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Article

Ableton  

Brandon Smith

Music production software company based in Berlin, with a branch in New York. Ableton (Ableton AG) was founded in 1999 by Gerhard Behles, Robert Henke, and Bernd Roggendorf. Its main product is a computer program called Live, which was released in 2001. This is a digital audio workstation (DAW) environment for recording audio and MIDI with an emphasis on working in real time, essentially allowing the user to play the software as an instrument. Practically any operation can be controlled via MIDI. Since its introduction, Live has become popular among electronic music artists for its ability to allow spontaneous manipulation of audio in a performance situation. Many manufacturers of MIDI controllers have developed control surfaces for Live, bridging the gap between software and hardware.

Live is equally suited to arranging and production applications, with abilities similar to those of other popular recording platforms such as Cubase and Pro Tools. It can run in tandem with most other DAW systems using the ReWire protocol by Steinberg Media Technologies (the creators of Cubase), allowing Live and other programs to share audio and MIDI information with a host DAW. In many ways Live has redefined the role software and computers in general have had in music creation and production. It was among the first programs able automatically to ‘beat match’ (synchronize audio files with different tempos). An integrated Max/MSP platform (a visual programming language) allows users to program their own virtual instruments by linking together pre-made blocks or ‘objects’. Ableton also produces virtual instrument plug-ins and libraries of samples for their Live platform....

Article

Alex U. Case

[DAW]

A digital audio workstation (DAW) comprises a combination of computer hardware and software used for the computer-based creation of recorded music through multitrack production. It typically consists of a multitrack recorder, a mixer, and a diversity of signal processors, such as faders, pan pots, equalizers, compressors, delays, and reverbs. The DAW unites within a desktop or laptop computer the full functionality that the analog recording studio offers across many separate components, including tape machines, mixing consoles, and effects devices.

While the DAW possesses all of the essential functional capabilities of a stand-alone recording studio entirely within the computer environment, it generally permits interfacing with additional tools. Third-party software called plug-ins may be incorporated into the DAW through industry standard protocols. This enables the DAW to leverage the features and qualities of different tools from a variety of software developers. On the one hand, audio interfaces possessing digital-to-analog converters enable the audio to leave the DAW platform and have the benefit of any available external, outboard analog signal processors. On the other hand, analog-to-digital converters return analog-processed audio back into the DAW. In this way, the DAW takes advantage of both new and legacy analog recording studio devices, providing the user the best of both worlds, analog and digital....

Article

Eliot Gattegno

(b Milwaukee, WI, June 27, 1960). American computer musician, sound engineer, and educator. Erbe has played an important role in American experimental and electronic music since the late 1980s. He wrote the pioneering and widely used program SoundHack, has taught computer music at key institutions, and has become one of the most highly respected sound engineers for contemporary music. Erbe studied computer science and music at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and got his start as an audio engineer by volunteering at WEFT, WPGU, and Faithful Sound Studios.

He was the technical director of the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM) at Mills College (1987–93). There he worked as a computer musician and recording engineer with composers Robert Ashley (Improvement, 1992), Larry Polansky (The Theory of Impossible Melody, 1993), James Tenney (Selected Works, 1993), and Alvin Curran (Schtyx, 1994). During this period he also developed a four-channel spatial audio processor for the NASA Ames Research Center. His research at CCM included the development of SoundHack (...

Article

Jason Freeman and Frank Clark

[GTCMT]

Interdisciplinary research centre for music, computing, engineering, design, and business, founded in 2008 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The Center focuses on the development and deployment of transformative musical technologies, and emphasizes the impact of music technology research on scholarship, industry, and culture. In 2012 the Center had 23 faculty members.

Numerous projects have involved the development of new musical instruments, particularly mobile instruments for smartphone devices; robotic musicians that can listen to and collaborate with human performers; and novel instruments and interfaces designed for health and educational applications. GTCMT research projects have received many grants, mostly from the National Science Foundation. Two spinoff companies, ZooZ Mobile and Khush, have commercialized research results to produce mobile music creation applications.

Though the GTCMT does not have a direct educational mission, it collaborates closely with the university’s School of Music, and several of its faculty members teach courses and advise students in Georgia Tech’s Master of Science and Ph.D. programmes in music technology. The GTCMT presents concerts featuring new instruments, and related events, notably the annual Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, co-sponsored since ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Unique MIDI synthesizer controlled by a gamma-ray spectrometer designed and built by Jerry Chamkis (b Los Angeles, CA, 1942). He studied physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but disillusioned by the emphasis on military applications, he left and became chief engineer at a radio station in Houston, Texas. In 1975, he formed AERCO (Acme Electric Robot Company), where he initially produced peripheral devices and memory expansions for small computers and then moved on to computer-controlled hot wire cutting systems, broadcast equipment, and microphone preamplifiers. Since about 2000 he has concentrated on various art projects such as the Kosmophone.

The gamma-ray spectrometer used for the Kosmophone operates at 3–7 million electron volts, the energy coming primarily from very high-energy cosmic radiation. Although mostly stopped by the atmosphere, gamma rays produce secondary energy emissions that the Kosmophone detects, sending the information to a synthesizer MIDI control port. The radiation pulses are processed and digitized to 12 bits, 7 of which are sent as the MIDI pitch value and 4 as the MIDI velocity value. The first Kosmophone was built from standard nuclear instrumentation modules and custom circuit boards. The second version is a self-contained portable unit with an integral detector, a self-contained nuclear analyser, an Alesis QSR synthesizer, and a 100-watt-per-channel amplifier. It was first shown publicly at the Electricity and Me show at Gallery Lombardi in Austin, Texas, in ...

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

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

Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner and Anne Beetem Acker

American firm specializing in digital audio workstations (DAW) featuring sound design applications and environments for music, film, advertising, television, audio research, computer games, and other virtual environments. Founded as Kymatics in 1989 by the musician and inventor Carla Scaletti and Kurt J. Hebel of the Computer-Based Education Research Laboratory (CERL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the company was incorporated in 1990 as Symbolic Sound Corporation and is based in Champaign.

Scaletti, president of the firm and formerly a professional harpist, studied composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (DMA 1984); she also took the degree of Master of Computer Science at Illinois (1988) and the MM at Texas Tech University (1979). The Kyma system (see below) features almost exclusively in her later works, the interaction between performer, composer, and machine remaining a primary motivation. In 1995 Scaletti received an International Computer Music Association award for her interactive online installation ...

Article

Robert E. Eliason

The first commercially available digital music synthesizer, introduced at the 1977 International Computer Music Conference in San Diego, California. It was designed and built by New England Digital Corporation (NED) founders Sydney Alonzo and Cameron W. Jones in collaboration with Dartmouth College professor Jon Appleton. During the 1980s it developed into a digital audio system capable of FM synthesis, sound analysis, sampling, stereo recording and playback on up to 200 tracks, audio editing, video synchronization, and music printing. By 1985 over 400 systems had been sold to recording studios, video post-production operations, and professional musicians such as Michael Jackson, Pat Metheny, Oscar Peterson, Sting, and Stevie Wonder. Commercial producers such as Richard Lavsky used the Synclavier to create accompaniments for such diverse uses as Canon camera commercials, promotional shorts for ABC News, and “Sesame Street.” The success of the Synclavier came to an end in the early 1990s with the advent of several more-affordable digital synthesizers and samplers. Following the end of operations 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 ...