The two-year master’s programme in Sonology is focused on the realisation of individual research projects. The language of instruction is English. Candidates should hold a bachelor’s degree relevant to this study. The Master of Music in Sonology is not in the first instance a continuation of the Sonology bachelor’s programme. Most of the current master’s students have a bachelor’s degree from elsewhere, in areas such as composition of electronic and/or acoustic music using fixed media, notation, improvisation or some combination of these, computer science, musicology, music perception, film studies, engineering, philosophy or as a performing musician.
For a detailed curriculum overview and a curriculum handbook, please visit the Royal Conservatoire’s page about the Master of Music in Sonology here:
Education in the Master of Music in Sonology focuses on the students’ individual projects. Project topics recently finished or currently in the process of realisation include:
- The genealogical perspective of timbre as a compositional strategy
- Algorithmic composition based on an analysis of Iranian classical music
- Composing soundscapes on the basis of harbour sounds and sea shanties
- Programming of interactive and generative systems for improvisation with viola and electronics
- Interrelationships between specific areas and algorithmic composition
- Analysis of organizational and tonal structures of techno music as the basis for compositions for violin and electronics
- The combination of voice, electronics and extended techniques in improvisation and composition
- Musical processes as operational objects
- The theory of music cognition as a basis for computer tools for live performance and improvisation
- Real-time music using brainwaves
- The composition of sound stories.
Project descriptions of current master’s students can be found here.
As part of the overall education, the Institute for Sonology organises five professional concert presentations in each academic year, which are held in the concert halls of the conservatoire. In these concerts, bachelor’s and master’s students present their work, and also participate in the preparation and execution of the technical and logistical aspects of the concert under the guidance of a professional sound engineer. Attending weekly classes in “sound engineering in electroacoustic music” is mandatory for all second- and third-year undergraduates as well as first- and second-year master’s students. This course covers the fundamentals of sound design in theory and practice, and a training in frequency-hearing. The aforementioned concert preparations also take place during these classes.
The well-equipped studios of the Institute of Sonology provide students with the opportunity to produce and record their projects at a professional level. Sound playback in these studios varies between four and eight channels, as well as spatial sound projection using wave field synthesis (WFS). There is a studio for live electronic music, and a historic studio principally equipped with analogue equipment. Apart from these facilities, students may make use of special equipment for working on location. The electronics workshop (EWP) offers the facility to design and build equipment for specific purposes.
During the course of his/her studies, the master’s student works on a thesis, in which the project is documented and placed in a broader context. Alongside the artistic activities, the writing process is also guided by one of the Sonology staff (the mentor). There is a style guide for the thesis, and previously written theses are available in PDF form for download.
All master’s students and four to five staff members participate in the research seminar: a bi-weekly meeting lasting two hours. Each student gives in these seminars a presentation of his/her work in both the first and second year of study. Each presentation is followed by a discussion. For some research seminars, guests from the world of electroacoustic music are invited.
A weekly colloquium of two hours’ duration takes place throughout the academic year. Ten of these consist of presentations by faculty and guest speakers, the others by students from the fourth year of the bachelor’s and the first and second year of the master’s programme.
The research seminar is open only to master’s students, and is to some extent informal in character. The colloquia are attended by students from the bachelor’s and master’s programmes, and each presenter is assigned a moderator, who in the week prior to the conference confers with the student presenter in order to inform him/herself on the subject and its background. The moderator introduces the speaker at the beginning of the colloquium, and leads the subsequent discussion. The colloquium, to a greater extent than the research seminar, is an important moment for the evaluation of the student’s progress, concerning which the master’s faculty have regular consultations.
At the end of the first year of the master’s programme, each student has an individual interview with a faculty committee, in which the progress of his/her research project, as well as sketches for the thesis, are discussed. On the basis of this evaluation the student’s programme of study might be adjusted as appropriate.
At the end of the second year, the artistic results of the examination candidates are jointly presented during a three-day mini festival which takes place either in the concert halls of the academy or in an outside venue. The thesis is also an important part of the final exam. This is handed in one month before the final exam, and defended during a one-hour oral examination to a committee of faculty members and two external examiners, taking place after the presentation of the student’s artistic results or, in some cases, exclusively on the basis of the thesis.
The Institute of Sonology maintains a good relationship with students who have graduated. A number of them supplement their studies at Sonology for a further period as research associates, and continue to present the progress of their research on a regular basis, perhaps as part of a PhD programme elsewhere. Former students are occasionally invited to give presentations at research seminars or colloquia, or to present their work during the concerts.
Former students are active as composers, performers, sound designers, computer programmers, educators, in multimedia art or in diverse combinations of these. Links to former students’ websites can be found under ALUMNI.
A relatively large number of former students have been admitted to PhD programmes or have in the meantime completed their doctorates.
The following teachers are available as supervisors of Sonology master’s students:
Richard Barrett (*1959) is internationally active as both a composer and an improvising performer, and has collaborated with many leading performers in both fields, while developing works and ideas which increasingly leave behind the distinctions between them. His long-term collaborations include the electronic duo FURT which he formed with Paul Obermayer in 1986 (and its more recent octet version fORCH), the ELISION contemporary music group, for which he has composed and performed since 1990, and regular appearances with the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble since 2003. Recent projects include CONSTRUCTION, a two-hour work for twenty-three performers and three-dimensional sound system, premiered by ELISION in 2011, and the hour-long life-form for cello and electronics, premiered by Arne Deforce in 2012. He studied composition principally with Peter Wiegold, was a professor of composition at Brunel University in London between 2006 and 2009, and has twice been a member of the staff of the Institute of Sonology, between 1996 and 2001 and again from 2009 to the present. Richard Barrett’s work as composer and performer is documented on over 25 CDs, including six discs devoted to his compositions and seven by FURT.
Justin Bennett’s (*1964) widely ranging work is as rooted in the audiovisual and visual arts as it is in music. Justin Bennett produces (reworked) field recordings, drawings, performances, installations, audio walks, videos and essays. Recent work consists of thematic projects focussing on the role of the artist in urban development, the relationship of sound and memory and the history of psychiatry in relation to the occult use of technology. He collaborates widely with other artists including the performance group BMB con.
Raviv Ganchrow’s (*1972) work focuses on interdependencies between sound, location and listener, aspects of which are explored through sound installations, writing, and the development of acoustic-forming and vibration-sensing technologies. Recent installations address context-specific sites of hearing as modes of the contemporary listener. His on-going Listening Subjects project examines the contextual circuitry of listening whereby audibility, surroundings and subjectivity are ‘conductive’ of one another. He has been teaching architectural design in the graduate programme at Delft University of Technology and a faculty member at the Institute of Sonology since 2006.
Bjarni Gunnarsson (*1980) is an Icelandic composer / sound artist who has released numerous LPs, EPs, compilation tracks and reworks on labels such as Vertical Form, Thule, Uni:form, Spezial Material, Trachanik, Lamadameaveclechien, Shipwrec and 3LEAVES. He is concerned with process-based ideas, with sounds focusing on internal activity and motion, with compositions that bring behaviours, actions, fluid sound structures, fuzzy materials or forms into the foreground.
Bjarni Gunnarsson studied at CCMIX in Paris with Gerard Pape, Trevor Wishart, Agostino Di Scipio and Curtis Roads and has recently completed a Master’s degree at the Institute of Sonology. He is currently working with algorithmic composition, generative environments and live electronics. He is also working on new material with his long-lasting electronic music duo Einóma, and for MGBG, a duo of voice and electronics with singer Marie Guilleray.
Ji Youn Kang (*1977) is a composer and sound artist. She studied composition at Chu-Gye University of Arts in South Korea, before she moved to the Netherlands and achieved her master’s degree both in Sonology and in Composition at Conservatorium van Amsterdam. Most of her music pieces have been composed based on the rites of Korean Shamanism, and many of them were written for Wave Field Synthesis playback, exploring the relationship between musical and physical spaces. At the same time she has been composing live electronic pieces for both traditional and non-traditional instruments, ranging from a solo instrument to a large orchestra, exploring mostly the primitive, empowering rhythmical elements and the noisy sound sources that the Korean ritual music involves. She is also active as a solo performer.
Her pieces have been performed in many different venues and festivals such as La Biennale di Venezia (IT), Gaudeamus Muziekweek (NL), Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt (IMD), Time of Music (FI), Sonic Acts (NL), STRP (NL), SICMF( KR), Sonar (ES), Synthèse (FR), TodaysArts (NL), MISO (PT), Audiopolis (ES) and Festival de Música (ES).
Johan van Kreij (*1969) is a performer and composer of electronic music. In 1998 he graduated from the Institute of Sonology, where he started developing his own electronic musical instruments. He develops both the hardware and software: sensors and other equipment form the gestural part of these instruments, while the sounding part of the instruments consists of software that employs a wide range of sound synthesis models. The instruments are used in the performance of contemporary music, dance and theatre. Johan van Kreij has taught at the Institute of Sonology since 2001.
Peter Pabon (*1956) studied biochemistry, signal processing and sonology at Utrecht University. His professional career started in 1983 as a part-time researcher on a project called Objective Recording of Voice Quality with Professor Plomp at VU University in Amsterdam, and he worked at Utrecht University as a teacher/researcher on (singing) voice analysis and speech and music acoustics from 1983 until 2011.
He initiated a project for singing voice synthesis and analysis at the Royal Conservatoire that later resulted in a cooperative project with the singing department to monitor voice change as an effect of voice training. In 2002, he founded Voice Quality Systems, a company in which he develops the voice quality recording system Voice Profiler, which is nowadays in use at many clinical centres, conservatories and schools for professional voice training. Peter Pabon is currently writing a PhD thesis at KTH Stockholm, which has generated several papers and presentations on Voice Range Profile (VRP) recording methodology and the effects of voice training.
Gabriel Paiuk (*1975) is a composer and sound artist whose work deals with the problematisation of the conditions of experience of sound within the realm of widespread media. His work takes the form of sound installations and compositions for traditional instruments and particular loudspeaker setups, and has been performed internationally by ASKO ensemble, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, Slagwerk Den Haag, Francesco Dillon, Rank Ensemble, Ensemble 306, Kwartludium Ensemble, Quinteto Sonorama and Alexander Bruck. His electronic composition / sound installation Res Extensa was awarded the Gaudeamus composition prize in 2006.
He holds a Master of Music in Sonology (2012), was director of theCenter for Advanced Studies in Contemporary Music in Buenos Aires (2009) and taught sound design at the Center for Cinematographic Investigations in Buenos Aires (2004–2009). In recent years he has articulated his compositional practice with theoretical research, leading to talks and workshops in contexts such as the Master Artistic Research at KABK (co-led with Raviv Ganchrow), the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam) and to a publication in Organised Sound magazine (Cambridge University Press, UK).
Kees Tazelaar (*1962) followed courses in Sonology in Utrecht and The Hague, and later studied composition under Jan Boerman at the Royal Conservatoire. He has been teaching at the Institute of Sonology since 1993 and has been head of the institute since 2006. His electronic music features a combination of formalisation, richness of sound and a compositional approach to sound spatialisation. In more recent years he has also been occupied intensively in the restoration and reconstruction of major electronic works from the past. In his specially equipped studio, new versions have been made of compositions by Gottfried Michael Koenig, Jan Boerman, Edgard Varèse, Iannis Xenakis, and György Ligeti.
As well as a composer, Kees Tazelaar is a historian, who has specialised in the early years of electronic music in the Netherlands and Germany. He has twice been the Edgard Varèse Guest Professor at the Technische Universität Berlin, where he earned his PhD in 2013 with the dissertation On the Threshold of Beauty: Philips and the Origins of Electronic Music in the Netherlands 1925–1965 (ISBN 978-94-6208-065-2).