rhythms and frequencies, spreading inaudible and encoded messages into what was once known as the æther. Whether we hear them or not, such signals undeniably inhabit the air all around us. Radio waves, FM radio, WiFi, GPS, cell phone conversations, all of these signals remain unheard by human ears as they infiltrate our cities and natural surroundings. Occasionally though, such signals are heard by accident, emerging as a ghostly resonance, a silent foreign voice, or as something creating interference in our hi-fi systems. Yet aside from these accidental occurrences, tuning into these frequencies on purpose requires a range of tools, such as FM radios, smartphones, wireless routers and navigation systems. 

Presently, my research at the Institute of Sonology includes placing machine transmissions into a musical context, exploring what inhabits the mysterious and abstract substance once referred to as æther. This exploration fundamentally delves into how one might capture these bodiless sounds into a tangible system, so they can be transformed into frequencies like an oscillator or any other noise source. Additionally, I employ methods or indeterminacy; a methodology assisting the emergence of unforeseeable outcomes. Specifically, this includes using external parameters that engage with chance and affect details or the overall form of my work.

Principally, this research project will focus on grabbing sound out of thin air and using it in a performative setup or within a composition. I expect this to be concealed as possible, as well as concealed signals, as well as finding methods for listening to patterns in the static noise and using tools to generate sound in bursts of coded or scrambled signals.

 

Slavo Krekovic (2nd-year master's Instruments & Interfaces)

An Interactive Musical Instrument for an Expressive Algorithmic Improvisation

The aim of the research is to explore the design strategies for a touch-controlled hybrid (digital-analogue) interactive instrument for algorithmic improvisation. In order to achieve a structural and timbral complexity of the resulting sound output while maintaining a great degree of expressiveness and intuitive ‘playability’, possibilities of simulations of complex systems drawing inspiration from natural systems and their external influence via the touch-sensor input will be examined. The sound engine should take advantage of the specific timbral qualities of a modular hardware system, with an intermediate software layer capable of generating a complex, organic behaviour, influenced by a touch-based input from the player in real time. The system should manifest an ongoing approach of finding the balance between deterministic and more chaotic algorithmic sound generation in a live performance situation.

The research focuses on the following questions: What are the best strategies to design a ‘composed instrument’ capable of autonomous behaviour and at the same time being responsive to the external input? How to overcome the limitations of the traditional parameter control of hardware synthesizers? How to balance the deterministic and more unpredictable attributes of a gesture-controlled interactive music system for an expressive improvisation performance? The goal is to use the specific characteristics of various sound-generation approaches but to push their possibilities beyond the common one-to-one parameter-mapping paradigm, thus allowing a more advanced control leading to interesting musical results.

 

Hibiki Mukai (2nd-year master’s)

An Interactive and Generative System Based on Traditional Japanese Music Theory 

The origin of notation in western classical music. This meant that the score should be in a form that was easy for the general public to understand and also be passed on future generations. Since then, this western notation system has been widely used as a universal language throughout the world.However, its popularity does not mean that there is not a loss of important sonic information. In contrast, most traditional Japanese music was handed down to the next generation orally, but was also accompanied by original scores that conveyed subtle musical expressions. These 'companion scores' were written with graphical drawings and Japanese characters.

In my research at the Institute of Sonology, I plan to reinterpret traditional notation systems of Japan (ie Sho ̄ myo ̄ 声明 and Gagaku 雅 楽) and designing real-time interactive systems which analysis relationships between these scores and the vocal sounds made by performers. In doing this, I plan to generate that exists in digital form. This will allow me to control parameters such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics and articulation by analyzing intervals in real time. Furthermore, this research will culminate in using this system to realize a series of pieces for voice and western musical instruments (eg piano, guitar, harp) and live electronics.   

Overall, I believe it is possible to adapt this traditional Japanese music theory into a western system by using electronics as an intermediary that processes data. In addition, by re-inventing traditional Japanese notation I expect it to be easier to access expressive ideas in western notation. However, using this type of score I also aim at extending many of the techniques of western musicians and composers – designing an interactive relationships between instruments, the human voice, and the computer. 

 

Yannis Patoukas (2nd-year master’s)

Exploring Connections Between Electroacoustic Music and Experimental Rock Music of the Late 60s and early 70s

From the late 60s until the late 70s the boundaries of music genres and styles, including popular music, were blurred. This situation resulted from rapid and numerous socio-economic changes and an unpredicted upheaval in the music industry. Rock music, later renamed to “progressive rock” or “art rock”, separated itself aesthetically from “mass pop” and managed to blend art, avant-garde and experimental genres into one style. Also, the shift from just capturing the performance to using the recording as a compositional tool led to increasing experimentation that created many new possibilities for rock musicians.

Undoubtedly, many bands were aware of the experiments in electroacoustic music in the 1950s (elektronische Musikmusique concrète) and drew upon influences from the compositional techniques or avant-garde / experimental composers. However, many questions arise about why and how art rock was connected to experimental and avant-garde electroacoustic music; and secondly, whether it is possible to trace common aesthetic approaches and production techniques between the two genres.

My intention during my research at the Institute of Sonology is to elucidate and exemplify possible intersections between experimental rock and the field of electroacoustic music, especially in terms of production techniques and aesthetic approaches. The framework of this research will include a historical overview of the context that experimental rock emerged from, exploring why and how certain production techniques were used at that period in rock music, and investigating into whether the aesthetic outcome of these techniques relates to experiments in the field of electronic music.

Parallel to this theoretical research, I also plan to attempt a reconstruction of some production techniques which I will explore for the sake of developing my own aesthetic and compositional work. The driving force behind this type of reconstruction will include exploring tape manipulation, voltage control techniques, and their application to different contexts (such as fixed media pieces, live electronics and free improvisation).

 

Anna-Lena Vogt (2nd-year master's, double degree with TU Berlin)

Domestic Spatial Investigations: Expanding perception of Space through Experiments with Sound

Architecture and building acoustics pursue acoustic as functional objective in the design process, but not the auditory aesthetic quality of a space. This is partly due to the fact that there are no suitable design tools for this process, as they focus mainly on visual analogies. With this in mind, my research focuses on finding a method that allows to record and present the perceived auditory environment to integrate it into my design and artistic practice. Thereby, the interior of apartments is of particular interest for me, since the invisible encounters we have made over the years accompany and influence us in our daily experience of these spaces. Through studies of intimate auditory instants, conclusions are possible about the general vernacular experience. As an approach to spatial sound investigations, experiments are conducted in three different apartments to explore 1) how to observe and capture the aural experience 2) which aural qualities occur in a given space 3) which aural categories are reoccurring between the apartments and 4) how to reproduce the experience and bring the aural to the foreground. The decisive factor in answering these questions is a phenomenological approach that places the experiencing body at the center of perception, creating a dialogue with the everyday situations found in the living spaces. We are physically influenced by and actively change these spaces, but we are not aware of the manners in which that occurs. In order to approach the horizon of our experience and to sharpen our consciousness, it is necessary for this study to layer complementing methods. In-situ listening to become aware of what shapes the local and taking on different body positions, such as walking, standing, sitting and lying to get close to the everyday instances in the apartments, parallel sound recording through binaural techniques to be as close as possible to the experience in the context and writing down accounts to capture the moments. The experiments with the everyday auditory living situations are a preliminary step towards making the spatial ambiances tangible. It shapes awareness and enables the appropriation of visual design methods. A collection of the acquired daily aural situations is the outcome and be presented in an installation. 

Keywords:
Atmosphere, Sonic Effects, Sound, Space, Architecture

References:
Augoyard, J. F., & Torgue, H. (Eds.). (2005). Sonic experience: a guide to everyday sounds. Montreal & Kingston, London, Ithaca: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Bachelard, G., & Jolas, M. (1994). The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon.
Böhme, G. (2014). Atmosphäre. Essays zur neuen Ästhetik. Berlin: Suhrkamp.
Perec, G., & Helmlé, E. (2016). Träume von Räumen. Zürich-Berlin: Diaphanes.
Woolf, V. (2000). Selected Short Stories. Penguin UK

 

Orestis Zafiriou (2nd-year master's)

Mental Images Mediated Through Sound

I'm interested in researching correlations between physical and perceptual space in the process of composing music. Concentrating on the ability of human perception to create images and presentations of the phenomena it encounters, I propose a compositional methodology where the behaviour and the spatiotemporal properties of matter are translated into musical processes and represented through electronic music.

Sounds in my work represent objects and events, as well as their movement in space-time. This implies that a musical space is formed by a succession of mental images unfolded in the perceptual space of the composer when encountering these events. With this method I also aim to point out the importance of music as a means to communicate objective physical and social processes through a subjective filter, both from the standpoint of a composer as well as from the perception of a listener.

Orestis Zafeiriou has studied mechanical engineering at the technical university of Crete, completing his thesis on sound acoustics specifically pertaining to the physical properties of sound and its movement through different mediums (active noise control using the finite-element method). In addition to his present and past studies, he also actively composes music in the band Playgrounded, who released their first album (Athens) in 2013 and their second (In time with Gravity) in October 2017.