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Article

Brandon Smith

Creation of new connections inside sound-generating electronic devices to provide sounds unintended by their original designers. A wide range of effects can be achieved, and extra tactile controls such as potentiometers, switches, photocells, and body contacts can be added to control the new effects, the most frequent modification being for pitch control. Often various ‘bends’ are found accidentally by arbitrarily connecting two different points on the circuit board. Circuit bending has attracted considerable attention among persons interested in experimental electronic music and synthesizers, and it can be achieved with limited electronics knowledge and construction skills. Because circuit bending calls for unauthorised, sometimes radical changes to the circuitry’s original pathways, it risks damaging or destroying the device being modified. Toys are often exploited for circuit bending because of their ubiquity and low cost and the small risk of electrical shock from their low voltage. Battery-operated toys such as the Texas Instruments Speak n’ Spell and the Casio SK-1 have latent sonic potential and are prime targets for tinkerers seeking such sounds inexpensively or at no cost and because they tend to ‘glitch’ easily, spewing out fragmented bits of digital speech and strange sounds. Examples of circuit-bent creations include electronic keyboards, sound modules, drum machines, effects pedals, and karaoke machines. Video bending uses these same methods to modify video-game consoles to make abstract visual patterns in addition to novel sounds....

Article

Hugh Davies

[orgue des ondes (Fr.: ‘organ of the waves’)]

Electronic organ designed by the organ builder Edouard Eloi Coupleux of Tourcoing and the radio engineer Joseph Armand Givelet in Paris in 1929–30, and produced under patents of 1934 and 1936. It was the first successful polyphonic instrument based on electronic oscillators (demonstrated already in Givelet’s monophonic piano radioélectrique in 1927) and the first electronic organ to be in regular use. In 1931 Charles Tournemire played the Coupleux-Givelet organ at the church of Villemomble. Up to the mid-1930s at least four were installed in churches in France and Switzerland and one at the Poste Parisien broadcasting station (hence the instrument’s alternative name). The prototype contained only 12 oscillators, the signals from which were routed through frequency doublers; this rather primitive system in which each oscillator signal could be transposed only to other octave positions did not permit the simultaneous sounding of octaves. The finished organs normally had two manuals, with one easily tunable oscillator for each note, necessitating a total of 250 to 700 valves. The Poste Parisien organ (...

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Elektronmusikstudion] (Swed.: ‘electronic music studio’)

The Swedish national centre for electronic music and sound art, in Stockholm. It was preceded by a smaller studio run by the Worker’s Society of Education from 1960. EMS was established by Swedish Radio in 1964 under music director and composer Karl Birger Blomdahl (1916–68), who hired the composer and performer Knut Wiggen (b 1927) to take charge of creating the studios. In 1965 an old radio theatre studio called the klangverstan (‘sound workshop’) opened for composers. Construction of a new facility was begun, but after Blomdahl’s death EMS became independent, funded only in small part by Swedish Radio, and otherwise by Fylkingen (a society for experimental music and arts) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.

Wiggen envisioned EMS as both a place to produce electro-acoustic music and a research institution that would give the composer ‘the possibility of describing sounds in psychological terms’. The studio was equipped accordingly. The sound sculpture ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

(b Bermuda, July 10, 1957). American audio engineer, musician, and owner of Keith McMillen Instruments, based in Berkeley, California. He received his BS in acoustics from the University of Illinois, where he also studied classical guitar and composition. In 1979 he founded Zeta Music, which designed and sold electric and electronic violins and basses. In 1992 he organized a research laboratory for Gibson Guitars. He developed a computerized composition, notation, and performance system, and also helped devise ZIPI, a MIDI-like music control language. At the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at the University of California, Berkeley, he researched audio networking, synthesizers, and string instruments. In 1996 he became director of engineering for the audio processing and distributed music networks division of Harmon Kardon. In 1999 he founded Octiv, Inc., an Internet audio signal processing company, which produced the ‘Volume Logic’ plug-in for iTunes that allows digital audio remastering to improve the sound produced by computers and MP3 players....

Article

Mandy-Suzanne Wong

(b Madison, WI, 1979). American sound artist, installation artist, electronic composer, laptop performer, and visual artist. Based in Los Angeles, he has collaborated with Will Long, Mise_En_Scene, and Marc Manning, among others, and exhibited and performed throughout the United States and Europe. He owns and operates Dragon’s Eye Recordings, which promotes promising but under-recognized sound artists and composers.

Novak’s installations, along with his electronic compositions and performances, typically consist of quiet, subtly shifting textures. These sounds are often field recordings of environmental sounds, digitally transformed into exquisite drones or slow-moving melodies, as in +ROOM (2009). Novak’s work is often associated with Ambient music, demonstrating the fluid, and indeed questionable, nature of the boundary between music and field recording or, generally speaking, between music and sound art. However, unlike ambient music, Novak’s pieces are often programmatic. The goal, in many of his works, is to transform documentation into narrative by digitally altering prerecorded sounds and images. His alterations often consist not of fleshing out sounds and images by adding to their characteristics, but of digitally erasing their distinguishing features. He may obliterate the movement that we typically see in video, reducing it to a static expanse of color. Similarly, he alters environmental sounds beyond recognition into contemplative textures....

Article

Electronic circuit that generates a single periodic waveform. Linear or harmonic oscillators produce a sinusoidal output, while non-linear or relaxation oscillators produce a non-sinusoidal output such as a sawtooth, square, or triangle wave. Audio oscillators produce frequencies in the audio range (16 Hz to 20 kHz), RF oscillators in the radio frequency range (100 kHz to 100 GHz), and LFO (low frequency oscillators) produce frequencies below 20 Hz. For the independent use of oscillators as musical instruments, ...

Article

Music studio and composer’s collective. It was established in San Francisco in 1961 by Ramon Sender and Pauline Oliveros, and was soon joined by Morton Subotnick. Its first location was on Jones Street, but after the building accidentally burned down, the center relocated to a large building on Divisadero Street. It was not only the first electronic music studio on the West Coast but also became a hub of artistic activities and technological research. In addition to offering light shows designed by Anthony Martin, it hosted many composers, poets and artists, and programmed various concerts: the Sonics series, regular programming featuring avant-garde music from the Americas, Asia, and Europe, the three Tudorfest festivals, and other events. This is where in 1964 Terry Riley’s In C was first performed and in 1965 Steve Reich first played his It’s gonna rain. The center was the site of a number of technological developments with Bill Maginnis, also a composer, and, in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Sound-effects device that utilizes the player’s mouth as a resonator, allowing the player to form an electric guitar’s or other electronic instrument’s sounds into words and phrases. Output from a phenolic diaphragm speaker is sent through surgical tubing to the player’s mouth, where the sound is modified and picked up by a microphone.

The guitarist Alvino Rey initiated the technology in 1939. In 1950 the Nashville steel guitarist Pete Drake used a small low-powered loudspeaker and funnel coupled to a hose, but it only could be used in the recording studio. The rock guitarist Joe Walsh recorded his hit song ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ with Drake’s system, spurring the need for an onstage version. Bud Ross, owner of Kustom Electronics, introduced a portable 30-watt driver, but the low-powered diaphragm could not hold up to stage use. Walsh then asked Bob Heil (b St Louis, MO, 5 Oct 1940) to build a high-powered version for live performance. The resulting Heil Talk Box was introduced in ...