The use of space as a structural part of a composition is a complex issue that involves rethinking the idea of the sound object – as described by Pierre Schaeffer in his Treatise on Musical Objects (1966) – and involves considering movement as a means to manipulate spectrum in the frequency domain. In addition, the contemporary composer who writes acousmatic music needs to consider the materiality of the studio where music is created. These interrelated factors and others, such as the means of reproduction, the acoustics of the venue, the choice of loudspeakers and eventually the software that executes the algorithms for complex calculations of movement and other parameters of sound spatialization, are part of the techné involved in the creative process.1 Thus, the choice of sound material and the aesthetics of movement should be considered to be elements intrinsically related to the technical means of the performance as spatialization produces an impact on the timbral footprint of sound.
One of the motivations behind the research conducted at EARS was to answer Agostino Di Scipio’s question: “How can I design the tools that are necessary to realize my own idea of composition ?” (Scipio 1995a). The other one, was to realize some ideas inspired by Borges’ story The Library of Babel, which became the starting point behind the Laberintos series of electroacoustic études, each one related to one aspect of working with space and using the electronic music techniques described in this thesis.
There is a discussion involving the meaning of working with space from the point of view of a composer of contemporary electroacoustic music. This dissertation deals with strategies for working with sounds objects whose trajectories are predetermined by the composer during the composition process, as opposed to using space as a resonant body to music. A new definition of the sound object that considers its and its relationship with space is discussed. It views sound objects from a different perspective than Pierre Schaeffer, considering them as volumetric objects that occupy a space like any object or , a view in tandem with speculative realism (Harman 2011). These sound objects are real; they can travel in space and acquire a tangible property.
I describe a unique approach for dealing with sound trajectories in spatialized music using 3D modeling software. Although, none of these applications were designed for music or sound and lack any synthesis capabilities besides the creation of basic waveforms, it is possible to extract the data containing the coordinates of a 3D virtual space in the form of a simple text file. In addition, Blender2 features a game engine that can be used to send Open Sound Control (OSC) messages in real time using the Python scripting language. As an alternative, I have created several externals written in C for the Pure Data language for the creation of sound trajectories using ideas taken from parametric design. These objects offer the possibility to work using algorithmic and stochastic approaches to spatialization simplifying the compositional process. The technical part of this dissertation deals with the tools I have developed at EARS and how can be implemented using the techniques exemplified with my own work.
Another aspect of this thesis is the description of the systems available for spatialization in music and how they differ from commercial systems. At EARS, I built and worked with tools that were specifically designed for composition and spatialization thus contributing to the techné and the aesthetics that influenced my musical ideas. The result of the research conducted at EARS and the experienced gained working with Wave Field Synthesis (WFS) systems 3 not only generated new apparatus but suggested a new rethinking of composition in space.
From a technical point of view, among the programming languages for music and sound, I found that Pure Data4, Supercollider5, Faust, and Chuck are suitable open source tools for the composer working with electronic music as they are portable and available for most platforms including Mac, Linux and Windows.6 In addition, Pure Data, with its visual approach, is a great tool for quickly sketching musical ideas and for demonstrating the theory and technique of electronic music without writing lines of code.
For a discussion about the significance of techné see (Manning 2006). ↩
Open source 3D graphics and animation software. ↩
The Game of Life in Netherlands and the systems at the Technische Universität, Berlin. ↩
Pure Data –PD– is an object based graphical environment for sound synthesis developed by Miller Puckette, professor at the University of California San Diego. In PD, like in Supercollider, it is possible to create custom synthesizers, effects, musical patterns, and sonic and musical machines by connecting on-screen patch cords, but most importantly, PD is a great tool for sound research, analysis and re-synthesis. ↩
Supercollider is an object-oriented programming language designed specifically for describing sound processes in real time. SuperCollider was written by James McCartney and is now an open source (GPL) project maintained and developed by various people. It is used by musicians, scientists, and artists working with sound. ↩
Software portability is the usability of the software in different platforms. For example, a Pure Data patch can be run in a Macintosh, Linux or Windows computer without any modification of the code or need to recompile. ↩