Sonology One-year Course Subjects Descriptions 


Aesthetics & Performance in Electronic Music  Joel Ryan
Electronic music is perhaps the only music to emerge without a performance practice. Although this is no longer the case, basic issues remain in dispute such as whether it is in fact possible to make music without reference to the act of performance. The paradigm of music creation has been under strain since the invention of recording; it is now cracked and, as a result, it is not always possible to make a clear distinction between concepts like author, score, copy, interpretation.
We therefore need to ask whether we need totally new concepts, or is the break with the past greatly exaggerated; what is the concrete connection between electronic and modern western art music. Is the purpose of music to give pleasure? Is listening a solitary activity?


Composing with Algorithms — Bjarni Gunnarsson
This course provides an introduction to algorithmic composition, its applications, history and implementation. Students will learn to program sound, control and musical behaviour. Topics such as using probabilities, generative algorithms, complex systems and selection principles will be presented. Each of these will cover technique but also practical applications and musical examples. The course uses the SuperCollider environment as well as providing short presentations of other platforms.


Digital Studio Introduction — Johan van Kreij
The basic tools for contemporary electroacoustic music production are a computer, a digital mixing desk and multiple loudspeakers. This course provides an introduction to working with a digital mixing desk and a number of standard sound production computer programs. Typical practices in a digital studio are explained, such as music production, recording and live performance.


Field Recording / Phonography — Justin Bennett
Field recording is a useful technique for gathering material for electroacoustic music and sound-art, but can also be seen as an artistic practice in its own right. The course includes lectures, guided recording and listening sessions, individual recording sessions according to a set task, group discussions and a group presentation. Field Recording encompasses listening analytically to and recording in urban and natural environments. The course focuses particularly on notions of space, place and mobility in connection with binaural and/or ambisonic techniques. Students are encouraged to explore diverse theoretical frameworks and aesthetic approaches to using sound recordings as a musical and artistic material.


History of Contemporary Music Composition — Bob Gilmore
This course gives the student a chance to explore in detail many of the main currents and counter-currents of thought and practice in composed music since the Second World War. We will discuss the aesthetics, the compositional techniques and the career histories of many of the most influential artists who came to prominence in these decades. The ways in which western compositional traditions have enriched themselves through encounters with other art forms, non-traditional notations, and with jazz, various forms of popular music, electronic music and the music of other traditions, will be important themes throughout. We will look at the writing and the scores of a range of significant creative musicians from the late 1940s to the present and listen closely to recordings of their work.


MIDI Instrument Design — Frank Baldé
Participants learn how to design a new electronic musical instrument and to program it for the purposes of a performance. The point of departure is STEIM’s junXion hardware/software package, comprising a sensor interface to which various sensors can be connected, and the junXion software, which can translate and process the sensor data into MIDI or OSC messages. The participants will also learn how to use this package together with STEIM’s live sampling software, LiSa.


Music and Time — Joel Ryan (BA3)                                                         
The use of digital and analogue electronics has presumably changed our relation to time in music, and the relation of technique to content is a puzzling one. As electronic musicians we therefore have to examine some basic questions: Can we learn to perceive time in a different way; can we imagine a sound we have never heard before; is time in music the same as time in nature; how does our perception of time relate to time measured by a physical process; is counting the same as measuring duration?
During the course, ideas drawn from traditional music, natural processes, mathematics and cognitive science will be examined as inspiration for a new theory of time and representation in music. 
Students who follow this course will gain an insight into number theory, adaptive systems, generative grammar, linear and non-linear dynamics and the phenomenology of time perception.


Physical Models and Analysis/Re-synthesis — Peter Pabon
The central topic of this course is the liaison that perception has with the spectral and physical representations of a sound. A sound can be analysed and exactly resynthesised from its spectrum with the so-called Fourier Model, which presents a series of interesting and characteristic processing options. The sound qualities that come out of this model do not necessarily represent the familiar physicality that perception expects from acoustical sounds. The predisposition of perception to listen for those acoustical markers that define a sound production mechanism triggered an interest in a different synthesis technique called Physical Modelling. Here, vibrating masses coupled together by springs that undergo frictional forces are the modelled abstractions, which can be implemented in real-time too.


Psychoacoustics — Bert Kraaijpoel
Psychoacoustics describes the relation between sound as we perceive it and sound as a physical fact. The lessons address four areas: perception of loudness, pitch and timbre, directional hearing, and an introduction to Auditory Scene Analysis.


Real-time Processes with Max/MSP — Johan van Kreij
Max is a programming tool that is relatively easy to learn, and it is especially suitable for creating and exploring real-time generative processes and the interaction with them. In Max, such processes can be defined as data streams or as audio generating structures. The aim is to research musicality in the interaction, and to define personal approaches and methods. The course starts with a brief introduction to the basics of Max.


Richard Barrett Lectures
The lectures form a comprehensive individual view of a variety of interconnected issues of musical composition: the evolutionary origins of music and their implications for thinking about compositional parameters, the nature and scope of musical structures, improvisation as a method of composition, relationships and combinations between acoustic and electronic music on both conceptual and practical levels, and so on, illustrated with examples from a wide historical and geographical range as well as from Richard Barrett’s own ideas as expressed through his work as composer and performer.


Signals and Systems 1 and 2 — Peter Pabon
These classes are designed to provide a solid background for dealing practically with the physical and mathematical representations of sound signals and sound processing systems. The course treats standard topics like the decibel, sampling, fundamental periodicity and the build-up of acoustical wave fields. By the end of the first year, student will have an in-depth understanding of the Fourier Transform. In part 2, attention shifts to system characterisation and the concepts of filtering, convolution, impulse response measurement, nonlinear systems and modulation techniques.


Sonology Colloquium
Throughout the academic year, a two-hour weekly colloquium takes place. Ten of these take the form of presentations by faculty and guest speakers, and the rest are presentations by each student from the fourth year of the Sonology Bachelor’s programme and both the first and second years of the Sonology Master’s programme. During the colloquium, students present aspects of their research projects. The colloquia are attended by four or five Sonology faculty members, by students from the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes and the one-year course in sonology, and by students from other departments of the Conservatoire.


Sonology Electroacoustic Ensemble — Richard Barrett
The Sonology Electroacoustic Ensemble (SEE) consists of an alternating line-up of between five and fifteen performers of both acoustic instruments/voices and live electronics, most of whom are students at the Institute of Sonology, although the SEE is also open to musicians from throughout the Conservatoire, and indeed outside it. The ensemble has also given workshops and performances with guest musicians including Evan Parker, Peter Evans and Sarah Nicolls. Its work is based on a structural-compositional approach to freely improvised music, bringing together players/composers from diverse stylistic backgrounds to create a composite personality which is recreated in a novel way for each performance. SEE appears regularly at Sonology concerts and other events at the Conservatoire, and in June 2014 performed three times in Amsterdam as part of the Holland Festival.


Sound and Space — Raviv Ganchrow
Sound and Space is a seminar exploring interconnections between modes of sonic attention and concepts of space. The seminar is grouped around the themes of echoresonance and oscillation, providing a cross-disciplinary reading of developments in spatial composition, sound art, audio technologies and architectural acoustics. The course covers examples from a broad range of sources serving to highlight distinctive correlations between epistemologies of sound and ontologies of space and place.


For more information see the website sonology