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Article

ANS  

Hugh Davies

revised by Andrei Smirnov

Photoelectric composition machine (named from the initials of Aleksandr Nikolayevich Skryabin) developed from about 1950 in Moscow by Evgeny Murzin (c1913–70). The idea for such a machine dated back to 1938, when Murzin visited the acoustician Boris Yankovsky, who had collaborated in experiments on graphic sound with Arseny Avraamov and soon afterwards worked with Evgeny Sholpo in Leningrad on his composition machine, the Variophon. The ANS was remarkably close to the concept of the Mechanical Orchestra, a sound synthesis machine proposed by Sholpo in 1917. The ANS was based on a set of optical sine wave oscillators, adjusted on fixed frequencies, forming a discrete scale, and covering the whole audible range with very small intervals between successive pitches.

World War II delayed Murzin’s work, so the first model of the ANS was not completed until 1957. It was installed in an improved form in 1959 at the Skryabin Museum in Moscow, where it became the basis of the Soviet Union’s first electronic music studio (in ...

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

[Compositron]

An electronic composition machine developed at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa from 1948 by Osmond (‘Ken’) Kendall (b Spain, 1909, of British parents), an electronics engineer at the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC). Basing his experiments on a simplified form of the optical film soundtrack and the idea of graphic sound, on which his colleague Norman McLaren was working, Kendall devised the Composertron, which employed a system for drawing sound-waveforms on a television screen with a grease pencil (probably the first use of this technique in a musical instrument); rhythm was ‘notated’ on a strip of film. The waveforms were scanned and this process controlled electronic oscillators; the resulting sounds were then recorded on magnetic tape. At the same time Kendall constructed a machine for speech synthesis using the same principle. Working models of both machines were assembled by the Canadian Marconi Co. in Montreal about ...

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

GAME  

Hugh Davies, Annette Vande Gorne and Anne Beetem Acker

[Générateur automatique de musique électronique] (Fr.: ‘automatic electronic music generator’)

Composition machine developed by the Belgian composer Léo Küpper (b Nidrum, 16 April 1935) in Brussels between 1968 and 1978. Küpper had begun experimenting with electronic music in 1959 while a student at Liège University, using two Brüel & Kjaer oscillators and a tape recorder. In 1962 he began work in Brussels at APELAC, the first Belgian electronic music studio, and joined the musical sound-effects department of the RTBF. The GAME system formed the basis of Küpper’s electronic music studio in Brussels, the Studio de Recherches et de Structurations Electroniques Auditives, which he founded in 1967. The first version of the GAME, completed in 1971, was used in concerts and installations. It consisted of 60 separate modules, using a combination of analogue and digital techniques, which could be freely selected and combined. The modules were programmed in an upright console approximately 4 × 2 metres by making a large number of patchcord interconnections, so that the surface of the console was festooned with cables. Most of the controls operated during a performance were placed in front of the console....

Article

Mandy-Suzanne Wong

(b New Britain, CT, 1952). American video, new media, and sound artist, electroacoustic composer, and guitarist. Educated at the Eastman School of Music (BM), the Hartt School at the University of Hartford (MM), and the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati (DMA), Gwiazda is now professor of composition and music theory at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, Minnesota. Early in his career he composed for orchestra and electric guitar, securing performances by the New Britain Symphony, the American Dance Festival, and others.

In 1986 he turned to electroacoustic music, performing throughout the United States and Europe on sampler, guitar, and tape. In the tradition of musique concrète, Gwiazda’s collage-like pieces emphasized the musical potential inherent in environmental sounds and other so-called noises. In 1992 he began working with virtual audio: the use of sound to simulate immersive, three-dimensional spaces. His 1994 installation buzzingreynold’sdreamland uses a precise configuration of speakers to give the listener the impression of being inside a bowl of sound (Gwiazda’s sampled, vocal, and guitar sounds). ...

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

Mark Alburger

(b Harbor Beach, MI, Aug 10, 1940). American composer and performer. He began playing piano as a child and later studied with Robert Helps and Barbara Shearer. He attended the Aspen Institute in 1956, studying with Darius Milhaud, and Yale University (BA, music theory, 1962), where his principal teachers were mel Powell , lawrence k. Moss , and donald Martino . Jenks worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the University of California, Davis, and performed in Stockhausen’s work Ensemble at Darmstadt in 1967. He also studied composition with Andrew Imbrie and seymour Shifrin at the University of California, Berkeley (MA 1968).

Jenks became interested in electronic music through the San Francisco Tape Music Center, run by Pauline Oliveros and Ramón Sender, and thereafter associated with David Tudor and Anthony Gnazzo at Mills College. He created the performing group Deus ex Machina in collaboration with Martin Bartlett and built a large digital synthesizer called the Grand WebUrl Ensemble. Since the late 1960s much of his work has been electroacoustic. Jenks designed, contributed to, and edited ...

Article

KIM-1  

Anne Beetem Acker

(Keyboard Input Monitor)

Computer designed by Chuck Pedal and Bill Mensch, both formerly engineers with the Motorola Corporation, and released by MOS Technology Corporation of Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1976. It was next produced by Commodore Business Machines of Palo Alto, California, after they acquired MOS in 1977. It was originally intended as a training and development system for industrial applications. The TINY BASIC programming language could be run on the KIM-1 with extra memory, making programming far more accessible. Hence, the KIM-1 was the first microprocessor adopted by experimental composers and performers as an easier alternative to making their own custom circuitry. Jim Horton, an improvisational flutist and analogue synthesizer player, was perhaps the first to realize the musical potential of microprocessors. He purchased a KIM-1 in 1976 and mentored many of his colleagues in using it. The KIM-1 could directly generate audio or act as a controller for other electronic sound generators. Most important, it provided memory, so that the user could program a time-varying sequence of events; in other words, the program became the musical score. In ...

Article

Alexander Bonus

[iPhone, Android, smartphone]

Portable electronic communication device. These have become robust platforms for digital audio production, composition, and music performance since the beginning of the 21st century. Recent compositions for mobile-phone ringtones might represent an emerging music genre. Since 2008, many commercial apps have transformed mobile devices into miniature synthesizers. Popular virtual-instrument programs such as Ocarina (2008) by the Smule Corporation and Band (2008) by MooCowMusic harness the phone’s numerous interfaces in various ways. Multi-point touch screens offer players the ability to manipulate graphical fingerholes, fretboards, drum pads, and keyboards, thus approximating the playing experience of acoustic wind, string, percussion, and keyboard instruments. Beyond its use in voice recording and transmission, a device’s microphone can register breath intensity, enabling users to initiate tones and alter dynamics as though playing a wind instrument.

Some mobile sound-production programs feature real-time voice manipulation, including auto-tune or pitch correction. Additional levels of musical functionality can be mapped to a phone’s accelerometer (an internal speed and direction detector). When the device is swung, shaken, or tilted, the accelerometer can trigger alterations in timbre, vibrato, pitch, and other variables. More advanced uses have been proposed. For example, a phone’s camera, acting as a real-time motion sensor, could affect many aspects of sound synthesis and sequencing; and the GPS (global positioning system) indicator has the potential to take location markers from other phones across the planet and turn those data into sonic information....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Table-height electronic display and controller (interface) with a touchscreen top that can detect two or more simultaneous points of contact on its surface. Multi-touch tables typically include an integral computer to process the screen’s input and output as well as any other associated outputs such as audio. The screen surface (a sheet of glass or polymer) is lit by an array of infrared LEDs around the edge of the screen inside the table, and a short-throw projector displays an image (e.g. a keyboard) on the screen from below. Some form of optical touch technology such as surface capacitance, SAW (surface acoustic wave), infrared grid technology, or FTIR (frustrated total internal reflection) is used to detect and locate touches on the image. An internal camera sends data to the computer, which then deduces where the fingers have pressed and uses that information to control an application (app). Multi-touch tables use either custom software or a touchscreen package such as Touchlib....

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

An electronic composition machine (not a synthesizer in the current sense of the word). It was developed by Harry F(erdinand) Olson (b Mount Pleasant, IA, 28 Dec 1902; d Princeton, NJ, 1 April 1982) and Herbert F. Belar at the RCA Laboratories in Princeton in 1951–2, but not publicly demonstrated until ...

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

revised by Andrei Smirnov

(b Porhov, Pskov province, Russia, April 23, 1891; d Leningrad, USSR, Jan 5, 1951). Russian inventor of pioneering photoelectric composition machines. In 1908 he finished college in Pskov and entered the Institute of Civil Engineers in St Petersburg, which he left to pursue a career as a freelance musician. He was a founding member (with Arseny Avraamov and Sergei Dianin) in the summer of 1917 of the Leonardo da Vinci Society in Petrograd, whose aims were to investigate and improve music scientifically. At the same time Sholpo, inspired by the ideas of Avraamov, wrote a science fiction essay titled ‘The Enemy of Music’ in which he described a sound machine named the ‘Mechanical Orchestra’ capable of synthesizing any sound and producing music according to a special graphic score without a performer. It prefigured the ANS synthesizer, built 40 years later in Moscow by Evgeny Murzin.

From 1918 to 1922...

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

SSSP  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Structured Sound Synthesis Project]

Interactive computer-assisted music composition system, including a polyphonic digital synthesizer, developed by the Canadian composer and computer scientist William Buxton (b 10 March 1949) and others at the University of Toronto Dynamic Graphics Lab in 1977. Its basic 16-voice multiplexed digital oscillator was used in three different systems. In the SSSP Composition System (1978) it was controlled by a PDP 11/45 computer in a studio environment; material developed in this way (up to eight ‘scores’ simultaneously) could be performed in concerts with the SSSP Conduct System (1979), controlled by a portable LSI 11/2 microcomputer. Both systems included a visual display unit and a choice of inputting devices: a 61-note keyboard, an alphanumeric keyboard, and a special graphics tablet by means of which the operator could ‘draw’ on the screen. This very flexible system offered a choice of notations as well as the sophisticated facility of the tablet, and composers needed no previous programming experience to operate it. The tablet led to the development of a new live performance instrument, the SSSP Touch-Sensitive Drum (...

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 ...

Article

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Andrei Smirnov

Photoelectric composition machine, four models of which were developed in Leningrad between 1930 and 1949 by Evgeny Aleksandrovich Sholpo, inspired by experiments in graphic sound which he made with Arseny Avraamov at the end of 1929 and later on his own.

In May 1930, while working at Alexander Shorin’s Central Laboratory of Wire Communication in Leningrad, Sholpo applied for a patent on a ‘method and device for the production of a periodic sound track on film’, later named the Variophon. Supplementary applications claimed improvements, and he obtained copyright on 31 August 1931. In October 1930 he applied for a patent on a method of additive synthesis of graphic soundtracks: ‘a mechanism for the transformation and addition of harmonious fluctuations with different amplitudes’.

A shaped vane, or ‘acoustical drafter’, rotating between a length of film and a beam of light, shaped the optical recording, producing different pitches related to the ratio of speed of rotation of a disk and the speed at which the film moved. The first version of the Variophon was built with assistance from the composer Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov in ...