Spatial Music Composition

Course Description (HMU520)

This interdisciplinary course explores the spatial features of traditional and electroacoustic music through the development of spatialization tools and multichannel music compositions. Topics include perspectives on sound design, directional hearing, and the role of spatialization in the composition and performance of electroacoustic music.

Sample student projects are presented below:

Harry Patterson: Untitled (2015) 

“The piece was constructed main from three samples from the main sample. The samples were of a bell, a beep, and a train jostle. The other two parts are from Native Instrument’s, Massive. One is a simple saw/square wave, and the other is a low frequency sine wave.  Delays, panning, and pitch shifting effects are used throughout. My goal for this project was to start out with the source material then change and modulate it into something new and the finally, bringing it back to the source material.”

Jonah Christian: Under Waters Excerpt (2015)

Using Models as a Basis for Structure

“This piece gets its name from the floating, liquid qualities of the elements. In the beginning, we are slowly sinking into the water, where we remain until near the end, when we emerge. The EQ and the harmonies are the main tools I messed with to create the underwater sensations. In the beginning, the harmonies are relatively consonant. As we get further into the piece, the texture gets more dense and some tones are pitch shifted slightly to create a more dissonant sound. The sound gets more and more dense until eventually everything cuts out. A softer drone fades in, with a major third fading in above it. Near the end the texture is smoother and the harmony is consonant, symbolizing the emergence from the water. The low, constant drones throughout the piece symbolize the water itself. The EQ of these drones is mapped to various circles in IanniX. The higher buzzing drones symbolize fish darting about in the water. The spatial location of these higher frequency drones is being controlled by boids. The spatial location of the whale sounds is controlled by a slow IanniX circle, symbolizing the slow, graceful movement of a whale. The guitar, whose spatial location is controlled by a flower shape in IanniX, acts as two different things. In the beginning, I play a slow, consonant melody, symbolizing the entrance into the water. In the body of the piece I start playing longer, harsher, more dissonant tones which symbolize the harsh currents of the water. At the end, I return to the pretty, slow melody because we have emerged from the water.”   

Download the B-Format audio file

Richard Thomas: The Cost of Progress (2014)

“The title of the composition is ‘The Cost of Progress’. This is because the underlying theme is supposed to reflect the notion that technological progress can one day lead to our own demise. This is in no way a reflection of my own opinion, but rather simply a novel way to express a narrative though music. The theme was not originally intentional – at first I only experimented with different sounds. As the composition became more developed, however, I noticed the composition seemed to be transitioning between sampled and synthesized sounds. I thought this transition could reflect transitions in human technological advancement. The samples mostly consist of sounds of the didgeridoo, a primeval and visceral instrument that represents the dawn of mankind’s history. The beginning of the piece is also free of meter and melody, in an unrefined and disordered state. As the piece progresses, more traditional elements of music can be observed such as meter/tempo, a grounded key, and a 4 bar structure. Synthesized instruments are introduced which mimic the natural sounds of the didgeridoo. This juxtaposition between samples and synthesizers is designed to reflect the comparison between the natural sounds of music concrete and the more pure sounds of elektronische music. The sound becomes somewhat industrial midway through the piece, representative of an industrial revolution. Eventually, the composition becomes completely synthesized, abandoning that which connects the music to the natural world as the digital world becomes an ever increasing presence in our lives. At the end of the composition, the natural samples are reintroduced into the purely ‘digital’ world. The reintroductions of these sounds cause chaos to ensue due to the incompatibility of their natures. The piece grows ever more violent until it cannot sustain itself any longer, until it erupts and is followed by silence. Throughout the entire timeline of the composition, the spatialization elements served as a constant, permeating through time to remind us that these radically different sounds exist within the same space.”

Download the 4-channel loudspeaker audio file (LF, RF, LR, RR)

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