An Introduction to a Second Year Electroacoustic Studies Core Analysis Course
At Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, the Major and Minor in Electroacoustic Studies are built around a comprehensive approach to the discipline through study and creativity.
The central first year course, EAMT 205 introduces students to the area with the topics briefly introduced including: hearing, acoustics, psychoacoustics, linguistics, history, repertoire, æsthetics, analysis and composition, studio techniques, equipment and software etc. The lecture position of the course in one half of the class time, and up to one half of the lecture time is spent listening and analyzing.
This general approach is refined in the second year by taking a more “topic oriented” approach. Often the topics are closely related to the listening / analysis, but sometimes the “lecture” (information) portion and the listening portion are not closely related.
Students in the course take notes and are to write a 200–400 report on each class, researching at least four new terms per week. In the period of the 26 weeks of the course, students often research between 150 and 200 ea related terms. This approach, while labor intensive, has shown itself to be remarkably successful for preparing the class for the much more intense and focused 3rd year course.
During the year 2005-06, the 35 students in the class handed in documents totaling over 230,000 words (over 650 pages of text). These documents were combined and edited down to a “basic word list” of about 2,000 words, which included some repetition and quite a lot of “variation in shading”.
However, the list has shown itself as an important archival resource in knowing what went on in the class and the range of materials covered and independently researched.
The terms were very loosely divided into 7 categories, with some obvious overlap in a number of areas. These can be seen as multivalent topics that bridge the categories.
At the end a “repertoire” list will be found. Many of these pieces were played in the class in 2005–06, and others are from previous or subsequent years. Only about one third of the pieces are used in two consecutive years.
A number of classes had clearly identifiable topics. Some of these (with sub-ideas) are found in Section I — General.
In preparing a concert, stated alphabetically, what are some of the everyday and longer term aspects to be taken into consideration?
Concerts and production will consume much time. The better the organization and preparation, the fewer unexpected problems will delay the production. Things to know about include:
- Amortization rate
- Concert performances
- Concert production
- How to run a successful production
- “In kind”-Benefits
- Operating Expense
- Audience seating arrangements
- Publicity and advertising
Does property exist? Can it be owned? Give an alphabetical list of some of the personal, philosophical, æsthetic and legal (national and international) topics.
Copyright / Intellectual Property:
- Copyright law and protection
- Creative Commons
- Illegal use of property
- Intellectual Property (what is it?)
- International agreements
- Moral Rights
- Ownership of one’s own mage / face
- Patents, Trade Marks, Designs
- Public domain [PD]
- Rights of self
- What is Property?”
In this class, were examples played from a legal or illegal source?
This class listened to piece “by” John Oswald. It is a 2-CD set of his plunderphonics, but contains no copyright notice.
In preparing the reports of the classes, what kinds of things does the writer need to include. Provide the list from most to least important.
Since all of the points are essential in Writing a report, the list is hierarchical in a circular fashion.
- Main Points
- Central feature
- Generalization / specifics
Was philosophy an important part of the class? Was it a general or specific philosophy? Was it really open for discussion or was this a sham as well?
- Anarchic and chaotic worldview
- Belief and our condition of being
- Concept of Same
Some philosophical ideas have practical realization. Name some of those that came up in the class.
Frequently, some students were not aware that philosophy could exist in practice, and therefore dealt with “ideas” only in concrete and practical ways. Some of these included:
- Acoustic ecology
- Charter of human rights
- Cognitive perception
- Imagination creating new perceptions
- Sensation vs.Perception
- Rust removal session
Some philosophical ideas have no immediate practical realization. Name some of these that came up in discussion or research.
This was indeed the case, and frequently the idea was thought as being in a different category. Because of this, some of these terms appear two or three times in this document.
- Long-term memory
- Short-term memory
- Sensory memory
- Quantization of time
- Momentary time (instantaneous)
- Our beliefs determine our being
- Sensation and representation
- Process of abstraction
- Qualities / quantities
- Universal / local conditions
Were there other items that came up but found no easy classification? For example…
- New Sound
- Radiophonic art
- Dominique Bassal’s paper “Mastering in Electroacoustics”
- International Conference on Auditory Display
- Sound chain
- Temporal art
- Well formed
- Execute tasks concurrently
Were you sometimes able to surprise the class with something that appeared on the surface as simple or mundane, but proved to be difficult or complex? Give two examples.
- New sounds from vacation
- Small quiz of EA definitions
How were they difficult?
Many students reported “old sounds” they knew as being “new” sounds. In the second case, ten basic terms had to be defined in a clear and concise way. Many students discovered that while they knew what the term meant, they were unable to write a clear, concise definition.
Every classroom discourse has ideas and topics that apparently appear and disappear, only to suddenly find relevance in another context. List in somewhat random collections, some of these, with a brief thematic title:
Nature and object
- Abstract (vb)
- Binary relationships
- Brain / mind
- Differentiation through abstraction
- Object and function
- Internal/external, matter/artifice, reality/symbol
- Local / universal
- Philosophy vs.Belief
- Real time
- This Pen is not a Pen. It is a Flower.
- Picasso — Guernica
- Reactions, belief, function
- Sound as sound, or sound as object
- Time and space have been displaced
- Forms of conceptualizing
- Imagination vs.sensation
- Order of processes and priority
- Perceptual information processesing
- Able to look from other perspectives
- Oliver Sachs
- Editing of memory
- Four development stages with children
- Developmental psychology and genetic epistemology
- Question our personal assumptions
- The educated listener / ear
- Representation of an idea
- Basic concepts
- Difficulty expressing their definitions
Was individual opinion valued? Give examples and counter-examples:
Individual opinion was valued and questioned. Opinion had to have clarity and be well thought out. Some of the discussions included:
- Being asked about what we heard
- Being asked to rate the piece
- Listening to 25 30-second intros of pieces and ranking them
- Refining the way we speak about sound and our experiences with it
Sometimes ideas came from unexpected and unrelated matters. Give some examples.
While most “questions” were dealt with in class, or on the email lists, some required that the student do some independent research.
- Folk art forms become institutionalized
- Alienation from the performance?
- Memory and technology
- Multi-media / Media Arts
- Pedagogy, the art of teaching
- Penchant for irrationality and outright silliness
- Live sound creation vs.pre-determined music; live electronics / live EA
- Resynthesis of one’s original point of view
- Visibility and audibility of the technology
- Women working in experimental electronic music
- Interactions between the live event and the technology
Being at base, an analysis course, there were no doubt many layers of potential analysis and analytic modes-models. Were you able to find ways to have meta-categries of idea, followed by lower and lower, more detailed and more specific terms?
To both parts of this question, the answer is “Yes”, but the answer belies the difficulty of excuting the task of sorting in a meangful and useful way, given the range and complexity of the area. But I have tried to do a basic organization.
The first major “division” is of the ideas into the three categories of description, analysis and composition. Often these were tied up in personal philosophies.
Was the representation of sound a difficulty?
Yes, both as visual and in the mind
Give examples of topics considered.
- Amplitude timeline
- Non-linear representation
- Conflict of visual and auditory
- Imagination and perception though description
- Internal representation of a sound
- Sound is contextual within a societal norms
- Sounds are described by what made the sound… action made the sound
- Sounds [not] as sounds, but to represent other ideas
- Conditioned to categorize
What was a major consideration in representation? Give examples.
The process of determining the “boundaries” of a sound:
- Concept of continuity
- Form-forming abilities of our mind
- Frames of reference
- How many? or “how much?”
- Confusion of identity
- Constancy of Identity
- Musical objects
- How musical pieces achieve coherency
- A representation of a representation
- Binary category trees
- Binary oppositions
- Perceived objects
- Object and function
- Sonic vocabulary
- Structuralism and Identity
- Structure, coherence and consistency
- Meaning of processed and unprocessed
- Models for understanding sound
Philosophy / perception / creativity:
- How do creative artists maintain origin of inspiration
- Listen without making mental associations
- Maintain the creative inspiration
- Managing the dissipation creative energy
- How is release created within a piece?
- Constant release
- Human vs.machine
- Memory tends to compress time and space
- Naïve listening
- Nature vs.Man
- Relationships, Integration and Memory
- Relationship between the event and the technology
- Relationships can be stored into tables
- Relationships of Patterns
- Sociological implications of sound, not the quality of the sound
- Sounds may evoke philosophical insight
Questions of composition:
- Did this piece exist?” if yes, in what form is it true?
- Judge / assess
- Obsession with control?
- Storage and retrieval
- Stayed focused
The previous examples are sorted into larger categories, but the listings seem to be un-ordered and at times repetitious. What is the meaning of this?
This has been done to provide the reader with the simultaneous sense of order and chaos that many students felt in the earlier parts of the course before the “larger picture” came into view.
What is this larger picture?
This will become clear by the time we get to the end of the document.
What do you wish to deal with now?
One of the more important specifics from the course.
Description & Analysis.
A quick look reveals some 100 ideas. Is there a logical way to break these into subcategories for ease of digestion?
This was one of the challenges of the course where so many things seemed to run together. In this case the divisions will be between “ideas”, and “descriptive limiters”, or something like that. Each will be somewhat alphabetical to avoid implying a hierarchy.
- Abstract symbol has no pictorial intent
- Abstract symbolism
- Acoustical Distance vs.Psychological Distance
- Analyzing from a range of perspectives
- Anecdotal sound = understands the references
- Anecdotal sound requires context, frame of reference
- Carrier of meaning
- Character and Identity
- Coherence and Identity
- Complexity of the whole
- Complexity or simplicity
- Creation of categories
- Defining density
- Defining performance
- Descriptive notation
- Distillation of ideas
- Engagement / Release? (emotional responses)
- Generating Coherence & Identity
- Imposing Limits
- Invisible Sound
- Levels of Discrimination
- Linguistic Representation of Sound
- Mass Structure & Perception
- Movie for the ears
- Natural and “artificial”
- Sexuality in music
- Sonic symbolism of nature
- Sounds, or objects
- Abstract and concrete sounds / abstract vs.concrete
- Amplitude timeline and spectrogram
- Amplitude envelopes
- Anecdotal (image provoking story)
- Anecdotal pieces
- Amplitude timeline
- Categories of anecdotal sound: natural / artificial, animal / human, male / female
- Close or far
- Convincing narrative
- Co-relation of events in the stereo field
- Depth of field
- Describing a sound
- Describing the sound’s sonic characteristics
- Durational characteristics?
- Elements of Contrast
- Energy analysis
- Energy being dissipated
- Engagement and release
- Event timelines
- Exercise of identifying the sounds leads to our categorizing
- Families of sound
- Fulfillment of Expectations
- Gestures recorded in real time versus expanding on a single sound source.
- Gestures, or references to action
- Getting to that point
- Guided stream of consciousness drawings
- Identifiable sounds and “unidentifiable sounds”.
- Impulse sounds
- Incoherent with the rest of the piece
- Internal structure
- Introspective piece
- Inverted Pedal (drone)
- Large gestures
- Make predictions
- Manipulation of tone colour independently of pitch and frequency
- Mass structure
- Microstructure / macrostructure
- Non-narrative anecdotal music
- Perceive whole forms
- Points of articulation
- Processed vs.unprocessed sounds
- Quality of the energy of a piece
- Rate of Change
- Representational soundscape
- Same group of source sounds
- Sense of distance
- Shape and direction
- Shape and gesture
- Shape versus direction
- Shape with direction
- Signature and identity
- Sonic identity (assigning characteristics)
- Spectral shaping
- Voice, or voice-like
Much of this appears to be rather dry and academic. Is there a point?
Patience perhaps. All of these studies are aimed at the process of, and the development of, modes of composition. The following lists some of them.
- Extended instrumental techniques
- Family of sounds
- Composers intentions
- Subotnick’s ghost electronics
- Different levels of release
- CD (or cassette) audio art
- Differing meanings
- Spectral Music
- Horizontal montage
- Serial music — formalism
- Linear sequence
- Stochastic Music
- Write a descriptive narrative
- Write a story
- Write out a narrative text
This list appears less ordered than previous ones. Is this simply my getting tired?
This list was, like eggs, scrambled to improve and vary the texture of the object. Varia is next — kind of left-overs
- Field recordings
- Synchronous to release
- Theoretical Space
- Wall of Sound
- Listen at a detailed level
- Transient sounds
- Write program notes
- Idea of noise
- Visualization of sound
- Water is the symbol of cosmic knowledge
- Ways of communicating emotion
- Academic vs.non-academic musical styles
- Creative inspiration inspired by sudden emotions
- Did the audience listen to an acoustic event?
- Surface / deep
- Technological description, function, and object
- Timeline for a piece
- Transition (microstructure)
- Types of sounds (e.g. mechanical, human, natural, sounds inside head, sounds outside head, etc.)
- Vocally generated SFX
- Variety of reference points
Did the class deal with matters more concrete?
The class dealt regularly with matters concrete (metrics / physics).
What range of topics was covered, and what were some of the boundaries for determining this classification?
The main limit was that of vibration, and the nature of vibration. Areas covered included acoustics, the physiology of hearing, phonetics and information theory, and a number of very practical applications.
The list is long.
Yes. This is the physical basis of the art.
- 20 and 20,000 Hz
- Acoustic Impedance
- Acoustical Design
- Acoustical Quality vs.Abstract Quality
- Acoustically Correct
- Actual mechanics of the ear
- Ambisonics — 3D sound, not 2D surround sound
- Attack transient (noise)
- Basilar membrane
- Bilabial Plosive
- Bone conduction
- Butterfly projection layout on a mixer
- Chiff and fipple
- Cognitive Dissonance
- Complex, inharmonic
- Concept of phonetics
- Critical bands
- Critical distance
- Data Reduction
- Decorrelated Signal
- Direct sound
- Distance and time are reciprocals
- Distance, mic placement.
- Eighth cranial nerve
- Error being contextual
- Formant Frequencies
- Fourier Analysis
- Free field / reverberant field
- Haas Effect
- Headphones for mixing
- Head-related transfer function HRTF
- Human voice : two types of fundamental sounds
- Impulse Sound
- Information Theory
- Input and and output
- Interference patterns
- Intricacies of mechanical sound
- Low frequencies
- Manual compression (Micro-editing)
- Margin of error
- Markov chain
- Matrix Stereo
- Methods of production
- Methods of transformation
- Mono <—> stereo
- Multi-speaker diffusion
- No processing
- Noise (white noise)
- Noise to pure tone
- Noise vs.Simple Vibration
- Normalization vs.amplification
- Organ of Corti
- Peak detection
- Perceptual vs.Physical scales
- Physical representation of sounds
- Physical — Psychometric — Imaginary
- Physiological (amplitude, frequency) limitations of the voice
- Piano string
- Probability theory
- Process / processor
- Process of hearing, perception and internal representations
- Process of Reduction of Information
- PsychINFO, a database for psychology students and psychologists
- Quantum physics
- Reduction of information
- Relative vs.Absolute Pitch
- Resolution and sampling rates
- Reverberant field
- Room acoustics
- Rounding error
- Rounding numbers
- S/N ratios
- Sampling rate
- Signal processing
- Simple vibration
- Sound Analysis
- Sound and the representation of the sound
- Sound chain, sound object, perception, individual, frequencies, vibrations
- Sound wave
- Source —> processing
- Source localization
- Spectrogram and timeline
- Speed of sound
- Stereo vs.Dual Mono
- Sound of an Earthquake
- Three seconds equals one kilometer
- Transient sound
- Tympanic membrane
- Vande Gorne’s “Eau” — the dynamic range of Eau is incorrect due to a peak at 11:00
- Vibrating object
- Voiced vs.Unvoiced Sound
- We only have two ears
- Weakest link
- Wearing headphones
- What EA is
- Zero Crossing
This list touches upon areas that are theoretical and sometimes philosophical. Why is this?
Physical constructs and conceits are built upon theories built upon philosophical prejudices. The lines are not always so easily drawn. The other side of this boundary is covered in more detail by the next list.
Psychoacoustics and perception. What of them?
The evaluation of anything is a statistical study. There are no real absolutes when it comes to perception, which is largely culturally defined, and psychoacoustics, which is strongly influenced by birth, environment and education.
This seems to be a complex and nebulous area to examine.
It has proven to be, as it deals directly with individual values and perspectives, which are seldom wrong. Many ideas on the list could be in the description / analysis / composition lists but have been left here, to be understood as cohabiting two spaces on these lists.
- 8 speakers, but 2 ears
- Absolute senses
- Absolute synesthesia
- ASA (Auditory Scene Analysis)
- Associative learning
- Brain filters
- Brain lateralization
- Can we hear two sounds at once
- Chaos and identity
- Cocktail party effect
- Cognitive and musical consonances and dissonances
- Concept of abstraction
- Concept of Constancy
- Concept of proximity
- Concept of sound
- Critical bandwidth
- Cross-modal perception
- Descriptive / Evaluation
- Development and coherency
- Difficulty of Explaining Things You Know
- Expanding perception and understand what is being perceived
- Gestalt psychology
- Gestalt Theory of Continuation
- Group data sets together to create higher meanings
- Grouping sounds by common characteristics
- Hear two sounds at one time
- Hearing is not linear, rather quantized in a non temporal basis
- Hearing / Listening
- How can sound be quantified?
- Inner Metrics
- Integrated —> mass structure
- Integrating vs.Segregating
- Issue of consistency of identity
- Lack of concise and absolute answers
- Lateral thinking
- Localizing Sound
- Mass structure
- Mass structures and hear individual components
- Methods of perception regarding the passage of time
- Paying attention
- Perception based on understanding
- Perception: the view that the world is independent of our minds
- Reality is shaped by their own perception
- Perceptual scales
- Peripheral information
- Precedence Effect
- Pre-learned (memorized) data
- Psychology of Hearing
- Quantifying sound
- Reduction of information
- Reduction of Information
- Relational Memory: treats simultaneous events as a group
- Remembering sounds — precision
- Segmentation of time
- Segregated —> streaming
- Segregated elements
- Segregation & Grouping of Sounds
- Segregation, How Much? How Many?
- Sensory inhibition
- Sound itself is both singular and collective
- Stream segregation
- Subjective perception and objective measurement
- Uncountable amount of sounds
- Vocabulary is the range materials for the representation of thought
- What is heard and not heard” vs.“what is perceived”
- Why a duck
- You hear what you’re told you can hear
At first reading this list is somewhat overwhelming. Explain the main themes.
The main themes remain the same: perception and the organization of perception. A continuous stream of sound enters the ear, how does the mind break this up into manageable units (segmentation). Once this has been achieved, the mind either groups the sounds together and hears a “tone color” (integration), or separates them out into layers (segregation). If there are layers, the mind follows the different layers (streaming).
Integral to this is the concept of identity. The establishment of a core identity will allow for the development of the idea of variation and transformation, creating sonic families. Aspects of this process are examined in varying degrees of detail.
By extension of these core concepts, more than three-quarters of the terms on this list can be accounted for.
This represents thousands of words.
More than 225,000 written words.
What did you learn from doing this?
That very often people simply need the match to light the torch they have inside themselves.
Were there complaints?
At the start, yes, many.
And at the end?
Yes, some, but mostly about the student leaving things too long.
Istvan Anhalt — Electronic Composition #3, Birds and Bells
Beach Boys! Then I Kissed Her
Yves Beaupré — Peroraison, from Humeur de facteur, (1998–1999) the underlying pulse of the piece to an ostinato (6m40s) Track 6
Martin Bédard — Checkpoint describe in three words CEC’s Cache 2003 CD
Christian Calon — Minuit
Lelio Camilieri — Apostrophe
Tan Dun — The Map
Paul Dolden — Dancing on the Walls of Jericho (1990)
Paul Dolden — Dancing on the Walls of Jericho (2004)
Luc Ferrari — Presque rien I
East Flatbush Project called Tried By 12 [Squarepusher Mix] (2’57”) from the Xen
Kid Koala — Drunk Trumpet (3’53”) from the Xen Volume 3 CD
Coldcut — Give it Up (5’05”) from the Xen CD 1 Track 13.
Gilles Gobeil — Le Vertige Inconnu
Glenn Gould — Gould Trilogy
Sintaro Imai — La lute blue — Volume 28, 2004 Sound and Video Anthology
Honda Civic car commercial
Jon Christopher Nelson — l’Horloge imaginaire (2002, SEAMUS Volume 14 EAM 2005)
John Oswald — A Case of Death
John Palmer — Epitaph
Ake Parmerud — Renaissance
Russell Pinkston — Dervish Dances
Jocelyn Robert — Prelude a (3:00) from Miniatures Concretes
Jocelyn Robert — Des Yeux en Conserves
The Singers Unlimited
Phil Spector — Then He Kissed Me
Stockhausen — Gesang
Stockhausen — Kontakte
Mort Subotnick — Silver Apples of the Moon / Wild Bull
Hans Tutschku — Les Invisibles
Vande Gorne — Eau & Feu from Tao
Iannis Xenakis — Nuits
Andrew Yencken — Balanco (1996)