Sunday, March 26, 2006

Week 4

  • Practical 1 - Audio Arts - Recording a Guitar [1]
Regrettably, I was unable to attend this week's class due to a cognitive malfunctioning of my brain. I did however attend 2nd years Audio Arts class, where we learnt how to mic up a guitar.

Before one begins to start placing mics, there are a couple of things one should consider when deciding the type of sound one want:

String Configuration.

String placement.

Player habits or clothing that may interrupt.
- Keys, belt, etc.

Guitar DI.
- EQ'ing.
- Battery


Pick selection.
- Hard, soft.

If recording solo guitar it's good to use an Omni polar pattern to the get full colour of the guitar. Cardioid can work just as well, and is preferable if recording in a group environment. You may even decide to just use the DI and scrap the mikes depending on bleed levels.

Recording near the neck gives a thinner and slappier sound. Recording near the resonant chamber (slightly off centre) gives a cleaner and fuller sound. Another technique that we explored was the over-the-shoulder technique which is suppose to mimic the sound of what the player hears. We discovered that out of all the techniques, a combination of the mic near the resonant chamber, and another near the fret board produced the best of both worlds giving some slap, but also a full sound.
  • Practical 2 - Creative Computing - Supercollider (1) [2]

The first half our lesson this week included learning the definitions of a number of Supercollider terminology including long, int, double, float, string, and bytes.

We also talked about what the Open Sound Controller (OSC) - not to be confused with One Side Clean Bins [3]. The OSC forms the communication engine behind Supercollider.

We talked about the server architecture and how if the internal server is used, a crash stops the audio, but if a local server is used the audio continues to flow.

After reading this weeks tutorial by Scott Wilson, my understanding of the language is starting to come together.

I'm finding the language a lot more complex than Max/MSP, but that's probably because it just encourages a different way of thinking (which is a good thing). I know that if I can get my head around this new way of thinking, Supercollider can become a powerful tool for me.

  • Music Technology Forum - Workshop - Composers from "Bang in a Can" and Overview of David Harris [4]

The first hour of this workshop was dedicated to a number of composers that were part of the "Bang in a Can" group that formed in 1987. Evidently they were also all involved with Yale University at some point in their lives.

The first piece we heard was "Surf music II" by Jack Vees; a generative piece of music containing guitar(s) put through a number of effects units. Interesting, but it didn't overly impress me. The second piece was "Fog Tropes II" by Ingram Marshall. It was an intriguing subtle string/electro composition.

We listened to a piece by David Lang called "Sweet Air", but I can't quite remember how it goes so I don't have anything to say about it.

The last piece we were assaulted with was "Trance IV" by Michael Gordon. This one was definitely the most resonant with my musical tastes, and it reminded me of a Reich influenced sort of minimalism.

For the second hour of our workshop we listened to some of David Harris' pieces. From what I remember about his life, a large proportion of it was spent studying minimalist music that produced maximalist results. He was also part of many organisations and events, one of which was ACMA.

First of all, I have to say that I have heard other pieces written by David Harris that I have thoroughly enjoyed, but to be honest, none of the pieces he presented during this class really resonated with me. Nevertheless, these pieces were great examples of music experimentalism.

The first one was "Impossible 14", written for 2 Violinists. The second piece was a violent sounding piano piece that was intentionally an exploration of harmonics. The last piece he played was a piece written for Pierre Boulez, although unfortunately I can't remember what it was called. It was quietly calming atonal piece for the piano.

  • References
    [1] Grice, David. 2006. Practical on Recording a Guitar. University of Adelaide, 21 March.
    [2] Haines, Christian. 2006. Overview of Supercollider . University of Adelaide, 23 March.
    [3] Harley, Gabe. 2005. "What are OSC Bins?". Students for a Greener Berkeley. Accessed on 25/03/06.
    [4] Harris, David. 2006. Workshop on the composers from "Bang in a Can", and an overview of David Harris. University of Adelaide, 23 March.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Week 3

  • Practical 1 - Audio Arts - Recording a Piano with M/S Technique [1]

For this class we recorded the EMU grand using the M/S technique and two U89 mikes.

We begun by testing the hot and soft spots of the figure 8 mic. I had no idea figure 8 mikes even had a hard and soft sides, so I was quite amazed at the difference between them both. An explanation of the MS technique can be found here.[2]

After we recorded a minute of audio, David duplicated the figure 8 track and then inverted it so we ended up with 1 figure 8 track, 1 omni track, and 1 inverted figure 8 track. The two figure 8 tracks were then panned left and right respectively creating a stereo piano.

At the end of the lesson we had a quick look at the session David recorded of a jazz band. This was very educational and I learnt a lot about the technical side of recording in that sort of situation.

I think this lesson feels rushed and that 1 hour hardly does it justice. In my opinion 2 hours would be much better.

  • Practical 2 - Creative Computing - Introduction to Supercollider (2) [3]

During this lesson we went over a large amount of Supercollider terminology. We basically covered how the programming language is constructed and inter-communicates with itself.

We talked about Nodes, Synths, Synth Definition, Audio Buses, Control Buses, Shared Control Buses, Buffers, and Unit Generators (the core of Supercollider). At the moment each of these elements feel very detached in my mind, but I’m sure that the more I work with the language it'll all come together.

After doing the week's readings, things became clearer. I find I can vaguely work out what some of the code means, but if I were asked to reproduce it, at this point I wouldn't be able to.

  • Music Technology Forum - Presentation - Artist Talk: Gordon Monro [4]

Gordon Monro presented some interesting art pieces that I’ll now describe.

Evochord – An audio/visual art piece that tries to generate a harmonious chord over a period of time.

Red Grains - An audio/visual piece based on the positions of lasers in a space.

What Are You Really Thinking? - A piece that was constructed based on the information given by sensors that were attached to a person who was listened to music.
I thought it was great that although Gordon is a mathematician, he didn’t feel he needed to push the limits of his mathematical knowledge to portray his artistic ideas.

  • Music Technology Forum - Workshop - Glen Branca and Robert Ashley [5]

The first piece that we listened to was an excerpt from Glen Branca's 3rd Symphony. This piece contained 11 guitars, a drum kit, and a bass guitar [6]. It started very soft, but slowly built up to a huge climax.

The piece reminded me of the atmosphere in the film Blade Runner. In particular the scene where Harrison Ford is flying across the huge metropolis in a police car at night with a thick fog shrouding the seemingly endless row of buildings.

The second piece we listened to was one of Robert Ashley's sound poetry pieces. Unlike Blanca's piece, this one was more intellectual than visual, and consequently I don’t have a lot to say about it. I noticed however that the content of the prose spoken gradually decreased overtime. David Harris told us it the words were constantly spliced and jumbled up, however I heard what appeared to be a spoken loop that decreased in vocabulary overtime.

  • References

    [1] Grice, David. 2006. Practical on Miking a piano with M/S technique. University of Adelaide, 14 March.

    [2] Mellor, David. "The advantages of MS microphone technique". < >n.d. Accessed on 09/04/06

    [3] Haines, Christian. 2006. Overview of Supercollider. University of Adelaide, 16 March.

    [4] Monro, Gordon. 2006. Presentation on Gordon Monro's current work. University of Adelaide, 16 March.

    [5] Harris, David. 2006. Workshop on Glen Branca and Robert Ashley. University of Adelaide, 16 March.

    [6] No Author. "symphony no. 3 (gloria) - album credits". From Artist Direct.. Accessed 19 March 2006.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Week 2

    • Practical 1 - Audio Arts - Stereo Micing [1]
    Today we reviewed 3 different mic polar patterns from omni, cardioid, and figure 8. We also talked about 3 different mic techniques. The main points covered were:

    - Spaced Miking gives you a false sense of a stereo image because of a missing middle pickup.

    - X/Y Miking isn't good in a live scenario, but good for studio work. A possible application is miking drum overheads.

    - Mid/Side (MS) technique (the new technique covered) is great for recording grand pianos. This configuration consists of an omni and a figure 8 mic in a coincident configuration with the hard side of the figure 8 on the bottom end of the piano and the soft side of the figure 8 facing the top end.

    David also emphasised that every recording is different and that you need to move your head around and use your ears to find the best mic placement.

    I can't wait to try the new MS technique on the EMU grand piano. I've always had difficulty getting a really good sound from this piano so I'm eager to hear the results.
    • Practical 2 - Creative Computing - Introduction to Supercollider [2]
    Like last week, this week was also an introduction to Supercollider, yet this time we got to open the program up and see how it works. We covered the Post Window, the text format (Rich Text Format), a simple program, how to navigate the program through hot-keys, and the difference between real time and non-real time code execution.

    The 'post' window is like the 'Max' window in Max/MSP. It displays the technical information of the program.

    Christian pointed out that the RTF text format is an unclean file format in that it adds a lot of invisible garbage to the code through formatting. However this extra formatting makes it easier to analyse the code through colour coded text.

    The first program we learnt to code in Supercollider was how to print the phrase "Hello World!" - I could barely contain my excitement, though it was good to become familiar with the conventions of the code. Here is the code:

    "Hello World!".postln;

    Isn't its simplicity delightful?
    • Music Technology Forum - Presentation - Introduction; Artist Talk [3]
    This week's presentation was occupied by the Composer and Sound + Visual Artist, Warren Burt. He begun his presentation by outlining his life from childhood till now. The second hour was filled with juicy details about his current performance for the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Initially I tried to take notes on everything in his life, but eventually I gave up because I realised I probably wouldn't have enough ink in my pen to finish all the notes. His life so far has definitely been a highly eventful one. Many of his art projects have been collaborative in nature including dancers and visual artist alike. His art pieces involve general wood/metal work, electronics, and computer controlled presentations.

    The strongest impression I received from his presentation was that to be versed in multiple areas of engineering can greatly broaden your creative expression. In particular, I'm referring to electrical and computer systems engineering, but also general skills in wood and metalworking can be helpful. I can only imagine what results would come out of knowledge in other areas such as physics, chemistry, or biology.
    • References
      [1] Grice, David. 2006. Practical on Stereo Miking on Stereo Miking. University of Adelaide, 7 March.
      [2] Haines, Christian. 2006. Introductory Practical on the Supercollider Program. University of Adelaide, 9 March.
      [3] Burt, Warren. 2006. Presentation on the life of Warren Burt and his current work. University of Adelaide, 9 March.

    Week 1

    • Practical 1 - Audio Arts - Advanced Session Managment [1]
    At the start of this lesson, students went through a short introduction about themselves, including their current knowledge of music technology. After our introductions, most of the class time had passed. However we did manage to go through play lists and groups in Pro Tools; a nice revision from C4 that I realised I had completely forgotten.

    I left this class thinking that the one area that I'm really lacking in is how to use Audio effects. There are still gaps in my mind about what some of the parameters in certain Pro Tools effects do. The biggest uncertainty in my mind is the compressor. In theory I know what it does, but in practice I don't really know how to use it. Having said this, I did find a great site that explains a lot about compressors here[2].
    • Practical 2 - Creative Computing - Introduction [3]
    This class was an introduction to Supercollider. The main ideas covered were:

    - Unlike the visual object orientated language of Max/MSP, Supercollider is text based, consequently allowing a higher degree of precision and accuracy.

    - Outputs excellent sound quality.

    - Supercollider is an open system as opposed to a closed system such as Pro Tools. Other software packages such as Flash and game engines such as Half-Life are more open than Pro Tools as they provide scripting languages that allow greater extensibility. Open systems allow a high degree of customisation and control.

    - We also touched on the Philosophical issue of Supercollider allowing a new methodology of thinking, and the resultant sounds potentially becoming post-cultural or non-human due to the detached aesthetic of the language.

    - The applications of the language range from Sound Design, Gaming, Music, Production, and GUI/Application development.

    The extra precision does appeal to me very much, and I've wanted to get into some text based programming for quite some time. My only concern is that if I were to create an interactive music/sfx engine for a game, would a programmer working in C++ be able to take my code and implement it without any problems, or would he have to learn Supercollider and then proceed to port the code himself? I'm interesting in making sound engines for games but if this isn’t possible, then maybe I should be working in a different programming language.
    • Music Technology Forum - Presentation - Introduction; Artist Talk [4]
    Sound Installation Artist Robin Minard presented this week’s forum. Robin started his career as a composer in Canada, but was soon drawn to the area of Art Installations. He later moved to Berlin where his art flourished and was appreciated. He mentioned the various places he had studied at, but the majority of his talk centered on his previous and current installation pieces.

    His installations follow a general trend in that they tend to contain hundreds of tiny speakers of only a couple of inches in size, strategically placed around the environment. He also pays special consideration to the acoustics, dimensions, and lighting of the environment his installations occupy.

    My memory is a little hazy, but the installation that stood out in my mind was the one where he digitally divided a sample into its' individual bits, and then assigned each bit to a single speaker creating a highly controlled spatialised panning system.
    • References
      [1] Grice, David. 2006. Practical on Advanced Session Managment in Pro Tools. University of Adelaide, 28 February.
      [2] River, Mike. “Compression Exposed”. From Recording Magazine. N.d.
      [3] Haines, Christian. 2006. Practical on Supercollider Introduction. University of Adelaide, 2 March.
      [4] Minard, Robin. 2006. Presentation on Robin Minards work. University of Adelaide, 2 March.