Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 22

December 2012

Contents

Introduction

Performance

  • A Compositional Approach Derived from Material and Ephemeral Elements
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    The author discusses her experiences in conceiving, designing and working with the Long String Instrument, an ongoing hybrid of installation and instrument integrating acoustics, engineering and composition.

  • Environmental Sonification of Rainfall with Long Wire Instruments
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    Environmental sonification of rainfall events using large-scale long wire instruments is presented. After a brief historical introduction of long wires and their relationship to the Aeolian harp, some aspects of construction and recording techniques are discussed. Observations of rainfall-induced vibrations on long wire audio recordings are then presented.

  • Acoustics: Real Life, Real Time—Why the Flutist and Flute Had to Evolve
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    The author describes a long-term process in which a growing awareness of acoustics led to a profound evolution of his conception of the flute. In turn, this reconception led to an evolution in the flute's design and ideas for further development of the instrument and its music.

  • Materials Innovation in Acoustic Guitars: Challenging the Tonal Superiority of Wood
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    The authors explore perceived sound properties of acoustic guitars built with foamed polycarbonate soundboards rather than spruce or cedar. The research seeks to establish the extent to which polymer acoustic guitars are an acoustically credible alternative to wood instruments. Data are generated through participation by members of the public (n = 320) in blind listening tests. Remarkably, participants are found unable to distinguish much beyond a 50% success rate whether sound originates from wood or polymer acoustic guitars. The findings challenge deeply rooted ideas about traditional material-instrument relationships and champion the use of design as a driver for instrument innovation and artistic engagement.

  • Resonance: From the Architectural to the Microscopic
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    The author's work has focused on the use of acoustical phenomena, as opposed to electronic and computer-based sound synthesis, for sound generation. His approach to sound generation and processing utilizes a number of self-built instruments, including resonant sculptural objects, ultrasonic instruments and robotic rotating loudspeakers. The author illustrates the development and implementation of these instruments for the creation of a sonic architecture.

  • Miraculous Agitations: On the Uses of Chaotic, Non-Linear and Emergent Behavior in Acoustic Vibrating Physical Systems
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    “Miraculous agitation” denotes an acoustic marvel: a striking sound emerging from vibrating physical systems. A somewhat subjective phenomenon, acoustic marvels are typified by expressive or harmonic richness, and their production is reliant on delicate interrelationships between objects under vibration, often involving chaotic or nonlinear behavior. In some cases it is even possible to observe emergent behavior. Significantly, acoustic marvels may commonly strike the auditor as seeming to be “of electronic origin,” thus pointing toward postelectronic electroacoustic techniques. This paper takes a qualitative approach to the examination of such acoustic marvels and their possible applications in new music composition.

  • Musical Robotics in a Loudspeaker World: Developments in Alternative Approaches to Localization and Spatialization
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    Musical robotics is a rapidly growing field, with dozens of new works appearing in the past half decade. This paper explores the foundations of the discipline and how, due to the ability of musical robots to serve as uniquely spatialized musical agents, it experienced a rebirth even in the face of loudspeaker technology's dominance. The growth of musical robotics is traced from its pre-computer roots through its 1970s renaissance and to contemporary installation-oriented sculptures and performance-oriented works. Major figures in the field are examined, including those who in recent years have introduced the world to human/musical robot interaction in a concert setting. The paper closes with a brief speculation on the field's future, with a focus on the increasing ease with which new artists may enter the field.

  • TAPIR Sound as a New Medium for Music
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    The Theoretically Audible, but Practically Inaudible Range (TAPIR) is sound in the highest bandwidth of human hearing; it is barely perceptible by most people but can be transmitted and received by stereotypical transducers. The authors suggest the potential of TAPIR sound as a new medium for music, sonic arts and mobile media.

  • Weakness, Ambience and Irrelevance: Failure as a Method for Acoustic Variety
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    The author, a percussionist, finds timbral interest in the failure to consistently execute a common technique.

  • Sonic Objects, Resonance and Chaotics
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    The author describes structural elements for and the conditions and contexts within which he creates his work. The recurring use of fractals and resonance is integral to the construction of sound objects.

Perception

  • Organ of Corti: A Listening Device
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    The author discusses a piece that recycles noise in the surrounding environment, inviting active listening and contemplation on the act of listening itself.

  • Acoustic Mirage: A Psychoacoustic Sound Installation
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    The author describes her creation of a sound installation inspired by the phenomenon of auditory hallucinations.

  • Sustained Tones and the Auditory Experience
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    The author describes his approach to using sustained tones in his compositional work and how he harnesses acoustical and psychoacoustical occurrences to create individual listening experiences.

  • Sound Is Not Enough
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    The artist describes the use of virtual audio for spatial music composition.

  • Soundscape as Interface: The Threshold Project
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    The author discusses his sound installation Threshold as a system to explore an evolving acoustic ecology. For the purpose of this brief examination, the author observes how the soundscape functions as an interface in communion with its participants.

  • Ear as Instrument
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    The desire for instrumental qualities in computer music often leads the artist to a process of “synthetic limitation,” wherein constraint is designed into a performance system, permitting creation only within prescribed limits. These practices can emerge as a consequence of the sheer dearth of possibilities available to the digital artist: as though the path to new sounds and ever more intimate control leads ultimately to a retreat. The author's response to this perennial dilemma has been to try to discover instrumental limitations within the ear itself. He describes an “ear-as-instrument” approach to the composition of Correlation Number One (CNO), an eight-channel computer music work he created in 2010 that uses a self-authored form of Distortion Product Oto-Acoustic Emission (DPOAE) synthesis.

  • The Silenced Listener: Architectural Acoustics, the Concert Hall and the Conditions of Audience
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    The author considers the relationship between architecture, acoustics and audience. The author proposes we think of audience in a more active sense and attend to conditions of audience. This dynamic approach demonstrates how changes in architecture designed for sound both are related to social changes in practices of listening and influence how people come to experience sound. Such an approach reveals contemporary acoustic architecture as biased toward music as spectacle, with conditions of audience that demand a silenced and attentive listener.

  • Sonification and Acoustic Environments
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    Sonification can allow us to connect sound and/or music via data to the environment; in another sense, by “displaying” data through sound, sonification participates in creating our acoustic environment. The authors consider here the significance of certain aspects of this relationship.

  • On the Conception and Measure of Consonance
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    What makes a musical interval consonant? Since the early Greeks, there have been two contrasting views: an “objective” approach, focusing on the mathematical relationship of frequencies, and a “subjective” approach, emphasizing auditory perception. These approaches are reviewed, as are several proposed measures of consonance. The author then presents a composition that uses intervals that are rated highly by the measures of consonance but are outside the scales of Western music and so are subjectively unfamiliar. The goal is to see whether, via repetition and other devices for overcoming unfamiliarity, the consonance of these intervals can be conveyed.

  • It's for You: Muddy Waters's “Long Distance Call” and How Delta Blues Re-Set the Controls for the Heart of the Earth
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    In this paper the author expresses his view that the music of the Mississippi Delta region of the U.S.A. was a major instigator in returning musical impulses to a more natural and intuitive path, while also presaging many of the formal compositional innovations that took place in the latter half of the 20th century.

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