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.

Nils Davidse (1st-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. 

Ranjith Hegde (1st-year master’s)

Electronic Music in Context of Interdisciplinary Performance 

Throughout the long history of individual artistic development, there have been few attempts at procuring an expressive and intelligent dialogue between the various disciplines of art. In attempting to start this dialogue, several potential problems appear concerning the integration, one of them being an ambiguous system of communication. Part of my project then will be dedicated to creating or exploring a common language to facilitate communication between disciplines.
This however entails re-examining broader concepts and smaller parameters related to music through the prism of other disciplines. For example, does the term “dynamics” only mean variation in volume or can it also mean intensity, speed of execution, or quantity, such as how a dancer would commonly understand this term. Also, how can the spatial distribution of events/ideas be fundamentally rethought and expanded? These questions, along with many other sub-questions about the interdisciplinary facets of art will be explored in my research by using a conjunction of artist pairs working through specific restrictions. 

The second part of the project examines the idea of dependencies. The most important element for an artist in any ensemble, be it composed, improvised, single or multidisciplinary, is listening. While such an operation is simple enough between people of the same discipline, there is a need to reinforce this concept in multidisciplinary setups. One option is to ascribe part of one’s control to other artists. Making artistic choices and decisions purely based on the events in the other discipline is one way (e.g. mapping the development of an idea into the next based on when or how a movement artist executes a certain pattern). Another way is to literally divulge control such as OSC from motion capture mapped as control parameter in SuperCollider. This also explores an interesting concept of substituting parameters controlled by incidental and aleatoric systems to activities of other artists. Inherently, this involves sound artists building setups that enable mobility and choose concepts flexible enough to accommodate such dependencies. 

The third focus of the project is space. Interdisciplinary setups afford a unique opportunity to reconsider space not in the context of loudspeaker configuration alone, but to consider space as the canvas onto which artistic events are distributed, executed and witnessed. This will lead to exploring spatial tensions created by movement (or by static configurations), exploring vantage points to witness localized events from, and experiment with artist-audience placement. Seeing as dance, theatre and visual use different varieties of space for performance, exhibition or installation, this project will exploit this difference to find new ways to perform and witness electronic music (with or without other disciplines).

Kim Ho (1st-year master’s)

WAT(ER), AM I? | Listen… but where should we begin? 

WAT(ER), AM I? | Listen… but where should we begin? will explore the intrinsic links between sound and identity, focusing on “water” as a principle subject matter. The quest for “identity” to find an answer to the fundamental question of “what am I?” has become a vital issue in the modern era, characterised by convenient mobility, greater levels of migration, personal relocation, and the normalisation of a nomadic lifestyle. Noticeably, while the topic of “musical identity” has been extensively studied in current scholarly literature, the notion of “sonic identity” is seldom explored. To address this gap in research, this project will examine how various sonic environments interact with our personal process of identification.

For a cogent investigation into the topic, this research will focus on the themes mentioned above and the sonic properties of a universal entity that constitutes a principal part of our everyday sonic environment—water. Water is the first sound we hear in our mothers’ womb; throughout our lives it embeds itself in our sonic memory because we simply cannot live without it. Focusing on this fundamental and ephemeral sound source, I will investigate the connections between sound and identity, such as how the sonic environment can influence one’s process of identification and how sound can be conceived and recognised by human perception. It will employ a cross-disciplinary approach, one combining perspectives from acoustic ecology, psychoacoustics, and ethnomusicology. The findings will be presented in one or more forms of sound art, occurring either in an interactive sound installation and/or a surround-sound composition that will be performed live. Ultimately, this project aims to awaken people’s awareness to listening to their surroundings more attentively and to inspire them to beautify their sonic environment.

[1] Wade, Bonnie C. Thinking musically: Experiencing music, expressing culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 16. 

Martin Hurych (1st-year master’s)

Development of Listening: Recording Sounds of Daily Activities in the Acoustic Environment

This project considers how society’s acoustic environment affects individuals. There will be an emphasis on investigating the opportunities of how people can learn through their daily activities and interactions with the public environment. Additionally, my work will focus on discovering how various experimental methods of listening and their associated technology can act as tools: extending and facilitating new sonic experiences. 

Overall, this research seeks to develop the capacity of listening to one’s surroundings by using this facility more generally in life and in artistic practice. The subject of the analysis will be recordings made from selected daily activities, such as those that are habitual and often unconsciously lead us to avoid encountering new experiences. In contrast to this, my goal is to extend limited perceptions of reality from the actual content and context of recordings, thereby placing everyday life into an experimental learning process.  

Lucie Nezri (1st-year master’s)

indeterminate — incomputable

Indeterminacy is one of the most important notions for science and contemporary music from the 20th century. Its emergence can be traced back to the discoveries made in the field of quantum mechanics, which had a decisive influence on musical practices. The early ‘indeterminate’ experiments found in the music of John Cage and Iannis Xenakis are exemplary of the development of different compositional strategies—along with, sometimes, radical and polarized philosophies that resulted from their respective understandings of indeterminacy. With time, this notion has revealed its paradoxical facets and numerous nuances, both in science and music. In particular, a new light has been shed on indeterminacy and its potential expressions due to recent evolutions of computability theory.

The latter will be central in this research and will serve to reveal a compositional and perhaps ethical standpoint in the face of indeterminacy. If this notion has been initially used as a means for composers to generate more complexity in sounds and macro-compositional structures, indeterminacy will be examined from its limits. Specifically, an aspect of this research will consist of approaching indeterminacy from computational limits, considered as interstices of a particular, compositional indeterminacy. The inherent logical and mathematical dimensions of computations will be regarded as inspirational starting points for composing. They will be explored as different gradations and loci of indeterminacy, imbued with various degrees of determinacy. 

Andrejs Poikāns (1st-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.

Wilf Amis (2nd-year master’s)

After the Twelve Tones: Using Post-12-TET Tunings in Electronic Music

Since 12-Tone Equal Temperament has been enforced as a tuning standard globally, there have been, in all kinds of pitch/harmony-based musics, considerable barriers to entry for any musicians interested in exploring alternatives, from the lack of education at young ages, to the incompatibility of the likes of guitars and pianos.

In my own research I address the incompatibility of electronic instruments and softwares. This is done directly through the building of synthesizers, and the writing of text guides to some of the existing possibilities for electronic musicians, plus the research also encompasses the development of new tuning systems, as well as compositions and performances using these systems.

There will be written a manifesto justifying the dismantling of the 12-TET hegemony, and the diversification of tuning. The manifesto will attempt to reframe the “xenharmonic”/”alternative tuning” movement as “Post-12-TET”: a turn away from Harry Partch’s ideal of appropriating historically and geographically other cultures, and towards a movement motivated by an interest in the future. Post-12-TET tuning practice, rather, encompasses the movement from Helmholtz onwards as a modern phenomenon, and one that will continue to grow and shape the future of experimental and popular music.

Margherita Brillada (2nd-year master’s)

Radio Art: An Expression of Social Relatedness

This research is conceived to actively participate in social reality aiming at the development of a musical language and a compositional approach intended as tools for critical reflection on current issues. By increasing awareness of audiences, and thinking of Radio Art as an expression of social relatedness, the project focuses on the production of radio artworks and podcasts.

Historical and theoretical research on the body of Radio Art was fundamental to understand how radio itself and its audience has expanded and changed in recent times. Radio, podcast, and music streaming platforms all have their public and different ways of listening. Questions raised about the context of new media and its audience are cardinal points for the choice of the compositional methods and on how to shape the sound according to this.

Podcasts are listening-on-demand platforms that allow a conscious and intimate way of listening. In such formats, my compositional methods deal with the concept of linearity of time, resulting in a sonic narrative structure. FM Radio and related online streaming platforms, on the other hand, are usually listened in everyday situations where it is difficult to predict when the audience is tuned in. When composing for the radio it is possible to overlook the concept of linearity of time. I argue that Radio Art should avoid dealing with finite temporal objects with a beginning, a middle and an end, but rather allow radio listeners to perceive a different piece and create the final version from a framework of possibilities. The compositional approach for Radio Art should be an open acoustic end result, welcoming the idea of losing control of a temporal structure.

Francesco Di Maggio (2nd-year master’s Instruments & Interfaces)

Drawing Inferences: Designing Interactive Music Systems for Real-time Composition

My research at the Institute of Sonology aims to design an interactive music system capable of capturing, analysing and modelling the incoming musical data created by the musician, and use them as musical agents to drive the live performance in real-time. Due to its interactive nature, the system will establish a ‘feedback loop’ between the performer interpreting an open, graphically notated musical score, and the digital sound processes running on the computer. The outcomes will be recorded and, after a phase of troubleshooting, they will be performed by trained musicians in the form of live exhibition.

Having approached live electronics where the music produced and the electronic processes were both written in a precise, linear manner, I felt limited by the expression possible with the performer reading the score and the synchronisation of the sound processes. The initial need to achieve greater control of these musical aspects gradually shifted in favour of more natural and even unexpected musical outcomes. The use of graphic scores and reactive systems started to nourish a sense of openness to non-linearity, welcoming the possibility of accepting human ‘failures’ and system errors as part of the process. 

Thanks to the close connection with STEIM and using its mentorship and expertise, I will be able to sketch the musical insights and build the necessary bridges in the form of custom hardware and software: motion tracking, pitch- and gesture-following techniques will be used for selecting, mapping and synchronising continuous sound processes to gestures. On the basis of these premises, new musical inferences will be drawn in the form of mixed-music compositions for instruments and live electronics, where the emphasis will be placed on defining compositional strategies for real-time human-computer interaction. 

Giulia Francavilla (2nd-year master’s)

Immersive Sound: In-Between Spaces

The overarching focus of my research centres upon immersive sound: investigating some of its possible ramifications through sound composition and theoretical research.

Namely, the research focuses on three main aspects related to the topic: Presence, Distance and Transformation. These aspects shape my practical investigation and my path through theoretical reflections, furthermore underlining the foundation of immersive art into the relationship between the individual and the external world. Within respect of this, the practical research starts from Wind as a sound source belonging to the non-human environment, investigated through the perspective of algorithmic composition: field recordings of wind are used as a source of control for the creation and manipulation of synthetic sounds, thanks to a step-by-step process of analysis – data mapping – manipulation. The process is applied to the framework of live coding and fixed media composition, constituting an outcome that oscillates between some extremes: “familiarity” and “abstraction”, “data-driven” composition and “human” intervention. 

Within this perspective, a connotation of virtuality takes form when referring to the space created by a sonic composition, and its dialogue within the physical space contains multiple potential relationships with the perceiving self.

The research is shaped through the usage of different media such as multichannel speaker setups, headphones, binaural technology, alongside the experimentation with VR technology. The latter is being investigated as a different side of the research and put in relation to the musical aspects of the research by keeping the focus on simulation, abstraction, and perception of space.

Tornike Karchkhadze (2nd-year master’s)

Sound Synthesis and Music Generation with Artificial Neural Networks

My research at the Institute of Sonology is sound synthesis and music generation with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). My focus is using AI and ML with most low-level means of sound, like digital audio samples (either time and/or frequency domain), seeing audio as a database.  Music and sound in general have a long history of applying computing technology, the roots of which can be traced back to the origins of electronic music from the beginning of the 20th century and even before. Today, computer software is used to deal with all the basic aspects of music and sound – among other things – recording, sound synthesis and design, composition, and music programming. These techniques have been around for a long time already and are quite familiar to professional musicians and amateurs alike. However, new developments in AI and ML, particularly the recently re-enhanced Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) have now entered into the field. ANN’s data-driven approach to music and sound is totally unprecedented and unconventional in comparison to existing approaches – this has huge implications and promises to change the game. In short, Artificial Neural Networks are already blurring lines between music composition, sound synthesis, and audio generation, completely opening up new horizons for experimenting, as well as conducting artistic and scientific research.

In response to these developments, the purpose of my project is to create a software tool for audio generation with ANN. The tool will be capable of listening and learning music, as well as whole databases of any audio. In doing this, ANN will acquire ‘knowledge’ and generate sound in response to input material, simulating and mixing the musical and/or sonic characteristics. One of my interests however will be to experiment with ANN to mix input materials that will hopefully give insightful outcomes for composing. From this, my main research question examines the extent to which a sample-by-sample approach (i.e. waveform as database) can work and give ‘meaningful’ results. In other words, how can the capabilities of ANN render high-level abstractions, like musical meaning or representative sound content, from low-level sound essentials.

Aleksandar Koruga (2nd-year master’s)

Compositional Spaces

The goal of my research is to find a framework of artistic expression starting from a reinterpretation of Xenakis’s Symbolic Music theory. The latter aim will first involve making a redefinition of time and duration in compositional space. And by taking into account an independent time measure I intend to extend Xenakis’s preposition regarding uniqueness; thus enabling a different framework for the relationships between amplitude, frequency and time as fundamental descriptors of a musical system.

Secondly, by inferring heuristics on such systems I intend to use and implement this theory as a lens through which I will compose and describe my own musical material. The objective of this enquiry is to have a system of mathematical descriptors, which can be used and related to functional concepts in live performance and composition.

The potential outcome of this research then is not to realize an all-encompassing mechanism but rather to create a series of musical works exploring possible relationships within a given context of constraints.

Kamilė Rimkutė (2nd-year master’s)

Listening Inside the Network of the Brain

My research focuses on network systems, aspects of universality and their applicability in artistic approaches. Network theories are widely used by scientists in many fields, such as neuroscience, mathematics, sociology and many other areas of study. Currently, I am merging two of my major passions into one holistic concept, that is, the science of the human brain and sound. For the most part this means I am researching functional brain connectivity, its visualisation using graph theory and sonification vis-a-vis software and electronics. I am delving into human-computer interaction as a reaction to the presence of these phenomena in modern society, as well as examining human brain interactivity for the purpose of raising awareness about the most mysterious organ in the human body. Based on the neurofeedback method, where subjects are expected to change their neural activity in response to real-time displays of brain activity, it can be postulated that humans have far more control and influence on their own mind than they usually believe.

Interactions between the brain’s two hemispheres, its different networks and neural network interconnectivity can serve as a hierarchical structure for systematic musical compositions, using graph theory as one of the intermediate tools for structural analysis of the brain. 

Keywords: complex systems, small-world networks, hierarchical modular networks, non-linear systems, stochastic processes, connectome, functional connectivity, graph theory.

Mihalis Shammas (2nd-year master’s, Instruments & Interfaces)

Primitive Electronic / Materiality in Creative Tools

Creative tools are the objects through which we explore ideas and emotions, gently sculpting them into form as we project them into the outside world. These tools are both the medium and the channel that guides this inchoate information from the subconscious to the conscious in the process of creation. In music, we call these instruments.

More often than not, creative tools, like most objects, are man-made and have evolved through time to thoroughly follow contemporary technology. In this sense, they can be viewed — as well as the rest of the technical world — as a constant and continuous manifestation of knowledge. Borrowing Lyotard’s distinction (in The postmodern Condition) between “narrative” and “scientific” forms of knowledge, a dualitythat characterizes the shift from the pre-industrial to the industrial era, we will form a theoretical context where creative tools may be deduced to symbolic combinations, either conflicting or complementary, of these two conceptual spheres. In their narrative/scientific nature, they constitute technology that is created to produce stories. In this framework of thought, they can be examined and constructively analyzed in terms of their architecture, their materiality, their ways of interaction with human players and eventually — and most importantly — the creative potentials they contain. On this basis, my hardware research and development will try to assimilate a blend of primitive and electronic technologies into one single object, in an effort to extract the essence of each realm’s creative attributes. In the design of such a “hybrid” instrumental apparatus, the interaction interface could be seen as a combination of a “gestural system of effort” with a “gestural system of control” (as described by Baudrillard  in The System of Objects). This structure ought to be material yet its technology transparent; a visible, exposed and large architecture that can be visually deconstructed into its component parts and thoroughly comprehended. This is a search for a technology that has a physical substance and a bold presence in space; that can physically blend with a performer and be communicated visually and emotionally to an audience, at the same time bypassing the limitations imposed by its own materiality.

Mai Sukegawa (2nd-year master’s)

Audience as Art: Interactive Audiovisual Work to Be Completed by the Audience

Relationships between art works and audiences have been questioned by modern artists and philosophers. Challenges to these paradigms led to the occurrence of interactive art and relational art, where audiences can participate and not just wait for works to bring an effect. However, it can be said that there is still room for questioning the role audiences play in this context, specifically whether or not they are acting on their own initiative. In connection to this, my research aims to define what influences an audience’s behaviour. At this point, I suggest there are five main points to consider: multisensory, interactiveness, embodiment, subjectivity (as described by Paul Valery in “Œuvres” and “Cahiers”), as well as ambiguity or openness (as referenced by Umberto Eco in “The Open Works”). Moreover, because of the development of technology multisensory work has become a standard in contemporary art, most often being used in visual and auditory work. However, an obstacle to audience participation in this field often occurs when visual and auditory elements are imbalanced or even disconnected; as this makes audiences feel less engaged.
To resolve this issue I have hypothesised that there are two main approaches to interacting with an audience: relational and immersive interaction. Relational interaction means that audience’s participations and actions are necessary as the element of a work. On the other hand, immersive work directly involves audiences and can sometimes cause cross-modal perception, where an audience may experience an illusion of touch, smell or taste. Additionally, interpretation of this illusional perception depends on our personal experiences. Therefore, it can be said that immersiveness is strongly relevant to the themes of embodiment and subjectivity. Finally, openness is a term that Eco used in his essay “The Open Work”, and it is roughly understood as implying ambiguity. He summarised this by saying that “[o]pen works are characterised by the invitation to make the work together with the author.” Therefore, if a work is not ‘open’ enough, there is no room for an audience to participate.

As I have a musical background, and also have a synaesthetic sense of connection between the visual (colour) and sound (pitch), it is feasible for me to examine the field of audiovisual art with both a theoretical and an intuitive approach. This will include practical experimentation with works that apply colour theory, relationships between colour spectra and audio frequencies, as well as phenomena exhibiting sound-colour synaesthesia.

Atte Olsonen (2nd-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.