The facilities were terrific, and the people were absolutely first-rate (especially the two graduate teaching assistants for the BGSU Music Tech courses, Tom Beverly and Jason Charney. I was able to complete five little compositions. Here are stereo mixdowns of the 8-channel pieces:
This was the proposal I made for the residency, titled Pieces of Imagined Places:
I would like to use the BGSU surround-sound capabilities to produce 4-5 circumscribed pieces, environmental in conception but musical in execution. What do I mean by this? Contemporary surround-sound technology invites the production of immersive, installation-type works. However, I also like to create pieces with a discernible musical structure; pieces that evoke the 'continuing' nature of an installation but have a definite form in time. Each piece would be built using the synthetic construction of an imagined sound environment. This would allow the sound of each evoked 'place' to function as a fundamental part of the musical design.
I trace my favorite musical memories back to my childhood in southern Indiana. Listening to the sound of the katydids in August, or the emergence of the spring peepers in the pond down the road, or the approach of a distant thunderstorm -- these truly(!) immersive audio experiences have formed a large part of my personal musical aesthetics. When I saw the call for proposals to use the BGSU MCA/A facility, I thought "wow, perhaps I can use this technology to recapture some of my youth!" Plus I'm interested in the work being done at BGSU.
My plan, then, is to produce four or five small pieces (c. 4-5 minutes each), each one intended to evoke an impression of a different sound environment. I intend to create these sound environments using various synthesis techniques, so they will be completely artificial. This will give me the ability to directly manipulate the sound of each constructed environment in order to meet compositional aims. Although I do enjoy installation setups in which an immersive environment runs (and can be experienced) continuously, I sometimes miss the framework of a musical piece intentionally sculpted in time. One goal of this residency is to see if it is possible to slightly blur the distinction between an on-going and a more 'shaped' presentation in time. These pieces will be an attempt to do that.
Most all of the work will be produced in software, although I may employ some of the MCA/A controllers to produce musical gestures that will be worked into the fabric of the pieces. I would also like to experiment with some audio ray-tracing techniques to make the spatial location of the synthetic environmental sounds more vivid. These experiments will primarily employ calculated delay paths, using various spatial models as templates (see the 'fractal reverberator' demo as part of my Max/MSP [maxlispj] object if you'd like an example.
As far as the timeline for completion, I anticipate spending 2-3 days on each piece. I have access to nearly all the software packages available in the MCA/A studio, so I will probably work up a number of sketch-sounds prior to the residency. This will allow me to concentrate on the best use of the surround-sound technology in producing the final versions of each of the pieces.
In order to create an immersive sound experience such as I hope to accomplish in these pieces, a superior multi-speaker system is required. I also want to use the MCA/A system to experiment with direct audio 'placement' of specific sound sources in these pieces in order to heighten the immersive effect.
I am also very sensitive to the context in which music is ultimately presented to an audience. I suspect that the ideal playback situation for the finished pieces will, in fact, be the MCA/A studio. In essence I am also proposing a set of small 'installations' for the MCA/A room.
In order to build the music and do the 'audio ray-tracing' experimentation I proposed, I had to develop a few software tools. These also exist as Max/MSP patches. They might be useful to others who desire to work with eight discrete output channels: