The four-year Bachelor of Music in Sonology offers a unique collection of subjects in which the technical aspects of electroacoustic music as well as the artistic areas where these techniques are applied are covered extensively. All lessons are conducted in the English language.
Courses are given in digital signal processing, writing and using computer applications, analogue studio techniques, algorithmic composition, live electronic music, the relations beween sound and space, experimental sound projection techniques, field recording, improvisation, sound re-enforcement, music theory and education.
Next to the group lessons, there is more and more space for individual projects in subsequent years of the study programme. These projects can focus on technical or artistic subjects. The results of the studies are presented on a regular basis during concerts that are professionally produced and take place in the halls of the conservatoire.
Graduated Sonology students find their ways as independent musicians/artists or are supportingly active in the fields of multi-media, sound-design, live electronic music, sound engineering and education. Do you have a passion for technique as well as art music? Are you looking for an artistic environment to further develop your talents and skills? Then apply for the Bachelor of Music in Sonology at the Royal Conservatoire!
For a detailed curriculum overview and a curriculum handbook, please visit the Royal Conservatoire’s page about the Bachelor of Music in Sonology here:
Analysis/Re-synthesis and Physical Models — Peter Pabon (BMus3, BMus4)
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.
Applied Music Theory 1 and 2 — Trevor Grahl, Gabriel Paiuk (BMus3, BMus4)
The class focuses on bridging the concepts and contents of instrumental and traditional musics with those from the field of computer/electronic music. The understanding of these traditions and integration of the diverse musical backgrounds from each student is encouraged through analysis, composition, ear-training and music theory. Compositional concepts from composers as diverse as Guillaume de Machaut, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Igor Stravinsky, György Ligeti, Helmut Lachenmann, Luigi Nono and Alvin Lucier will be discussed. The main goal is to familiarize the student with diverse musically notated languages, understand how diverse approaches to sound structuring are developed by different composers and how they can be translated into their own compositional practice, as well as engage in their performance. Thus, through the interaction with instrumentalists from other departments, the performance of works for instruments and electronics will be encouraged.
Aural Tectonics — Raviv Ganchrow (BMus3)
Every location and the related modes of listening already constitute a sonic context. Aural Tectonics explores the site-specificity and context-dependency of sound by fostering a critical awareness of and attitude towards environmental ambiance. Founded in a practice-based approach, the course develops site-dependent strategies for listening, recording, mapping, synthesis and intervention over a range of spatial typologies, from outdoor public space to electroacoustic environments. The course is structured around a sequence of intensive projects promoting the development of locational modes of listening and personal approaches towards contextual ambiance.
Composing in the Analogue Studio 1 and 2 — Kees Tazelaar (BMus1, BMus3)
The students begin by working on an assignment around analogue sound transformation. Sequences of recorded sounds become the input for transformations such as transposition, inversion, layering, filtering, reverberation, echo, amplitude-modulation, ring-modulation and combinations of these. The results of these experiments are combined in a small composition. For the second assignment, the sequences of recorded sounds are replaced with the three main electronic music ingredients of the Cologne studio in the 1950’s: sine waves, noises and impulses. Techniques are explained in relation to historical examples by Karlheinz Stockhausen (Studie II, Kontakte), Gottfried Michael Koenig (Klangfiguren II, Terminus) and György Ligeti (Pièce électronique no.3, Artikulation). The growing complexity of electronic music production led to automation techniques such as voltage control. As a result, there was a shift in the attention of composers working in analogue studios: where previously they had designed an abstract score that was filled in with a montage of electronic sound material, they now designed a configuration of which the result was not only a sound but at the same time a structure that unfolds in time. The possibilities of Sonology’s modular voltage control system are explored while working on the third assignment.
Digital Studio Introduction — Johan van Kreij (BMus1)
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.
History of Contemporary Music Composition — Gabriel Paiuk and guests (BMus2)
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.
Introduction to Electronics — Lex van den Broek (BMus1)
This is a workshop-style course, during which students work on three practical electronic measurements as an introduction to basic electronics. They will encounter terms like current, voltage, phase, frequency, amplitude, gain and different waveforms (i.e. sinewave, squarewave, sawtooth). The basics of assembling one’s own circuit and the use of an oscilloscope, multi-meter and function generator will be explained. The students will work together in small groups during three sessions.
Live Electronic Music — Johan van Kreij (BMus3)
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.
Music and Time — Joel Ryan (BMus3)
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.
Music Cognition – Rebecca Schaefer (BMus4)
This course offers an accessible introduction and overview of the multidisciplinary topic of music cognition, which deals with the perceptual and cognitive bases of performing, composing, and listening to music. Covered topics will include perceptual mechanisms underlying pitch and rhythm perception; interactions of musical processing with emotion, language, memory and movement; music acquisition processes and expertise; brain processes related to music and applications of music in health settings.
Musical Controllers Workshop: Design and Realisation — Johan van Kreij (BMus2)
This course describes various ways of working with sensors and how signals from such sensors can be interpreted and used. It also covers insights into the necessary electronic components and the software related to musical control. A number of conversion methods (from sensor output into digital representation) are introduced, as well as the applicable data communication protocols. Before a computer-sensor setup can be taken on stage, some ideas about performative aspects will be developed. The final product of this workshop is a self-built musical controller.
Networked Music Performance and Scores in Electroacoustic Composition – Anne La Berge and Rebekah Wilson (BMus4)
You will investigate what it means to perform together in real-time over the Internet, by transmitting a musical performance as it happens to one or more locations while musicians at those locations respond back. You will explore and use the technologies that allow you to do that in addition to developing your own. You will find out how the Internet and live streaming works including uncovering the problems of latency and acoustic feedback. While you analyse and extract what is interesting about these problems as musicians, you can embrace them as sources of inspiration. You will work on creating scores, first by looking at alternative scores that have been used in electro acoustic performances by composers from the 20th century American Experimental tradition through today. Alternative scores include pen and pencil on paper, graphic design, physical objects, images, video, Apps, commercial notation programs, and computer programs. Composers include Pauline Oliveros to Alexander Schubert. You will look at the use of narratives, games, timelines, improvisation and fixed media in relation to music-technology objects.
New Arts and Music Theories — David Dramm, Erik Kluitenberg, Gabriel Paiuk and guests (BMus1)
This course is offered to all first-year students of ArtScience, Composition and Sonology. It provides a cross-disciplinary exploration of recent ideas, practices and techniques in music and related arts: verbal, visual, theatrical, and much else. New forms of creative practice and new platforms for its presentation are investigated, ranging from the conventional concert hall to the alternative spaces of galleries, installations, site-specific composition, the internet, etc. The relationship and the “fit” between new forms of thought and new forms of presentation will be a recurring topic throughout the course, as will the challenge of writing about such new media in the face of an evolving and still-developing critical language that attempts to avoid irrelevant criteria from past art forms.
Preparation for Final Presentation – Kees Tazelaar (BMus4)
As part of their final presentations, Sonology fourth-year bachelor’s students work on individual projects and a written thesis (see Specialisation Composition/Performance/Research). In the second semester, they give a presentation during the weekly Colloquium (see Colloquium Presentation). The artistic content is supervised by a mentor, and the third year of the programme offers a Writing Skills course.
During the lessons Preparation Final Presentation, however, we primarily discuss the format in which the content of the thesis and artistic work will be presented. What is the supposed foreknowledge of your audience, and how do you place your subject(s) in a perspective in such a way that your argument is clear? How do you look at the content of your presentation from the outside? How do you participate in a discussion without becoming defensive?
Each student will give two 30-minute trial presentations: one in which the focus is on an artistic work, and one in which some research aspects are presented.
Preparation for Individual Projects – Ji Youn Kang, alumni (BMus1)
At the end of each year, you are expected to present the results of your individual project (see Specialisation Composition/Performance/Research). This course has been developed to fully prepare you for what is expected (e.g. content, format), and to make sure that your individual project is integrated in your weekly work schedule.
Programming and Music 1 and 2 — Bjarni Gunnarsson (BMus1, BMus2)
This course covers programming fundamentals, algorithmic composition and programming sound. Students will learn the basics of programming with both object-oriented and functional programming techniques. Applications will be created using various tools for both low-level sound synthesis and higher-level musical systems. The history and development of algorithmic composition will be discussed as well as more recent topics such as live coding, microsound and sonification.
Real-time Processes with Max/MSP — Johan van Kreij (BMus1)
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 (BMus1–BMus4)
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 (BMus1, BMus2)
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.
Educational Skills — Irene Ruipérez Canales (BMus2, BMus3)
Leading workshops alongside your creative practice in sonology is a great way to share your skills with others, to explore your field, discover new innovations in technology and education, and also earn some additional income. In this course we explore new learning environments and then design and develop our own very diverse and unique workshop and teaching practices. Essentially interdisciplinary, creative workshop design is developed through the study of stimulating and innovative models, with opportunities for designing and producing workshops in the real world. These courses offer personalised workshop project development, practical experience and mentoring to facilitate the capacity for enterprise, initiative and creativity.
Sonology Colloquium — (BMus1–BMus4)
Throughout the academic year, a two-hour weekly colloquium takes place. Ten of these take the form of presentations by faculty and guest speakers, and the rest are presentations by each student from the fourth year of the Sonology bachelor’s programme and both the first and second years of the Sonology master’s programme. During the colloquium, students present aspects of their research projects. The colloquia are attended by four or five Sonology faculty members, by students from the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes and the one-year course in sonology, and by students from other departments of the Conservatoire.
Sonology Electroacoustic Ensemble — Richard Barrett
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 Paul Obermayer, Evan Parker, Peter Evans, Marie Guilleray 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 (BMus4)
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.
Sound Engineering in Electronic Music 1 and 2 — Paul Jeukendrup (BMus2, BMus3)
The programme covers the fundamental principles of sound design in theory and practice, subdivided into the categories output (loudspeakers), input (microphones) and processing (mixer and peripheral equipment), as well as a frequency ear-training course. Students are responsible for preparing and implementing the Sonology Discussion Concerts, which take place four times a year, under the teacher’s guidance. This includes the preparations for sound amplified performances, communication and technical lists. Each concert involves classical preparation, preparation at home and two days of preparation in the concert hall, including sound checks and rehearsals. The performance closes after the second day, after which there is a group evaluation.
Sound Installations — Justin Bennett (BMus2)
In a sound installation the mobility and freedom of the listener requires approaches to temporal and spatial structures that are different to those of concert music. Through a series of lectures and practical workshops, the course looks at many examples from music, visual art, sound sculpture, (interactive) media art and audio-walks. The students are encouraged to experiment with mechanical, acoustic and electronic techniques for producing sound as well as different strategies for sound spatialisation. The students develop and present a group project.
Specialisation Composition/Performance/Research (BMus1–BMus4)
In addition to the classical lessons, students work on an individual project, under the guidance of a mentor with whom he or she has regular meetings. The project can consist of personal compositions, sound experiments, sound design, sound installations, personally built electronic musical instruments, (partially) self-written computer programs or a report of a study. In the fourth year the project is presented to and discussed with the other students during the Sonology Colloquium. During the fourth year the students also write a thesis, the subject of which may be connected with the project but need not be. The results of the project and the thesis are presented and evaluated during the end-of-year and final exams.
Writing Skills — Graham Flett (BMus3)
This course gives students the opportunity to practice and to improve their written and oral presentation skills in English. Through a combination of lectures and seminar sessions we will attempt to perfect the student’s ability in written English (for both native and non-native speakers), from detailed questions of grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation and proof reading, to larger questions of style, form and flow in written texts. The course also provides an opportunity to develop the ability to present ideas orally, in the form of small-scale presentations to the group, when we will explore the resources of the reading voice and the effective use of non-verbal materials in oral presentations.