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.

Riccardo Ancona (1st-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 (1st-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.

Francesco Corvi (1st-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 (1st-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 (1st-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 (1st-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 (1st-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 (1st-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 (1st-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. 

Ranjith Hegde (2nd-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 (2nd-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 (2nd-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 (2nd-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 (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.