References for introduction

Basic goals

The basic aim of this project is to focus on challenges related to improvised performance of electroacoustic music. The artistic core of the project is to develop musical interaction in a larger ensemble, where the membership is mainly based on electronic and digital instruments. Among the main challenges in this kind of musical interplay is listening (many of our instruments can basically make the same sounds) and communication (it is often difficult to identify who is doing what).


The main goals of this project:


(1) To establish a new genre-transcending ensemble for performance of electroacoustic music: T-EMP: Trondheim Electroacoustic Music Performance, associated with the vital expanding environment of artistic research, improvisation and performance of music technology that has emerged out of artistic research activity at the Department of Music, NTNU.


(2) To explore new possibilities for interplay and improvisation that integrates acoustic and digital instruments. The specific challenges related to an ensemble where the majority of instruments are electronic or digital will be given special focus. This artistic research will also have an influence on teaching and other research at our department.


(3) To further develop music technological tools motivated by issues encountered through the artistic work in the ensemble, including music software for artistic performance and sound synthesis. The development work is closely tied to developing a new repertoire and new forms of artistic expression for the ensemble T-EMP. We wish to make these development projects open and available for the interested public.

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As part of the artistic research environment at NTNU


There are very good conditions for establishing T-EMP associated with Department of Music, NTNU. The research environment at NTNU includes very strong resources that invite cross-disciplinary innovation in the intersection between aesthetic and technological disciplines, - between the humanities and science. The environment of music performance at Department of Music has already created two ensembles that have received large international attention and recognition: The Trondheim Soloists and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. An objective for T-EMP is to gain a similar status as the two mentioned ensembles within another segment of our department´s artistic research activity: Music technology. This is part of a long-term strategy involving strengthening of the aspects of music performance within music technology.


On a general basis the main goals of this project coincide with NTNU´s strategy of artistic research and research-based knowledge. The ensemble has emerged out of the cross-disciplinary activity in music technology and is as such a very good artistic example and proof of NTNU´s focus on cross-disciplinarity.


The project´s focus on challenges related to communication in the performance of electroacoustic music has several implications for the teaching of music technology, musical interplay and improvisation at NTNU. Research on challenges associated with interplay and communication is a part of the broader context of artistic research within improvised music performance and composed contemporary music. The intersection between free improvisation, musical interplay and electronic instruments constitutes a challenging field both in an aesthetic, performative and technological way. T-EMP is an awaited laboratory for artistic research within this field.

T-EMP in relation to other performance practices within the context of electroacoustic music and free improvisation


T-EMP may be classified as an ensemble within the genre live electronics, a subgenre of electroacoustic music [1]. Here, technology is used to generate, transform and/or trigger sounds during performance, and transformations are commonly used that falls into one or more of the following categories: 1) Conventional instruments, 2) Found or adapted objects, 3) Electronic oscillators or instruments, 4) Sound recordings [2]. The genre has its beginnings in the 1940’s and 50’s but became more widespread and active during the 1960’s with contributions by John Cage, David Tudor, Gordon Mumma, Robert Ashley, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Cornelius Cardew (e.g. [3][4][5]).


T-EMP has several similarities with live electronic groups and collectives that emerged in the 1960s and 70s:

  • The use of acoustic and/or electronic instruments along with custom made or generalized technological instruments to process the sounds from these (cf. e.g. Gentle Fire, Intermodulation, The West Square Electronic Music Ensemble and Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, [6][2][7]).

  • The processing of sound produced by fellow group members (Gentle Fire, Intermodulation, the musicians performing David Behrman’s Players with Circuits, [6][4])

  • The use of live electronics is combined with a relatively free form of improvisation (this was especially the case for AMM and Musica Elettronica Viva, [8][9])

  • T-EMP also continues the tradition of making technical innovation an integrated part of the artistic development (notable examples are Gordon Mumma, Hugh Davies of Gentle Fire, David Tudor and Musica Elettronica Viva, see [9][2][7])


Another musical practice that T-EMP engages in, but is less documented in group settings, also started out in the 1960s live electronic scene: Recording of sounds played in the performance (live sampling) and the subsequent playback of these recordings with or without processing (e.g. Kagel’s Transicion II, Cage’s Rozart Mix, Oliveros’s I of IV and C(s) for Once and Terry Riley’s Music for the Gift, cf. [3][5][4]).


The mentioned similarities with analogue live electronic practices also applies to equivalent digital live electronic practices that emerged from the 1990s and onwards, as computers gradually became powerful enough to handle real-time digital signal processing, DSP. Much of this work has been based in composed pieces. We may mention the works of Horacio Vaggione (e.g. "Harrison Variations" (2002), AGON (1998), "Consort for Convolved Violins" (2011)) as related, also in terms of timbral manipulation techniques and aesthetics. Improvised signal processing as contribution to two-way musical interaction where the outcome is not predetermined can be seen e.g. in different group constellations with Lawrence Casserley [10]).


Some of the recent developments within live computer music have been less in focus for T-EMP. This largely relates to our strong focus on group communication, improvisation strategies and the musical potential of digital signal processing. Some of these less focused fields include:


  • The use of different types of sensors and gestural interfaces (particularly in the context of the New Interfaces of Musical Expression conferences from 2001 and onwards. See

  • The use of generative algorithms and/or artificial intelligence to generate or imitate musical events and structures, with or without the preceding analysis of musical input (see e.g.,

  • The use of internet and/or other computer networks as a means of musical communication and generation.

  • Live-coding


Of other more recent efforts we clearly see tangential points between T-EMP and a diverse current activity within electroacoustic improvisation with live processing. Among others, this involves performers like Susanne Hafenscher, Utku Tavil, Jeff Carey, Ben Carey, Robert van Heumen, Stian Westerhus, Maja S.K. Ratkje and the collection of performers associated with Alex Gunias "300 acting Spaces" ( However, it seems that the key issue (for T-EMP) of interplay based on live processing (evolved musical interaction between a processing and a sound generating musician) has not been documented to any significant depth. It has been little over ten years since the technology for digital and flexible live processing was made commonly available in a practical manner (by means of sufficiently powerful and affordable portable computers), so it is perhaps natural that the field has not fully consolidated.


References for INTRODUCTION.


[1]         Emmerson, S. and D. Smalley, Electro-acoustic music, in Grove Music Online.  Oxford Music Online2013, Oxford University Press.

[2]         Davies, H., Gentle Fire: An Early Approach to Live Electronic Music. Leonardo music journal, 2001. 11: p. 53-60.

[3]         Holmes, T., Electronic and experimental music: technology, music, and culture2008, New York: Routledge.

[4]         Chadabe, J., Electric Sound - The Past and Promise of Electronic Music1997, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[5]         Collins, N. and J. d'Escriván, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music. 2007, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

[6]         Emmerson, S., Live electronic music in Britain: three case studies. Contemporary Music Review, 1991. 6(1): p. 179-195.

[7]         Manning, P., Electronic and Computer Music. Revised & Expanded Edition ed2004, New York: Oxford University Press.

[8]         Rzewski, F. and M. Verken, Musica Elettronica Viva. The Drama Review: TDR, 1969. 14(1): p. 92-97.

[9]         Prévost, E., No Sound is Innocent: AMM and the Practice of Self-Invention, Meta-Musical Narratives and Other Essays1995, Harlow: Essex, UK: Copula/Matchless Recordings.

[10]       Casserley, L., Plus ça change: Journeys, Instruments and Networks, 1966–2000. Leonardo music journal, 2001. -: p. 43-49.

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