Imagine a concert hall and a stage, with a symphony orchestra that has performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, with the addition of electric instruments and loudspeakers.
Imagine, if you will, the composer himself (whom we’ll pretend for the occasion is not deaf), who strolls around between the orchestra members on the stage, while they start on the fourth movement.
Wielding his own instrument, a hybrid?
between a laptop and a sound generator, the composer soaks up the different tones, processes them, and sends them back in ever-changing variations.
“Ode to Joy” is sampled (digitized), producing new and unexpected phrasing - but at the same time, the basic theme is instantly recognizable. The symphony is completely altered, in ever-changing varieties, because the composer is a part of the performance of his composition.
Unfortunately for old Ludwig himself, this musical vision comes 200 years too late. But we can still play with Beethoven’s works. And today's composers have been given a completely new instrument: a computer program for the processing of sound, where the actual act of composing is an integral part of the instrument itself. And where the composition takes place simultaneously with a performance, in real time - live, as it is called in music-speak.
This new invention is a tool for both improvisation and variation, a computer program and a musical instrument all rolled up into one. Call it a computer instrument. Its developer is just 36 years old; his name is Øyvind Brandtsegg, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Brandtsegg is a composer, a musician and computer programmer. The instrument is his PhD research.
We’re talking about a new type of sound generator, a particle synthesizer. It takes a stanza – a guitar riff, a verse line, a drum solo, or any recorded sound – and splits the sound into a number of very short sound particles that can last for between 1 and 10 milliseconds.
These fragments may be infinitely reshuffled, making it possible to vary the music with no change in the fundamental theme.
“It’s easy to change a bit of music into something that can’t be recognized. It’s the opposite that is the challenge: to create variations in which the musical theme remains clear,” says Brandtsegg.
New and better energy
Brandtsegg has created a new link between composition and improvisation with his new instrument. In a way, he’s rediscovered the energy of a piece in a new and much better form. What he’s doing is something that jazz musicians have always done – they have a composition as the foundation, and then they go up on the podium and play variations on the basic theme.
But there are limits to what even Louis Armstrong can coax out of a trumpet. “This instrument allows me to expand the musical palette with new tonal variations and timbres. It is also the first time that the actual composition process can be controlled in real time”, Brandtsegg says.
Work that previously required paper, pencil (and an eraser!) and many hours, can be done in the blink of an eye, with an instrument on stage, says the composer. This allows for new ways of thinking about music composition.
A little help from my friends
Brandtsegg himself is a graduate of the jazz programme at the NTNU Department of Music.
“Here I learned to improvise in the traditional way, but I wanted more. I understood that in order to achieve my goal, I had to learn about computer programming, and understand electronics”, he says.
Along the way, he has developed ImproSculpt, software that make it possible to sample surroundings during a presentation, and to control the process using a body sensor. He also plays the Marimba Lumina, a percussion instrument that has been electronically modified so that the player can alter the sound by the way he or she strikes the instrument.
In his efforts to develop his new computerized instrument, Brandtsegg has had to seek help elsewhere at the university. Scientists at the Department of Computer and Information Science have assisted him with its software architecture, and the acoustics group at the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications has helped with the development of particle synthesizer.
By Tore Oksholen/Gemini
Øyvind Brandtsegg | alfa
Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified
05.12.2016 | University of Sussex
UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine