For a long time, I have had the feeling that my work as a composer, at least to a large extent, is a research activity closely linked to my development of audio software tools. I had this impression before being involved in the discourse of artistic research itself. Having a background in composing for acoustic instruments, at some point, I became aware that the current possibilities of the computer have fundamentally challenged the process of musical composition – not only in regards to the machine as a sound device. The chance of immediate acoustic feedback, e.g., of generated temporal or harmonic structures, even if it's only an instrumental simulation, also opens new ways for composing with acoustic instruments, let alone the labyrinth of electronic sound production and transformation. I don't think that it's an exaggeration to regard this all as a historic cesura because it has changed the game of making music, producing sound, whether you call it composition or not.
Ad (b): Since 2009 I've been developing miSCellaneous, a library of extensions for the audio programming language SuperCollider (SC). miSCellaneous resides on GitHub and my website and contains various classes and tutorials. The tutorials cover common topics of SuperCollider as well as specific subjects of miSCellaneous. Many of miSCellaneous' classes are extending SuperCollider Patterns, sequencing units in the broadest sense. Since 2012 miSCellaneous contains a buffer granulation tutorial. It intends to give an overview of various implementation strategies of this popular synthesis method in SuperCollider, using miSCellaneous' graphical control interface VarGui and a short sound from my kitchen that I recorded at home.
The piece kitchen studies is a case study that comes in several connected representations. The concept stood before the beginning of the actual composition process: granulation with effect processing per grain is a synthesis variant for which I had developed software in a repeatedly interrupted process over a time-span of three years. Whereas the aspect of research is present in my compositional workflow in general, there are specific explorations of sound material, like here, where it becomes quite clear. Therefore I decided to use this occasion and to schedule kitchen studies as a multifold project:
- The composition kitchen studies, a fixed-media piece in six parts, based on a sound from my kitchen of a length of five seconds. An mp3 version can be streamed or downloaded from here.
- The publication of the documented application source code which generated the parts, based on the underlying classes which I have been developing before. The library also contains the sound from the kitchen (download from my website). So users can experiment with the setup used to produce the composition.
- Documentation and reflection of the research process as exposition in the Research Catalogue.
- Documentation of the specific synthesis method in a research paper.
Ad (d): An implementation of a specialized synthesis method in a specific software environment might be only of value to users of this software. Also, distinct software, by the fundaments of its architecture, always tends to support and restrict particular procedures. So, similar to (c), it makes sense to enter a more general discourse to present thoughts and implementation strategies – for the sake of spreading information and getting feedback.
Update (summer 2020): In September 2019, kitchen studies were played at Audio Mostly in Nottingham. I presented my software in a demo session. An article is part of the conference proceedings: "PbindFx: an interface for sequencing effect graphs in the SuperCollider audio programming language", AM'19: Proceedings of the 14th International Audio Mostly Conference: A Journey in Sound, September 2019, pp. 287–291, https://doi.org/10.1145/3356590.3356639
Ad (a): A question one might pose is, do I regard the fixed media piece kitchen studies as a valid composition of mine or something else: a proof of concept, a software application example, a research activity without primary artistic impetus, or whatever. First, I regard it as a valid work of mine. It could differ – like many other compositions – within a bandwidth. I also have produced works of similar formal structure – sequences of short pieces with "monothematic" sound material – before. So the composition could also have come into being without the process of self-observation and documentation.
On the other hand, it is true that in the majority of my works, I favor longer formal developments and the dialectics of a few elements. In kitchen studies, I wanted to treat one kind of effect processing per part, so the form fits the demonstration purpose. Finally, I ended up with six of them and a duration of approximately ten minutes. In case of a longer work in one part, it would probably be hard to select the material according to the requirement of a panoramic demonstration. Moreover, in longer works, I tend to generate several layers of audio and arrange them in a digital audio workstation. This process would also complicate and obfuscate any documentation of the intended kind.
Ad (c): This exposition should cover the topic from the viewpoint of artistic research, which, though related to the other representations, is different. It speaks to a readership that is familiar with issues of art and philosophy, scientific methodology, and structures of working processes in different fields. Here one cannot suppose familiarity with specialized topics of sound synthesis and software design, for which purpose there exist representations (b) and (d). On the other hand, general self-reflexive documentation like here wouldn't be appropriate in those discourses. Besides the piece of music itself (a), to a certain extent, speaks for itself, I wouldn't want it to be received only in the context of research documentation. In other words, (a) spans over the specialized discourses – (b) and (d) are addressing them – and this discourse that is general and specific at the same time. The challenge of (c) is to create a representation of essential thoughts of (b) and (d). Moreover, to create a relation to (a) in a form that can be perceived by an interested readership. I suppose that the structure of the artistic workflow in electro-acoustic music is quite common and correlated to other fields, where art and technology are twisting.
Update (summer 2020): As the project developed, I published a research paper (d) before completing this exposition up to the extent that I had planned at first. I have been formulating my current thoughts more generally on my website (Credo, short and long version) and another exposition in the Research Catalogue that is emerging as part of the ALMAT symposium. For all these reasons, I'm finalizing the exposition kitchen studies at this point. I'm looking forward to the upcoming ALMAT symposium that will contain several expositions of related content.