• Report ‘Music, Deep Space and Wall Street’ Workshop 

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    Posted: 10 July 2019

    On Friday June 14 and Saturday June 15, Valery Vermeulen (BE) hosted the workshop ‘Music, Deep Space and Wall Street’ at Baltan Laboratories. The workshop explored how abstract, scientific data from e.g. deep space or the financial market can be used to produce music, soundscapes or sound art. The workshop started with two creative disciplines: data sonification and interactive sound synthesis.

    8 enthusiastic participants joined the workshop, all with various backgrounds, ranging from audiovisual art, web development, computer science, music to design and engineering. We kicked off the workshop on Friday morning with an introduction to data sonification, the basic principals in sound design and sound synthesis, with many references to ‘The Sonification Handbook’ (free via OpenAccess) by Thomas Hermann.

    This book offers a comprehensive introductory presentation of the key research areas in the interdisciplinary fields of sonification and auditory display. Chapters are written by leading experts, providing a wide-range coverage of the central issues, and can be read from start to finish, or dipped into as required. This book gives a solid introduction to the field of auditory display, the techniques for sonification, suitable technologies for developing sonification algorithms, and the most promising application areas. The book is accompanied by the online repository of sound examples.

    The overall introduction was then followed by an introduction to the general workflow in Pure Data (or just Pd), a visual programming language developed by Miller Puckette in the 1990s for creating interactive computer music and multimedia works. While Puckette is the main author of the program, Pd is an open-source project with a large developer base working on new extensions. Within Pd, participants were provided overview of its main objects and their different functionalities. Participants were shown how to implement a subtractive synthesizer in Pd, as well as a basic wavetable synthesizer. Through working with audio and samples participants were also shown how to implement a sequencer in Pd.

    After lunch break, participants were introduced to the general workflow, as well as basic principles to audio editing and mixing, in REAPER; a complete digital audio production application, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset. REAPER supports a vast range of hardware, digital formats and plugins, and can be comprehensively extended, scripted and modified. Because of this, REAPER is widely renowned for being as a gateway to music production and cybernetic sound design, allowing users to work with audio-, soft synth-, and MIDI-tracks as well as plugins.

    The second day, participants learned about implementing interactivity in sound design and music composition. Participants were given overview in different possibilities to connect (MIDI, Open Sound Control) in Pd, as well as on how to import data files (a.o. .txt, .csv, Json) and connecting data streams in Pd. Participants also were shown how to connect data streams and REAPER via OSC (Open Sound Control).

    The afternoon consisted of a more thorough introduction to data sonification, participants were given examples of data sonification projects. Participants were given insight in how to design and implement data sonification strategies for their practices, as well as to Processing; a flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts.

    Finally, participants were asked to initiate their own projects, in order to explore opportunities within data sonification. While elaborating their concepts, participants investigated the availability and practical implementation of data streams, as well as blueprints for the technical execution and a first proof of concept. To conclude the 2-day workshop, participants presented their different conceptual projects to fellow participants.

    The workshop enabled participants to directly integrate data sonification and interactive sound synthesis into their own artistic practice. The workshop is inspired by Vermeulen's work in various projects including Mikromedas and Krystal Ball and his activities as an electronic musician and music producer. We want to thank the participants of the workshop, and of course Valery Vermeulen, who made this workshop possible. This event is kindly supported by Creative Industries Fund NL.

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