A) Introduction – Context



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 musical 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 computer as a sound device.

The chance of immediate acoustic feedback, e.g. of generated temporal or harmonic structures,

even if it's only a 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 it's exaggerated to

regard this all as a historic cesura because it has totally changed the game of making music,

producing sound, whether you call it composition or not.

I personally tend to stick to the term composition, as I like the concept of a finished and

more or less reproducable work, even if I'm aware of its – however restricted – contingency.

Ad (b): Since 2009 I've been developing miSCellaneous, a library of extensions for the

audio programming language SuperCollider (SC). miSCellaneous can be downloaded from

my site and contains a number of classes and tutorials. The tutorials cover general topics of

SuperCollider as well as specific topics of miSCellaneous. Many of miSCellaneous' classes are

extending SuperCollider's Patterns, classes defined for sequencing in the most general sense.

Since 2012 miSCellaneous contains a buffer granulation tutorial, intending to give an overview of

different implementation strategies of this very popular synthesis method in SuperCollider,

using miSCellaneous' graphical control interface VarGui and a short kitchen sound I recorded at home.

In 2015 I added PbindFx, a class for effect sequencing on a per-event base, which means –

when using a small time scale – that different processing graphs can be established per grain.

I was fascinated by the first experiments with this and chose it as the starting point for the

different representations of kitchen studies.

kitchen studies is a case study which comes in several connected representations.

The concept stood before the beginning of the actual compostion 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 research aspect is present in my compositional workflow in general,

there are certain explorations of sound material, like here, where it becomes very clear.

Therefore I decided to use this occasion and to schedule kitchen studies as a multifold project:


(a)  The composition kitchen studies, a fixed-media piece in six parts,

      based on a sound from my kitchen of five seconds length.

      A mp3 version can be streamed or downloaded from here.

(b)  The publication of the documented application source code which generated the

      parts, based on the underlying classes which have been developed before.

      All, including the sound from the kitchen, is bundled in the same library, which can be

      downloaded from my website, so that users can experiment with the class and

      my personal setup, which was used to produce the work.

(c)  A documentation and reflection of the research process as exposition in the Research Catalogue.

(d)  A documentation of the specific synthesis method in a research paper.


Ad (d): This is scheduled to be done after (c). An implementation of a specialized

synthesis method in a specific software environment might be perceived only by

users of this software. Also specific software, by the fundaments of its architecture,

always tends to promote and restrain certain 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. 

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 clearly regard it as a valid work of mine, it could differ – as many other compositions –

within a certain bandwidth. I also have produced works of similar formal structure – sequences of

short pieces with "monothematic" sound material – before, so this could also have happened

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 dialectic of a few elements. In kitchen studies I definitely wanted to treat one kind of

effect processing per part, so the form fits the demonstration purpose – finally I ended up with

six parts and a duration of approximately ten minutes. In case of a longer work in one part

it would probably be difficult to select the material according to the requirement of a panoramic demonstration.

Moreover in longer pieces 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 is dedicated to a readership,

which is familiar with issues of art and philosophy, scientific methodology, structures of

working processes in different fields and reflexive thoughts of artists and audience, in summary:

familiar with a deeper thought in a general field. 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 a general self-reflexive documentation as 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 a research documentation.

In other words (a) spans over the specialized discourses, for which (b) and (d) are thought and

this discourse, which is general and specific at the same time.

The challenge of (c) would be creating a representation of essential thoughts of (b) and (d) and

their relation to (a) in a form that can be perceived by an interested readership.

I'd like to point to an artistic workflow, from which I suppose that in its structure it is

quite common and related to other fields, where art and technology are interwoven.

I would also like to emphasize the structural parallelism between feedback processes in

science and art production, that might be overlooked when focussing the

very subjective motivation of art production – which shouldn't be denied either.


In the following article I'd like to present the fundaments of the used basic

synthesis strategy – granulation – and the aspects of specified "per-grain-postprocessing"

as well as my interface development for working with these strategies.

A verbal and medium-based description of possibilities and personal usage leads

to the question of workflow from a broader perspective.

 

... work in progress ...


meanwhile also see infos and sound examples at my site