The biggest challenge for both of them was to develop a piece with an electronic device as second performer on stage.  Sharma who has written several papers proving the instrumentality of the IKO and its ways of orchestrating space, was now confronted with a task which could nihilate everything he found out within one performance.

(Susanne Fröhlich, Dissertation, Graz 2019)

Artistic Research and LIVENESS


SPS: The Acousmatic Paradigm - the Perceptual Situation as an Established State of Exception - Beyond Mediatized Space

I base my artistic research on the assumption that experiencing electronic loudspeaker music creates an independent listening situation, therefore also requiring specific aesthetic research. Frequently, places where music is reproduced through loudspeakers are referred to as "mediatized spaces" [Smalley, 2007, 45]. In most theories on "mediatization", however, the assumption suggests that reproducing media initially only refer to reality but do not produce it [vgl. Sanden, 2013, 4]. However, the initial recording and playback methods have already taken a step further [Katz, 2004, 24]. Original reproduction devices built exclusively for the faithful reproduction of original works changed the playing style of the musicians (for example, more vibrato, shorter breaks in strings), causing the playing style of the classical repertoire to change due to the applied media technology. And because today more people around the world listen to recorded music instead of going to a concert, listening habits and the way we hear score-based music are also changing. As we have heard, this has gradually been shaped by the ever increasing reach of, and later ubiquitous, audio technology [Katz, 2004, 22]. In a subsequent step, recording techniques and studio methods were developed into artistic and poetic practices, allowing for another type of music otherwise impossible, and producing spatial situations in the stereo field, situations which cannot be realized outside of the recording and or by reproducing media at all, for example layered reverb simulations of various instruments.


 [...], the disembodied sound of audio reproduction is often interpreted in a framework that is specific to this context. For example, the spatial arrangement of sources in a typical stereo pop song makes no physical sense. We accept the spatial arrangement as an idiom of audio reproduction, a musical-spatial idiom. The immaterial nature of audio reproduction enables auditory spatial art to exploit the spatial schemata of everyday life. [Kendall/Ardilla 2008]


Sound movements, instrument arrangements, and voice placements were able to be used as artistic settings, but in no way did they have to be related to the actual placement of the instruments on stage in a concert stetting or their techniques. In fact, concert settings were later designed in such a way that only then enabled the studio production to be performed “live.” Katz describes these musical products as real and virtual at the same time [Katz, 2004, 9]. Vollmar also explicitly refers to the fact that

(...) these first years of audio production show that the so-called sound reproduction media don’t just simply “display” and therefore reproduce, but that the mediatization process could be and was formed like liquid metal [Vollmar, 2010].


The perception situation in an acousmatic concert is due to the fact that the loudspeaker as a tool and/or instrument creates its own cultural sound environment. This environment sometimes refers to states and circumstances outside the concert setting or the installation (e.g. through the use of sounds one associates with water but aren’t necessarily sounds of water), but after more than 100 years of development and practice of filling a room with music by means of loudspeakers—from the laboratory to the living room, the boutique to the concert hall—both the act of listening and thus perception especially in computer music are directed and shaped the moment they are experienced.  

Not only do electroacoustic composers have the freedom to design sounds that specifically support spatial effects, but they can also explore ways of creating sound that have no obvious analog in the physical world [Kendall/Ardilla, 2008].

In the case of an acousmatic concert, it is not a traditional concert hall in which a loudspeaker simply plays music. The loudspeaker in the acousmatic concert does not transmit the formerly experienced, rather it creates experience.

Reality is as much about aesthetic creation as it is about any other effect when we are talking about media [Sterne, 2003, 241].


McKinnon [2016] attests acousmatic context to have an independent and unique form of liveness.

Such acousmatic contexts, while not live in a conventional sense, use sonic immersion, dynamic spatial articulation of sound, and the experience of sound as invisible matter, as means to create a unique form of liveness.

Paul Sanden writes the following about liveness: Liveness is a perception, guided by the different ways it may be evoked inside cultural discourse and practice [Sanden, 2009, 8].


This perceptual situation described by Sanden is particularly important in that it requires a different listening attitude from the audience than, for example, the theater or a violin concerto. The performer in the traditional sense has actually disappeared, so that the attention paid to the musical process in practice is addressed differently. The listener is challenged by the technical and artistic composition in the sense of an assembly of various elements to be an active participant.

Loudspeaker music, shifts the centre of gravity away from the performer and towards the listener, reconstituting liveness as listener-determined [McKinnon, 2016].  


In addition, there is a schizophrenic performance situation we cannot overcome, namely the presence of immobile pieces of equipment: loudspeakers that seem to freeze the visual aspect of the performance. Our eyes have nothing or no one to follow. The performance thus takes place between the loudspeaker environment and the listener’s ears. The performance shifts inward and therefore the Chionic Visu-Audition [Chion, 2009, 150][2] takes on a central role in this perception situation.

The sound objects both produced and producible in this way are sometimes so fragile that small changes, such as technical or manmade sounds in the hall, flickering light, changing the color of the lighting, or noise coming from the audience, can divert and destroy attention because of the lack of an emphatic performer-audience connection. In addition, the physical presence of the loudspeaker cannot be denied. One cannot pretend it is not there. Simon Emmerson rightly asks:

But is loudspeaker music really ‘acousmatic? [Emmerson, 2007, 147].


Even if the loudspeaker almost disappears through the illumination of the performance space, it is considered as a rigid, sometimes clumsy object and cause for, or at least part of the cause for, the spatial sound composition. This tension surrounding acousmatic loudspeaker music has existed since its inception, so it must be understood in research and especially in composition as a part of the nexus of conditions that need to be examined in their interdependence.

[...] I find this enthralling and somatically powerful, yet highly fragile as its auditory objects (both real and virtual) are contradicted by the visible physicality of the objects that give rise to them – loudspeakers [McKinnon, 2016].


Most studies that deal with sound phenomena in computer music disregard the speaker as part of the generated phenomenon. They also classify the medially generated situation as virtual [Harenberg, 2012; Roads, 2015, 260]. As part of my artistic research I indeed assume that without the presence of the loudspeaker precisely these phenomena and their "liveness" are not perceivable as concrete and real. It requires precisely the interaction between the loudspeaker as an object, the sound generated, the environment and the physical, affective, and interpretive activity of the listener. For precisely at these crossroads the previously mentioned, distinct perception situation is created in a separate, medially [3] specified cultural context. McKinnon as well:


This can only happen in the absence of performer and performance, and in the presence of the loudspeaker. Such liveness is both singular and radical, particularly considered within a contemporary cultural context dominated by multimedia, whether spectacular or mundane. [McKinnon, 2016]


[1] G.K.Sharma, Dissertation 2016, Chapter qwertzuio

[1] The word "mediatized" is understood here in a narrow sense, as used by e.g. Philip Auslander: [...] a particular cultural object is a product [...] of media technology. [Auslander, 2008, 5]

[2] Cf. Chapter II. 4. Dramaturgy and Staging of Sculptural Sound Formations.

[3]  Here medial means: shaped and influenced by the transmission of the speaker.


A Spatial Composition

for two pioneering instruments

Helder Tenor Recorder & Icosahedral Loudspeaker


Is there a ‘second Liveness’?

(Fröhlich/Sharma 2018)


In the domain of music for performers and electronic sounds (whether fixed or live) there are various paradigms of interaction: the performer(s) may be situated in an electroacoustic ‘environment’; there may be a primarily responsorial or ‘proliferating’ relationship; or the relationship may be closer to the traditional one between soloist and accompaniment. These paradigms preserve a relatively unproblematic dichotomy between performer, whose sound is inextricably linked to a sense of action, presence and spontaneity, and fixed or treated sound, which is more or less de-coupled from this presence. Once one tries to create a continuous, intimate relation between the two, so that one is dealing with an extension of the instrument rather than an emulated ‘other’ or environmental context, one is confronted with a fundamental difference between a sounding body whose physical properties transparently determine its sonic possibilities, and the loudspeaker, which can produce practically any sound at all.

John Croft, Organised Sound 12(1): 59–66 ! 2007