Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 15

December 2005

Contents

Introduction

Articles

  • Artificial Phonology: Disembodied Humanoid Voice for Composing Music with Surreal Languages
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    This paper examines some of the core techniques used to create an artificial phonologi-cal system for Sacra Conver-sazione, a short opera in five acts featuring human singers, artificially synthesized voices and complementary electro-acoustic sounds. It introduces some of the most significant techniques for computer simula-tion and manipulation of voice used to produce materials for the piece, namely physical modeling, additive re-synthesis, PROSE and PSOLA. The author concludes with a discussion of lessons learned throughout the process of composing with such techniques.

  • Beyond Babble: A Text-Generation Method and Computer Program for Composing Text, Music and Poetry
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    The author presents a method for creating sound poetry and text/sound music. According to his theory on the musical nature of speech and through the quantification of syllabic stress, the author presents his aesthetics of text/sound music and a detailed description of his original algorithms for manipulating characters representing phonemes. Redefining compositional techniques through his Beyond Babble computer program, The Babble Poet, he synthesizes vocalisms that sound like speech, yet are not, allowing nonsensical words to exist without semantic content and its inherent perceptual baggage. He also explores the applications of his program in composition by composing text/sound études synthesizing well-known texts with his method.

  • Voice Networks: The Human Voice as a Creative Medium for Musical Collaboration
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    The author describes a musical installation that allows players to record, transform and share their voices in a group. A central computer system facilitates the interaction as participants interdependently collaborate in developing their “voice motifs” into a coherent musical composition. Observations of subjects interacting with two different applications that were developed for the installation lead to a discussion regarding the use of abstract sounds as opposed to spoken words, the effect of group interdependency on individual contribution by players and the tension between maintaining autonomy and individuality versus sharing and collaborative group playing.

  • Sound Body: The Ghost of a Program
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    The author considers the importance of the voice as a transformative instrument in 20th-century art, particularly in relation to the tape recorder and digital audio technology. He examines his collaborative work with sound poet Bob Cobbing in the 1970s and compares this with a recent gallery installation created with artist John Latham. Research from the 1970s into acoustic voice masking and resonance is contrasted with the use of analog tape process-ing and the sonic potential of computer audio software programs both in studio work and in improvised performance. Finally, the author discusses the implications of these con-frontations between body and machine.

  • Sounds of a Community: Cultural Identity and Interactive Art
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    Sounds of a Community (2001–2003), a sound installation, is a series of sculptures modeled upon traditional Jewish ritual objects. The sculptures also serve as musical instruments. The installation is designed to offer an engaging musical experience but also a means by which people can explore complex issues relating to religious and cultural identity. Basic issues involved in the design, construction and programming of this work are presented, along with an exploration of how this work seeks to engage visitors in questions about their relationship to religious settings that involve the place of an individual within a group.

  • Experiments with Whistling Machines
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    This text describes a series of experiments performed with a machine capable of synthesizing human whistles and canary song. We call this device The Universal Whistling Machine (U.W.M.). It senses the presence of living creatures in its vicinity and attracts them with a signa-ture whistle. Given a response whistle, U.W.M. counters with its own composition, based on a time-frequency analysis of the response. Here the authors present a broad overview of all issues U.W.M. touches upon, including animal-machine interaction.

  • Technology Is Culture: Two Paradigms
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    The author discusses the relationship of technology to culture in the People's Republic of China. Basing his discussion on his experiences in Beijing between 2001 and 2004, the author suggests that the two paradigms of accumulation of decisions and struggle against difference can be used to describe technology in its relation to culture, including—but not limited to—popular electronic music in Beijing.

  • Composer's Notebook: Interpreting
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    The text is a 10-minute rant delivered by narrator William Hellermann, composer/performer and co-director/founder of the DownTown Ensemble, which seems to be about him (Hellermann), although approximately every other biographical fact seems questionable and is in fact false. That still leaves much that is true. So while Bill seems in some sense to be “Bill,” as things go on, the rant turns sour, then melancholy, totally political and outrageous. Finally, one should, based on observation, begin to suspect that the text is by the composer, who is sitting in the ensemble playing clarinet. The performance begins when a faux-emcee Bill, under appropriately harsh emcee lighting, comes onstage from the wings to (pretend to) introduce the Ensemble. He takes the mike while the ensemble is still tuning up (as specified in the score). The ensemble plays on while the text referentially points out what is happening: the Ensemble is “at this moment” strategizing political action to itself while playing. Further observation leads to another conclusion: The Ensemble and the Speaker seem to have nothing to do with each other—that is, until one focuses on the drummer (Jim Pugliese) who, entrained by the spoken voice, is responding to and improvising off the vocal rhythms of Hellermann with a softish and insistent wash of brushes and kick-drum. So although seated with the Ensemble, he is really part of Bill's “ensemble.”

    The text is part of the score of Interpreting, composed for the Down Town Ensemble: clarinet (Daniel Goode), trombone (Peter Zummo), cello (Matt Goeke), piano (Joseph Kubera), percussion (Jim Pugliese) and soprano voice (Mary Jane Leach).The piece premiered at the Sounds Like Now festival at La Mama ETC, 16 October 2004.

  • Sounding the Outer Limits
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    In an exchange with music journalist René van Peer, composer and sound poet Jaap Blonk discusses aspects of his work that hitherto have not been given much attention: his approach to composition, his use of electronic equipment and software, and his thoughts about recordings of his work.

Artists' Statements

LMJ15 CD Companion: Vox ex Machina

CD Contributors' Notes