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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

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

Interactive computer network used as an extended musical instrument, played by a San Franciso Bay–area experimental computer network band also called The Hub. The band, founded in 1985 by Tim Perkis and John Bischoff, evolved from the League of Automatic Music Composers (1978–83). The concept of The Hub is to create live music resulting from the unpredictable behaviour of the interconnected computer system. The composer/performers consider their performances a type of ‘enhanced improvisation’.

Initially The Hub provided a custom-built central ‘mailbox’ computer and made use of a MIDI network providing communication between the composer/performers’ synthesizers. With the maturation of commercial MIDI equipment, the band shifted to using the Opcode Studio V multiport MIDI interface for their hub. Since MIDI is designed to allow one player or computer to control a group of synthesizers but not to allow a network of synthesizers to interact, band member Scot Gresham-Lancaster devised a way to program the system so the Opcode Studio V could route messages among all the synthesizers in the network....

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

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

Hugh Davies

Electronic composition machine (not a synthesizer in the current sense of the word), developed by Helmut Klein and W. Schaaf at Siemens & Halske in Munich between 1956 and 1959. It was designed for and was the chief component of the Studio für Elektronische Musik in Munich, which Siemens began planning in 1955, initially to produce the soundtrack for a one-hour publicity film; it was linked to all the other equipment in the studio. A second model was installed in 1964. The director of the studio and the composer most closely involved with the Siemens Synthesizer was Josef Anton Riedl; others who used the machine included the composers Mauricio Kagel, Bengt Hambraeus, Milko Kelemen, and Ernst Krenek, and the sound poet Ferdinand Kriwet. The studio was taken over by a foundation in 1963, and its equipment was moved to Ulm in 1967; it was later acquired by the Deutsches Museum in Munich....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Monophonic analogue synthesizer produced between 1982 and 1984 by Synton Electronics, a Dutch firm founded in 1973 by Felix Visser. The device was created by Visser along with the product specialist Marc Paping and product developer Bert Vermeulen. Synton originally built vocoders, but soon began importing and distributing Fairlight, E-mu, and Linn products in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The Syrinx 1, created about 1975, was never produced commercially. Only 300 Syrinx 2 synthesizers were built. First priced under £400, but prized by collectors, originals sold for more than £1200 in the early 2000s. The device is not MIDI-compatible and has no presets, but includes two voltage control oscillators, a voltage divider, a noise generator, two ADSRs (attack decay sustain release envelope generators), two low-frequency oscillators, a pulse-width modulator, a ring modulator, and three voltage control filters. It features a mixer and a touch pad that can control pitch-bending and other parameters. All but the last series (which were mounted in a flight case), had a 44-note keyboard. The Syrinx 2 was distributed in the USA by Robert Moog. Synton went bankrupt in ...