Current Master’s Research Projects

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.

Amit Dagim (1st-year master’s)

Composing synthetic creatures, instruments, and environments –polyphony, color, and space

In synthesis and sound design that drives toward the acoustic-like, the pseudo-organic, the animalistic, the surreal or hyper-real, the physical and esoteric, there is an unmapped territory that is laden with uncanny impressions of supposed species, instruments, objects, and worlds. It is an aesthetic approach that brings forth the thing becoming—animate, dynamic and alive—as opposed to the thing become, supposedly clear, objective, and neat, though in fact frozen and lifelessI would like to explore these areas of synthesis through a study of polyphony, color, and space, and their relevance and application for creating aesthetically physical or acoustic sound and music. 

The polyphonic is the multi-voiced, multi-perspective narrative, image, structure. It is the way of thinking in arrays, networks, multitudes, and interactions. It is a basic quality for a multi-voiced, dynamic system that is made of individual—yet connected and inter-dependent—voices to play and interact in.

Color and space are almost inseparable in the context of “pseudo-acoustic” synthesis, as spatial/time-based processing is an essential factor in the timbre of the object/organism, as it is in our perception of it as a live, vibrant, physical thing that inhabits a world or space of some sort. Color would be the overall timbre and texture of sound, but in fact leading to questions of synesthetic phenomena and perception. In feedback patching and various methods of audio signal processing, I find a deep connection and importance to the aforementioned questions of aesthetics and composition.

Researching methods of digital and analog feedback patching/routing, dynamic, spectral, and spatial processing, electroacoustic feedback systems, and concepts of polyphony, arrangement, and rhythm, I would like to make a study of the applications of these techniques for the composition of supposed creatures, instruments, and habitats. I will then compile a catalogue of recordings, that will act as field-recordings of these worlds and the voices/objects that inhabit them, and serve as a possible basis for several compositions reflecting these ideas and aesthetics.

Gyuchul Moon (1st-year master’s)

Organic Algorithmic Composition

To reach a goal of self-organization is a process where some form of overall order arises from local interactions between parts of an initially disordered system.

A noise, which is not only sound but also two-dimensional in computational terms, contains information of all frequencies and the implicit possibility of being structured and composed of tomographic layers. At this point, a question arises: If we design a sonic system that is controlled by feedback and self-regulation like Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), would it generate a form of music?

This research project aims to create a program and algorithm for generating music forms. For this process, cybernetics theory and the concept of neural networks will be referenced. The core concept of cybernetics is circular causality or feedback—where the observed outcomes of actions are taken as inputs for further action in ways that support the pursuit and maintenance of particular conditions or their disruption. Assuming a situation in which waves occur in water, entropy increases with the movement of water. After that, if there are no other external forces, It enters an equilibrium state through the characteristics of the fluid. In general, all substances are defined in terms of their equilibrium state. A system in which feedback exists has the potential of a natural, organic network. This research aims to create music with a generative structure, which has feedback, self-regulation, and self-organization. I will explore the possibility that the form of music is composed as an organic form, including the process of reaching physical and chemical equilibrium within these structures.

It will implement a contemporary computational methodology to program a whole system. The bottom-up architecture will be considered, including the detailed nodes involved in sound generation. To reach an organic network of Networks refers to the idiosyncratic research of the British cybernetician Gordon Pask, whose work looks at a theory of conversation and electrochemical learning mechanism ( “Physical Analogues to the Growth of a Concept,” “The Natural History of Networks” ).

The algorithms of the project consist of a small-scale structural set. Each substructure is designed as a single organism based on interdisciplinary cybernetics research to become a whole system as a music form. The correlation of individual units set for the organicity of the overall structure is set low. Each unit of the procedurally generated sound structure maintains a kind of relationship and goes through the process of creation, extinction, and transformation. It creates a form that has the potential to develop by giving and receiving feedback in a self-organized and evolving system.

New auditory imagination will arise through the programmatic connection of the real and the artificial. Based on an engineering approach that links traditional machine algorithms with sound and uses the principles of self-organization, this project raises fundamental questions about digital, technical, and complex systems and their entanglement with the aspect of sound.

Adomas Palekas (1st-year master’s)

Microbial and Molecular Sonifications

Microbial and Molecular Sonifications is an interdisciplinary master’s research project that aims to search for novel connections between microbiology and sound. My particular interest is in the sonic potential of metabolic processes and molecular structures found in microorganisms. Although we can’t hear microbes or organic molecules directly, sonification can be used to audibly display certain microbial qualities, such as growth curves, amino acid and DNA sequences. I seek to explore sonification as a method for interdisciplinary practice linking both natural sciences and composition.

Humans are partially comprised of microbes: the trillion bacteria living inside our gut, which have an impact on our physical and even mental wellbeing. However, apart from the physiological influence, could microorganisms influence us cognitively or spiritually as well? What could the voice of the microorganism be? Could a sonic-incorporeal interaction invoke new sensations or modes of listening, inspiring us to stray outside our anthropocentric viewpoint? These questions form the conceptual basis of my research.

My master’s research will comprise two practical stages. First, I plan to experiment with sonic mapping of biological datasets such as amino and nucleic acid sequences, including their secondary and tertiary structures, and then compose a series of pieces using these methods. Further, I plan to experiment with sonification of living organisms in micro-ecosystems and ecospheres. Through these experiments I aim to develop a bio-sonic interface that would represent the real-time metabolic processes in the audible domain. I will also experiment with an auditory feedback loop that will directly vibrate the micro-ecosystem. I believe this could lead to a formation of an autopoietic bio-sonory system, where sound becomes more than just an output but also the major factor contributing to life, death and adaptive evolution.

Ege Şahin (1st-year master’s)

Sonic TransfrontiersAgency of sound in border conditions 

The borderas a territorial, political, social, and juridical concept, is often researched by sociologists, anthropologists, architects, and historians, but rarely by the ears of music artists and sound theorists. If done, this can open up new ways in dealing with the agency of sound on how it acts and reacts, engages and disengages, in various modes of bordering: national borders, gendered bathrooms, dis(con)sonance, loudness, mountains, rivers, and so on. 

This research is twofold; first as sound in borders’ and second as borders in sound’. The first will deal with the potentiality of sound as a border-crossing agent, facilitating sonic transfrontiers from a geo-cultural context that will unfold through onsite research involving field-recordings, experiment design, and consultation with experts and habitants in historically and politically conflicting borders that Turkey shares with Armenia, Syria, and Cyprus. 

The second aspect will question sound as a border-bearing phenomenon, interpreting physical properties of sound—such as threshold, instability, noise, and distortion—as possible borders. In order to refer to these notions as borders, it is necessary to investigate, both through experiments (including subject-specific physical and digital instrument preparation and source manipulation) and theoretical research, if a conceptual framework for borders in sound can be established and, if so, where does the emerging sound material compositionally stand? 

Riccardo Ancona (2nd-year master’s)

Organising Sonic Materialities

There is a mode of listening whose aim is to recall the materiality of objects that emit sonic vibrations. Humans’ capability to infer material properties from sound is based on a set of perceived material features, for which a complex interaction of percepts, memories, and context-based information is constantly devised and rearranged. Our mental representations of perceived materialitiesraise questions regarding the epiphenomenal nature of listening, its neurophysiological development, and its close relationship with tactility. 

Perceived materiality does not necessarily correspond to a physical actuality. It is an interplay between experience, imagination, and desire. Being a qualitative aspect of sonic interpretation, it eludes any attempt at formalisation: it is inherently incommensurable. Yet, despite their ineffability, the qualia of materiality take form out of shared embodied conditions; they are grounded in our understanding of objectual physical properties – as state of matter, surface texture, density, weight, elasticity, and so on – in such a way that the physicality of sound is projected onto a set of commonly understood schemata. 

Therefore we can still try to define a non-exhaustive taxonomy of perceived material features as an heuristic map for analysis and composition. Once a set of archetypal categories of materiality is circumscribed, it is possible to conceive a compositional system based on a syntax of metamorphoses. Arches, trajectories, and complex movements in the field of perceived materiality can provide a process-based approach to a sonic exploration of the transmigration of matter. 

Hugo Ariëns (2nd-year master’s)

The sonic potential of electric guitar preparation

The introduction of preparations to the electric guitar has opened up a new world of sonic possibilities. The prepared guitar forces us to rethink our relationship to the guitar and its limits, offering a vast array of sounds that gives new meaning to Aguado’s idea of the guitar as a “miniature orchestra.” Preparations transform the electric guitar into an amorphous object—a platform for different materials and textures to meet. It becomes a magnifying glass, able to amplify the tiniest details of a sound. The potential is undeniable—but how do we deal with it? 

The prepared guitar field is typified by an individualistic mindset; guitarists are often reluctant to share their techniques or discuss their practice in a meaningful way. I aim to break out of this mindset and open the guitar up to an awareness and acknowledgment of community and collaboration. Part of this awareness is the exploration of the (historical) context of the prepared guitar, tracing its development from its origins to the multitude of approaches in the contemporary field. The individual languages developed by prepared guitar practitioners are the key to understanding the nature of the instrument, the possible preparations, and the practical challenges one comes across in the prepared guitar practice. 

Examining the underlying technical principals of the electric guitar can help us understand how guitar preparations work in terms of the whole of the instrument. In the context of this research, “the whole of the instrument” means everything involved in the signal chain that contributes to the sound production; the strings, the pickup, the amplifier, and the effects pedals are all integral parts of the instrument. All these parts have certain possibilities and limits that define what is possible when preparing the guitar. Instead of trying to fit the preparations in the framework of a traditional guitar setup (one designed for a band setting), I will take the opposite route. I aim to shape the instrument to the preparations; the purpose of the instrument becomes to let the preparations blossom.

Studying the context and the workings of the prepared guitar will allow me to refine my approach to my instrument and artistic practice. This personal outlook will require a custom set of preparations and a setup for live performance that supports this. The aim is for these three things—the preparations, the setup, and the approach—is to have a reciprocal relationship that coalesces in a live performance setting.

Elif Gülin Soğuksu (1st-year master’s)

Emancipating the Voice as an Instrument in Electroacoustic Music

The voice is a universal sound source that can be controlled and moulded in an exceptionally malleable and direct way. It is an instrument capable of producing and sculpting complex sound structures within its range in changing dynamics, gestures, and behaviors. Musical ideas and imagined/inner sonorities can be expressed immediately without the utilization of other tools. It can facilitate flexible and convenient expressiveness in improvisation, where it can be employed in the development of different compositional strategies.

Using the voice in one’s work provokes an inquiry into meaning in
conjunction with the frameworks of identity, gender, and culture; it
evokes associations, connotations, and significations. Hence, it might have a way of influencing the perception and interpretation of the listener; it can be so prominent and distinctive that it grabs attention. In musical forms, the voice could be immensely dependent on the historical aspects, social-cultural norms, and conditioning factors of which performer is brought up. Thereby, these might be limiting andrestrictive factors of voice expression.

My project aims to push the expressive boundaries of voice and oral
materiality by investigating its sound-making capacity and potentialities in electroacoustic music practices. The overarching focus is to emancipate the voice from the potential inferences that are embedded within it by means of technology, while maintaining its intrinsic instrumentality, expressiveness, directness, and malleability.

The outcome will be an interactive music system performed through the voice that will be capable of analyzing the incoming sonic data and parameters to synthesize sound events in real-time during performance. The project will revolve around the question of what are the ways of preserving the directness, morphological identity, and peculiarities of the voice as an instrument even though the voice quality is radically abstracted by the system. Consequently, it will react and use substantially the morphological aspect of the voice to organize musical events and produce sonic structures.

Francesco Corvi (2nd-year master’s)

Programming as a cognitive extension for improvisation in time-based media 

My research starts from the vision of programming as a performative medium and explores how, through computational creativity and human-computer interaction, programming languages become an extension of the performer’s mind. This perspective not only sees technology as a creative tool, but raises questions about the role of human beings in this relationship and of how to exploit black boxes without losing an understanding of hidden computational processes.

In live coding, this cognitive augmentation has the potential to enable the interaction of processes occurring in different time scales, and to define form and material by direct control of the temporal dimension itself. Similarly to improvised instrumental music, there is a strong extemporaneous component that makes such performances unpredictable, but the cognitive process allows one to act both on the present and on the future without the constriction of an immediate cause-and-effect relationship. Considering the ability of time-based media to transform absolute time into inner time—duration perceived, as opposed to time occupied—this framework aims to influence inner time by a direct transformation of virtual time—the one represented in a digital system. Ultimately, by changing the flow of virtual time, the performer will define how material is shaped and distributed in absolute time, consequently influencing how time is perceived by the listeners. 

Building on my previous work in the field of live coding, I propose to extend the widely used event-oriented framework inspired by the sequencer by defining two further approaches: process-oriented and mapping-oriented. In these, reprogramming occurs in symbiosis with other agents, establishing a complex feedback of interactions with emerging behaviors inside an autonomous cognitive system, which is not necessarily limited to the programmer and the computer or to the act of typing.  

Ida Hirsenfelder (2nd-year master’s)

Empathic Atmospheres: Sonic stories for a sensitive cohabitation

Emphatic Atmospheres engages various methods of tracing environmental processes, and uses them as scores for sonic storytelling. The aim of this composition is to trigger empathic neural pathways and to nurture a more sensitive relationship with the environment, promoting rewilded ecological restoration and biodiversity while staying with the troubleof extractivist logic in late capitalism.

The central method is observational field recording, supplemented by data collection of biotic/atmospheric processes, psychoacoustics, and random processing. These methods are complementary, and look at the world from different non-human-biased perspectives. With these diverse approaches, I contemplate a multitude of simultaneously present sonic possible worlds, as theorised by Salomé Voegelin, and use the capacity of sound to create atmospheres and generate moods entangling the layers of such possibilities. 

The idea of sonic worldscorresponds to the ecological paradigm shift from the ideal of antiutilitarian deep ecology to the troubled dark ecology of Timothy Morton. I would like to examine how this ecological turn creates a shift from the deep listening of Pauline Oliveros to a dark listening that contests listening as an essentially anthropocentric act, and how sonic worlds can surpass a cynical nature-culture divide to produce the nature-culture-techne binding. The condition of this binding is to unlearn the divide and give agency not just to the animals that use language and display consciousness similar to humans, but also to non-living-others such as the lithosphere, as in the pagan practices of my ancestry. 

The vital bond between all the things thinging in the world is the core of their generative powers, exemplified by Rosi Braidotti in the affirmative ethics of co-production and the acknowledgement of the immanent interconnection of the multiple ecologies that constitute all systems. The depletion of biodiversity and the ongoing terraforming has displayed the fragility and vulnerability of entities in this system, and the deeply affective and relational nature of all entities. I use sound manipulation to mimic such ecological conditions, and attempt to create an expanded perception in which the listener is transposed to a specific layer of the sonic world. In sound, the kinship between entities evolves in ever-changing processes of behaviours, rhythmic structures, cycles, and randomness, with an interchange of noise, silence, and serendipitous flux. Everything is connected to everything else.

Anna Khvyl (2nd-year master’s)

Sound in Spaces of Remembrance and Commemoration

The intangible physicality of sound is capable of expressing a more-than-graspable message to a listener. The invisible presence of sound waves balances between individual imagination and socially constructed reality. Our shared ability to listen to the environment builds a sense of community, while leaving a space for personal sensorial experiences. We listen to be with someone, and we listen to come to ourselves.

Places of remembering are meant to prescribe a specific value to a site, both personal and collective. Commemoration practices exist in every culture to allow communities to overcome traumatic memories through sustained mutual experiences. A moment of silence as a radical sonic presence is used to express something beyond words, something “more-than-graspable”.  

In my project I explore commemoration practices via aural experience to create a sound work that interacts with human perception and site, and facilitates collective memory through listening and sound making.

Farzaneh Nouri (2nd-year master’s)

Improvisation with Énacteur: an AI-driven collaborator

Énacteur will be an AI-driven collaborator for use in both live electroacoustic music improvisation and algorithmic composition. The design will be focused on the communication between artist and machine, resulting in a synergetic human-AI sonic network with emergent behaviors. The outcome will be a complex system that spontaneously produces temporal, spatial, and functional sonic structures. It will be an example of a cybernetic network, maintaining features such as feedback, system perspective, agency, and symmetry.

Énacteur will consist of three main components: an audio analyzer (or machine-listening system), a real-time sound processor, and a decision-maker / compositional strategist. The machine-listening system will analyze various parameters of the sound produced by the artist; the processor will use the analysis data to synthesize and transform the sound in real time; and the decision-maker will follow a compositional strategy extracted from previous demonstrations, creating sonic textures and musical structures during the improvisation process. By analyzing structural combinations provided by the musician, Énacteur will be trained on the stylistic preferences of the artist. Learning methods will include generative grammars, evolutionary algorithms, and imitation learning. The object of this enquiry is to explore the emergence of human-machine musical interaction via a self-organized structure of collaboration, and to investigate how AI models as composition tools could influence new aesthetics in electroacoustic music composition.

Kaðlín Sara Ólafsdóttir (2nd-year master’s)

What is the Icelandic aesthetic in electronic music? 

While many ‘schools of electronic music’ (Cologne, New York, Paris, The Hague, etc.) can be identified by their connections to institutions, as well as by well-documented publications and recordings, the history of Icelandic electronic music is comparatively scattered. Electronic music composers had no access to a well-equipped studio in Iceland until the 1990s, so prior to that the government provided funding for Icelandic composers to travel and study at studios across the world. (1) Thus, the first Icelanders who studied at the Institute of Sonology and other such institutions were educated in different techniques and could not consciously form a single ‘Icelandic School’ with which to identify themselves. The only commonality was their nationality – something so strong in Icelanders that it may well have left its mark on their compositions. My goal is to discover if there is an Icelandic identity that unifies the work of these composers. 

My master’s project will take as its starting point and focus the history of Icelandic electronic music and composers. Essentially, I am interested in what unifies them in their music and inspirations, and whether I can identify a distinct Icelandic aesthetic. By going through archives, listening to pieces, and interviewing composers and key figures, I will gain insight into the history and culture of my country’s electronic music. This in turn will inform my own compositions, which already exist as ‘Icelandic electronic music’, but which I would like to place more firmly within this tradition. 

The artistic output of my research will be fixed media pieces inspired by my findings about the Icelandic identity in electronic music. My aim is to engage with the material I collect in a similar way as the composers I am researching did; working on my own compositional process in parallel with researching theirs will lead to a better understanding of their techniques and inspirations. An important part of the research and archiving phase will be to keep a log of my findings, and to make a website that gathers all information and links. Finally, I am hoping to organize and/or curate concerts of Icelandic music in Reykjavík and in The Hague. 

(1) Bjarki Sveinbjörnsson, “Tónlist á íslandi á 20. Öld Með Sérstakri Áherslu á Upphaf Og þróun elektrónískrar tónlistar á árunum 1960-90” (dissertation, Aalborg Universitet, Institut for Musik og Musikterapi, 1998), http://www.musik.is/BjarkiSve/Phd/phd.html).

David Petráš (2nd-year master’s)

Song and Site: Listening to The Environment of Traditional Music

This research aims to explore the possibilities of working with sound recordings of traditional music through the disciplines of ethnomusicology, anthropology, field recording, and soundscape composition. My main motivation is to look for ways to present audio recordings through several compositions, based not only on recordings of music and oral history, but also on the sounds of the environment and activities from the lives of people who are part of the research. This creative approach can bring new possibilities to work with the sonic narrative by clarifying the essential circumstances of the origin of the songs and the environment in which they are performed, as well as the cultural context in which this happens. The practical part of the thesis will be based on a case study of research led by visual artist and ethnographer Lucia Nimcova in the Carpathian Mountains (in Zakarpathian Ukraine and Slovakia), on which I am collaborating as a sound artist.

Paolo Piaser (2nd-year master’s)

Towards a Whole. Systemic Theory and Cybernetics in Music: Searching for Self-regulating Musical Forms

In the same way that a system is a group of interconnected parts that influence and interact with each other, Systemic Theory is an interdisciplinary field of studies that comprehends and connects different disciplines and approaches, including biology, mathematics, sociology and cybernetics. The history of Systemic Theory is connected to music, particularly through the cybernetic movement, many of whose protagonists were the authors of theories used in electronic music (the theory of sampling being perhaps the most important), or were in close contact with the musical world (in 1996, Heinz von Foerster organised a conference dedicated to the applications of the computer in music, from which he would later extract Music by Computers). 

With the idea of further cultivating this connection through the means of composition, the aim of this research is to create a self-regulating music-based system by simulating an autopoietic net – a living system whose parts are interconnected, influence each other in various ways, and continuously ‘create’ themselves, the others, and the relationships that occur between them, as conceptualised in the Santiago Theory of H. Maturana and F. Varela. 

In order to obtain this result, various aspects need to be addressed and explored. For the sake of clarity, it is possible to divide the entire research into parts, regardless of chronology or order of importance: one part is the study of the literature related to the Systemic Theory, in order to aid in the conceptualisation of the entire project, from the epistemological to the most practical aspects (how the elements are related and connected, for example); another one is the creation of both a sound world (equally coming from acoustic or synthetic means and instruments) and a ‘movement world’, the latter being inhabited by performers able to move in the space of the performance; a third part is the collection and elaboration of data through the analysis of audio signals and movements, in order to control DSP parameters and communicate specific informations to the performers through sonic, visual, and physical cues; and a fourth part is the use of the space of the performance, not only for the diffusion of the sound, but also as a field to collect and perpetuate data. 

More specifically, the intentions are to use Machine Learning in conjunction with DSP algorithms, as assistant for the analysis, the control, and the synthesis of sounds; to create wearable hardware to help the performers convey and receive information (particularly the non-musicians); to use unconventional spatialisation systems (for example the WFSsystem) together with more conventional ones; and lastly, to create a relationship of trust with an ensemble specialised in my music, in order to achieve the best musical outcome. In this ensemble I would include the collaboration of other students who are exploring something complementary to the project, who believe in it and are excited by it, and who are ready to help and exchange competences for the best outcome: components of an enriching collaborative system. 

To conclude and sum with few terms: the aim of this research is the creation and exploration of an interdisciplinary semi-aleatoric system, a whole, where the range of the possibilities are defined by the influences occurring between the interconnected elements. 

Nils Davidse (2nd-year master’s)

Spatial Composition Using Game Audio Engines

Video games have a sonic landscape typically including utterances of speech, music, sound effects, and ambience (e.g. field recordings). Often the role of these sounds provides feedback for the orientation and visual cues and, more traditionally, a programmable sound generator (PSG), which allows such content to enhance the playability and liveliness of the game. In recent decades, PSGs have evolved into engines that offer endless possibilities but still mostly assist the visual aspects of a game. However, I intend to explore the possibilities of using the capabilities of these audio engines in a leading role. To do this, I plan to compose virtual environments where alternate physical and acoustical properties can make an audience experience a composition in ways that would not be possible in real life.   

As a point of departure, my compositions will refer to sound art installations and works by Bernhard Leitner, Dick Raaijmakers, and Steve Reich. Their ideas about phasing, movement through space, and minimalistic approaches will be central to my compositional experiments. These influences will be informed by my background in music and installation art, as attempts to transform my compositions into a virtual space will help me to discover new visual, sonic, and immersive experiences. 

Andrejs Poikāns (2nd-year master’s)

Investigating the Phenomena of Paracusia and Inner Auditory Experience

Investigating the phenomena of paracusia (auditory hallucinations) and inner auditory experience, my work deals with the ways a computer system can gain ‘knowledge’ of these psychoacoustic processes by the means of machine listening and how such data can be used artistically. My aim is to explore the latter with these practical and theoretical approaches: working with field recordings and sound synthesis based on the documentation of these phenomena, case studies and an analysis of speech. 

The potential result of this research will bring new knowledge to the field of sound perception, leading to either an acousmatic musical composition or a sound art installation that incorporates ideas of George L. Lewis’s notion of computer improvisation [1]. Conceptually, my work will deal with unconscious and conscious modes of listening—referencing Pauline Oliveros’s distinction between hearing versus listening—as well as situations of over-hearing and auditory hallucinations occurring in those having certain mental illnesses [2]. In contrast, to making an objective study of sound, my goal is to instead explore the subjective intimacies of inner auditory experience to reflect on processes of thought. 

 [1] Lewis, George E. Why do we want our computers to improvise? Oxford University Press, 2018. 
[2]  Oliveros, Pauline Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice. iUNIVERSE, 2005.