Paper Presentations 2022

Paper Session A

Jason Palamara – Morphone Templates for Machine Learning-Enabled Music Performance

Jason Palamara
New faculty welcome at IUPUI on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (Photo by Chris Meyer/Indiana University)

Morphones, a term coined by the company Wonder Inc (makers of Dynascore), has been used to denote “the smallest unit of western music which has musical meaning.” In this paper, the term is liberated from reliance upon western musical norms and practices and utilized as a driving force for analysis of musical content regardless of tradition and genre. Thus unfettered from cultural contexts, the author incorporates morphones in a description of a machine learning system that analyzes raw musical data to identify morphones autonomously.

Biography

Jason Palamara is an Assistant Professor of Music Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He specializes in the development of machine learning-enabled performance technologies for music. He is the founder and director of IUPUI’s DISEnsemble (Destructive/Inventive Systems Ensemble) and leads the Machine Musician Lab, a research group focusing on making machine learning tools for performing musicians. With his creative partner percussionist-composer Scott Deal, he designs AVATAR, an autonomous music system that uses machine learning to play along with live improvisation.

Stefano Catena – Concepts and approaches in analysing spatial gestures: a link between Mozart and acousmatic music

Many studies have investigated musical gestures (Jensenius 2010) and their connection to sound, music concree and acousmatic composition (Goday 2006). Equally, there are many studies which identify the composition exploration and exploitation of space throughout history (Solomon 2007, Bates 2009); in the twentieth century and particularly in acousmatic music the spatial experience has become one of the central musical concerns (Smalley 2007). The gestural qualities of sound moving in space might be considered distinct in instrumental or voice-based music if compared to electroacoustic and acousmatic music, where spatialization technologies and reproduction systems have given a great range of possibilities to composers. However, by introducing a coupling-decoupling process for the analysis of spatial gestures and their sounding parameters, it is possible to abstract movements in space from their intrinsic timbral characteristics that might be applicable in the studies of a range of music, both instrumental and electroacoustic.

The concept of spatial sonorous object is suggested and used as basic unit for the analysis of the Notturno in D major K.286 by W.A. Mozart, where various questions are explored: what is the structural role of space, if any? Is it possible at all to analyze music by investigating spatial motion as fundamental aspect of composition, and what is its relation to pitch, rhythm and timbre? Is it possible to abstract spatial gestures from score-based music and apply them to acousmatic composition? What are the technological and historical considerations that need to be considered while comparing spatial gestures in music from different centuries? In this discussion, a preliminary analysis of traditional spatial gestures is proposed together with a process of coupling-decoupling, a new approach in linking spatial movements from different music contexts.

Biography

Stefano Catena is an Italian composer and researcher: he specialises in acousmatic music, ambient and multimedia installation, sound synthesis, spatialisation and sound programming. He graduated at Milan’s Conservatory in Electronic Music with the 110/110 cum laude with the thesis “The Virtual Acousmonium: a study on expressiveness of musical gestures”. He also studied in the USA at Montclair State University (NJ) with Nathan Davies and at the Hochschule Music in Detmold with Fabian Levy and Andrea Valle. His works have been included and performed in some of the most important international conferences such as Sound and Music Computing (SMC) and Colloqui d’Informatica Musicale (CIM). He is currently pursuing a PhD in Music, Technology and Innovation from De Montfort University in Leicester under Peter Batchelor, Leigh Landy and Scott Wilson.

John Dack – Open Forms: extending and/or subverting traditional forms?

John Dack

One of the constituent characteristics of a traditional performance is the modification of details by the instrumentalist. These are indicated by the composer on the score with greater or lesser degrees of precision. Certain features are, of course, not open to negotiation such as the construction of the musical events themselves and their order in the unfolding of the composition. In the post-war period composers explored the potential of ‘open forms’. These are forms in which decisions regarding global or local structural levels are made by the performer. For example, in ‘variable form’ details of local events are decided by the performer but the position of these events is fixed in the global design of the composition. This might appear to resemble traditional formal structures. However, in works such as Zyklus (1959) for solo percussion by Stockhausen the composition’s starting point and even the ‘direction’ of the work remain open. There is flexibility of detail within a framework which is only fixed once the starting point has been decided. By contrast, in ‘multi-valent form’ the local structures are unchanged but their position within the work is not determined. Thus, the overall structure of the work cannot be predicted even though individual sections can be recognised from one version to another. The openness now results from fixed details within an unpredictable structure. Klavierstück XI (1956) also by Stockhausen is an example of this type of ‘open form’. An initial reading of such works suggest that composers have abdicated responsibility from many of the traditional tasks of musical composition. However, I believe that the variety of ‘open form’ techniques that can be identified continues to affirm the role of the composer whilst simultaneously sharing it and choices by performers can be extended into areas formerly inaccessible to them. My paper will explore the subtleties of how ‘open forms’ are used in several compositions. I will suggest that while the vision of a composition’s single direction might by subverted, connections, albeit re-balanced ones remain with traditional roles of a composer and performer.

Paper Session B

David Cotter – The Collaborative Guitar

David Cotter

The central position of the notion of ‘collaboration’ within contemporary western society is the product of an extended gestation period across the arts and sciences – the ‘collaborative turn’ of the last two hundred years has led to a ‘collaborative culture’ of the 21st century. Burgeoning musical trends from ‘accompanist’ to ‘collaborator’, most prominently evident in the move from the pianist-as-accompanist to the pianist-as-collaborator, and an expansion of research into the fields of musical collaboration and collaborative creativity, have cultivated the fertile ground upon which research concerning ‘the collaborative guitar’ can begin to grow…

However, despite the six-string guitar’s immense collaborative heritage (having been united with a diverse abundance of other instruments in both canonical and uncanonical settings from at least 1800 to the present day), there is a dearth of scholarship concerning the guitar in collaborative contexts. In response to this, recent ethnographic research with c.150 prominent guitarists and other musicians operating in ensemble contexts has revealed four primary aspects of the instrument that have affected, and continue to affect, its development and roles within collaborative performance contexts. These are its sonic, spatial, social, and technological affordances and functions.

In this presentation, I begin to interrogate these pillars of the guitar’s collaborative identity, exploring issues such as:

  • The effect of the instrument’s unique sonic features upon its ensemble contexts
  • The appeal of the classical guitar’s ‘simple directness’ in the ‘dehumanized context of industrial society’
  • The osmotic relationship between the Apollonian restraints of classical guitar performance and the Dionysian frenzies of electric guitar performance
  • The omnidirectionality afforded to guitarists and how this enables innovative approaches to co-performer interaction, choreography, communication, and gesture
  • The emergent approaches to highlighting or hiding the role of technology in collaborative guitar performance

Biography

David Cotter is an academic and musician. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor John Rink. His research concerns the past, present, and future of the guitar as a collaborative instrument. He has presented at conferences in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. Recent publications include ‘The Creative Musical Mediation of Order and Chaos’ in Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses and ‘The Guitar Reimagined’ (co-authored with Marc Estibeiro) in Rethinking the Musical Instrument.

Bennet Hogg – Lost Voices, and Ghosts in Machines: Electroacoustic Voices as Tradition. 

Bennet Hogg

Since at least the first years of the present century there has been a revival of interest in some of the pioneering sounds from the earlier days of electronic and electroacoustic music. Alongside the often still striking sonorities of early Stockhausen, Schaeffer, Berio, et al. attention has been directed to some of the creators of electronic music, and some of the works that have, until fairly recently, been unmentioned in the “official” histories. Among such work figures such as Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, and their work in the fields of television, music education – especially on the radio – and cinema, have opened up the field of electronic music to include a much broader range of music than the official histories had admitted.

In this paper I intend to examine one of my own public installation works, a site specific piece for Cheeseburn Grange, a historic house with long associations with the Catholic recusancy in Northumberland. In it, I hope to cover some of the cultural associations that electroacoustically processed but still clearly recognisable voices have in British popular culture, especially for those of us of “a certain age” who were children during the 60s and 70s. The revival of interest in early electronic sound through labels such as Ghost Box and A Year in the Country, and artists/groups associated with hauntology such as Howlround, The Caretaker, Belbury Poly, etc. and some of the uses of electronic sound in now classic TV programmes such as The Owl Service, The Stone Tapes, Children of the Stones, and Sky, which have stood as inspiration for some aspects of these more contemporary projects will be used to outline what I see as one of the ongoing traditions of electronic and electroacoustic creativity.

Paper Session C

Marc Estibeiro – An Interactive Chamber Work for Classical Guitar and Electronics

This paper presents an overview of the journey towards the creation of a chamber composition for two classical guitars and electronics which utilises a bespoke software environment created in SuperCollider (SuperCollider, 2021). The software environment is a development of previous work by the author on using pitch tracking algorithms to control the electronic part in such a way that electronic cues can be triggered without the need for external sensors or controllers. Instead, the system makes use of the existing skillsets of the performers and the natural sounds of the instruments (Estibeiro & Cotter, The Guitar Reimagined, p. 2022) (Estibeiro M. , 2019) (Estibeiro M. , 2017). The paper provides an overview of previous work by the author and explores a variety of issues that has led to the development of the current compositional strategies.

Biography

Marc Estibeiro is a composer, guitar player and academic. He has degrees in Music, Music Technology and Applied Linguistics from Middlesex University, Bangor University, and Essex University. He has a PhD in Composition from Durham University.

Marc’s academic work focuses on composing music for acoustic instruments and electronics. His work has been presented at conferences, workshops, concerts, and seminars around the world. Notable examples include Mexico (Visiones Sonoras, Morelia 2012), China (ICMC, Shanghai 2017; International Guitar Research Conference Hong Kong 2019), Germany (MuSa 2017 and 2018, Karlsruhe), and South Korea (ICMC 2018). In 2019 he composed the music and designed the electronics for a large-scale, audio-visual, Arts Council funded project which used local and international musicians to explore the social and cultural legacy of the potteries industry in the city of Stoke on Trent.

Marc is currently an associate professor of Music at Staffordshire University in the UK.

Francisco Mazza – Listening as Strategy for Research: Expanding Sonic Thinking in Documentary Filmmaking

The emphasis on speaking through the documentary, which requires a hearing to focus on linguistic meaning, is often supported by historical concepts of visual representation. In a certain way, the documentary’s gaze has been historically organised in film and ethnography studies from the cultural perspective of the Global North (Minh-Ha, 2016). Sound, and its diffusive capacity, has the potential to disorient dominant gazes and voices in a ‘generative process of listening’ (Voegelin, 2010), which, at the same time, offers other perspectives around and beyond that of visual representation. By placing ourselves in the world, we can simultaneously hear all the sounds around us. Different information is constantly being communicated at the same time. This diffuse way of perceiving the world can offer the opportunity to critique a culturally oriented gaze, and its colonial histories, which have consistently been supported by the supposed objectivity of knowledge transmission in the documentary.

The explorations of the sonic as a methodological tool can provide new ways by which sound might be channelled, received, and rearticulated in contemporary documentary film, as it holds space for the possibility of expanded connections, imagination and speculation (Bull and Cobussen, 2021). What kind of knowledge might sound provide to broaden and diversify traditions of visual-logocentric methodologies that currently predominate scholarly inquiries and values? Reflecting on both the possibilities and challenges of using sonic methodologies in my PhD practice-based research, as well as a brief study of the film Zawawa: the sound of sugar cane in the wind, this presentation will explore the creative potential of articulating listening as a strategy for research from the perspective of nonfiction filmmaking practice.

Biography

Francisco Mazza is a London-based sound artist active in various projects. His focus lies at the intersection of modern composition, installation, sound for films and radio art to explore aspects of our listening and the environment around us. With a background in music and engineering and a keen interest in technology and art, he creates interdisciplinary sound works. Francisco Mazza completed a Master in Sound Arts at the London College of Communication in 2016. Since that time often collaborates with communities and other artists to investigate how processes of composition influence both our individual and collective experiences. He is currently a PhD candidate at Staffordshire University, investigating the Sonic Landscape of Documentary Form.

Manoli Moriaty – Controllerist practice: a pop-music approach in Digital Instrument Design

Manoli Moriaty

Music has been constantly reinvented by a multitude of inventions. In recent years, digital technologies have given rise to practices that not only break free from traditional canons of musical literacy, but further invite engagement by artists whose predominant expressive medium is other than sound. While avant-garde practitioners and circles of academic researchers have been at the forefront of this progress, emergent practices pertaining to popular musics are often overlooked. Such is the case with controllerism, a practice stemming from a lineage stemming from Dub mixing and Soundsystem culture. As the digital evolution of turntablism, the essence of controllerist practice is evident in most types of contemporary live electronic music practice making use of modern input devices. However, the topic is noted for its lack of literature from music researchers. This paper argues that controllerism presents not only a technologically-driven evolution in instrument design, but it furthermore present an opportunity for generating greater inclusion and transparency in contemporary sonic practices. Diffusing necessities for traditional music education and the need for sophisticated yet resource intensive design of bespoke Digital Music Instruments (DMIs), controllerism poses as an approachable and affordable entry point for novice practitioners, while simultaneously presenting sufficient breadth of options for real-time sound generation and manipulation. At a time where digital DJ practices are appearing in university curricula and graded examinations, as well as the evident turn towards decolonising music education, the cultural background, and current technical possibilities of controllerism deem the practice as a research interest worthy of further investigation.

Biography

Manoli Moriaty is a music-makes, performer, and scholar, focusing on the synergy between sonic and performance arts. Interdisciplinary collaboration is at the heart of his practice, investigating modes of collective organisation through methodologies and technologies pertinent to ethnomusicology, biology, and human-computer interaction. His work has been presented internationally at music and dance festivals, and has delivered guest lectures in China, Estonia, and Sweden. He holds a PhD on music and performance practice from the University of Salford, and is currently a lecturer in music production at Liverpool Hope University.