Issue #3: Creative Practice in Electroacoustic Music


Spatial Sound:
Creative Practice in Electroacoustic Music

Eric Lyon (Virginia Tech), Guest Editor

The early 21st century is the most auspicious time yet for composing spatial electroacoustic music. Custom-built spaces from the second half of the 20th century continue to fascinate, such as the Philips Pavilion built for the World’s Fair 1958, and the spherical concert hall built for the Osaka World Expo 1970. The development of spatialisation software continues apace, including techniques such as Ambisonics, VBAP, Spat, Wave Field Synthesis, and facilitation software such as SSR and Zirconium, in addition to more specialised composer-designed spatialisation tools. Perhaps most important is the increasing presence of performance spaces supporting the creation and playback of electronic music over large numbers of speakers, such as the ZKM Klangdom, the SARC Sonic Lab, and the Virginia Tech Cube.

This issue of Divergence Press provides a range of technical and aesthetic perspectives on the creation and perception of contemporary spatial electroacoustic music.

Stan Shaff provides a historical overview of the performance space Audium, with a detailed report on its design, philosophy, and performance practice. Audium is of considerable historical importance as an early performance space devoted exclusively to the performance of multichannel electroacoustic music. The spatial concerns and effects reported will be of particular interest to contemporary artists working on spatial sound.

Augustine Leudar presents a novel approach to 3D sound scene recording, with practical observations about both the recording process and its reproduction and audience perceptions.

Philippe-Aubert Gauthier provides an observer-participant report on the work of the ASME collective in collaboration with rock group AIDS Wolf, at arts centre Sporebole, with a focus on the role of spatial sound in their performances.

Ricky Graham and Brian Bridges explore spatial performance practice with a focus on spatial mappings and gestural narratives. Their detailed report on technical implementations will be of particular interest to musicians working to extend the boundaries of spatial sound performance.

Frederico Macedo applies a phenomenological approach to the composition and reception analysis of a set of original multichannel compositions. The issue of audience reception is a key area for understanding the potentials of multichannel music, to which Macedo’s article makes a valuable contribution.

Ludger Brümmer, Götz Dipper, David Wagner, Holger Stenschke, and Jochen Arne Otto provide a report on recent compositional and technical developments at the ZKM Klangdom, currently one of the most influential and productive environments for spatial composition. This work is contextualised with a historical review of spatial practice.

Nye Parry discusses recent multichannel sound installations, with a focus on spectral diffusion, in which individual partials from a sound object are distributed in space, creating a striking form of cognitive dissonance. Useful attention is given to the navigation and perception of these works by visitors to the installations.

As a group, these articles explore a wide range of technical, aesthetic, philosophical, compositional, and performance approaches to spatial sound that speak to the richness of the practice of spatial electroacoustic music in the early 21st century. Given the growing but still rather limited set of available spatial performance venues, this body of work suggests a much richer spatial electroacoustic practice in the decades to come.

About the editor:

Eric Lyon is a composer and computer music researcher. His work focuses on articulated noise, spatial orchestration and computer chamber music. His software includes FFTease and LyonPotpourri, collections of audio objects written for Max/MSP and Pd. He is the author of “Designing Audio Objects for Max/MSP and Pd”, which explicates the process of designing and implementing audio DSP externals. In 2011, Lyon was awarded a Giga-Hertz prize from ZKM, resulting in the creation of the 43-channel computer music composition “Spirits”. His 124-channel composition “The Cascades” was recently premiered in the Cube at the Virginia Tech Center for the Arts. He has composed for such artists as The Biomuse Trio, Margaret Lancaster, The Noise Quartet, Ensemble mise-en, String Noise, and Kathleen Supove. Lyon has taught computer music at Keio University, IAMAS, Dartmouth College, Manchester University, Queen’s University Belfast, and currently teaches at Virginia Tech.