Extra Credit - Gabor’s sonic model: A research review - Shanpeng Li

On the first day of the Sound and Science Symposium I was able to attend the lecture by Curtis Roads from UCSB Department of Media Arts and Technology. It was a very interesting lecture but some of the terms he used were very advanced and hard to grasp, but overall I was able to get the basic idea of his research topic. Curtis Roads is a composer of electronic and electroacoustic music while specializing in granular and pulsar synthesis. He began the lecture by introducing the concept of electronic music and how it is very similar to traditional music by at the same time very different.

Electronic music involves the use of electronic musical intruments or electronic music software to create and even though their methods are very different, electronic and traditional music do have similarities. Curtis mentioned that it is possible to compose electronic music to sound exactly the same as acoustic music which definitely shows the technological aspect of electronic music. Later in the lecture, Curtis went on to describe some differences between electronic music and traditional music. For example, Curtis mentioned that electronic music opens the homogenous notes to limitless heterogenous notes that is only achievable by electronic means. Heterogenous notes are not static and fixed but can evolve into different things and does not share the conventional environment that applies to the homogenous notes created by acoustic instruments.  Also Curtis mentioned a very advanced aspect of electronic music which is that softwares are able to take in real locations and make that location into sounds that reflect how it would sound within that location. For example, if a piece of music is entered through the software you want the music to sound as if it is within a church, then the software is able to apply multitude of different effects such as echo that will transform the music into the desired location. In my opinion, this is a great example of how art and science can allow for the creation of extremely innovative pieces.  Some of the other differences that Curtis mentioned were for example, the composer is the performer in electronic music unlike in traditional music where the composer often does not perform their work. Also notations in electronic music is no longer symbols but instead graphical. Electronic music allows for a unlimited array of microtone scale which is extremely difficult to achieve with traditional instruments.

Curtis contributed to the creation of many programs such as Pulsar Synthesis and Emission Control. During the lecture, he briefly talked about each one, for example, Pulsar Synthesis is a program that allows the transformation of one music piece into another that is located in a different location like I mentioned earlier. This program shows a very promising future with further development. Even Curtis mentioned that he often wonders if it is possible to create a program that takes in a piece of music and project a location which the music is most likely placed within.

Throughout the whole lecture, Curtis played numerous pieces of music which he composed and each one shows how sound can be broken down into single particles that he called grains and by changing the granules slightly, you are able to produce very different results using electronic means. I think that Curtis’ lecture showed a field that many do not often encounter and it was a great experience to listen to his lecture and his research.

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