November 26, 2012

A Musical History Of The Future

University experts awarded £312,000 to research the story of the computer sounds that transformed music

FOR many listeners, music made with computers and synthesizers is still the sound of the future.  But it also has a history, now being uncovered by a £312,000  research project based at the University of Huddersfield.

The aim is to investigate the impact made by technology on the creative processes of composing electroacoustic music.  There is some urgency.  Pioneer composers in the field are aging and so is much of the technology that they used.  As early computers and synthesizers become obsolete or unobtainable, it will be increasingly difficult to recapture the sounds that inspired creativity in the field up to three decades ago.

The project, named Technology and Creativity in Electroacoustic Music (TaCEM), is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and will run for 30 months.  The end results will include a book, plus software that will enable readers to explore the technical details of the works under analysis.  It is headed at the University of Huddersfield by Professor Michael Clarke.

During the first phase of the research, now under way, the three-strong team will decide which compositions and which composers should be analyzed.  The period covered will start in about 1980, leading to the recent past.

Researchers will visit composers in Europe and North America — and possibly further afield — in order to discuss their work and analyze the technology that inspired it.

Professor Clarke, a composer himself, said that the project had various aims.

“One is to document the creative process, to preserve information for the future that might otherwise disappear.  Also, by deepening our understanding of it, to improve our knowledge so that students can work with the equipment and compose themselves; and perhaps, if we understand how things worked in the recent past it will perhaps help composers in developing new ideas in the future.”

Professor Clarke´s co-investigator for the TaCEM project is Professor Peter Manning of Durham University.  Also, a post-doctoral research assistant, Dr Frédéric Dufeu, has been appointed and is now based at the University of Huddersfield.


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