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An Investigation Into Compositional Techniques Utilized For The Three-Dimensional Spatialization Of Electroacoustic Music

Hugh Lynch, Robert Sazdov

Hugh Lynch, Robert Sazdov, Digital Media and Arts Research Centre (DMARC), Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, University of Limerick
hugh.lynch@ul.ie / robert.sazdov@ul.ie


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Presenting musical composition on a multi-channel loudspeaker configuration has now been practiced for over 60 years. Pierre Schaeffer in partnership with Pierre Henry composed a number of works, one of the works was Symphonie pour un Homme Seul (1950). The composition was presented on a tetrahedral configuration, which consisted of a frontal pair, a single rear and one elevated loudspeaker (Zvonar, 2004). This is an example of one of the first presentation of a music composition on a 3D multi-channel loudspeaker configuration. From that point onwards, many composer began to present their works on multi-channel loudspeaker configurations. One such composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen composed a number of works, which were presented on 3D speaker configurations. At the 1970 World Expo in Japan, Stockhausen helped design a spherical concert hall, which included 50 groups of loudspeakers set up in 3D (Cott, 1973). At this event a number of commissioned electroacoustic compositions were presented through the 3D setup. From the mid- 1970s onwards, the establishment of a number of 3D multi-channel loudspeaker diffusion systems began to emerge. An example of one such diffusion system is Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) founded in 1982 (Harrison, 1998). This system has the capability to mount up to 100 loudspeakers within one single configuration, including the possibility of placing speakers at an elevated position (Harrison and Wilson, 2010). Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) is another such diffusion system, which has loudspeakers located above as well as below the listening position. Please include the abstract sent to EMS.

Even thought humans perceive sound in 3D, the majority of electroacoustic works are still presented on two-dimensional (2D) loudspeaker configurations (Sazdov et al., 2007). According to some, the creative possibilities of presenting electroacoustic music in three dimensions have not been adequately investigated (Sazdov et al., 2007; Normandeau, 2009). The need to investigate how sound moves and how music is perceived in an immersive environment is required in order to fully realize the creative compositional possibilities of 3D loudspeaker configurations (Sazdov et al., 2007; Normandeau, 2009). Considering that composers have engaged in loudspeaker distributed spatial music for decades, are there established practices used within multi-channel configurations? What can be learned from the stated opinions of electroacoustic music composers when engaging in 2D and 3D space?

This paper will argue that ecologically valid perceptual experiments are required in order to explore the creative compositional possibilities of 3D space. The argument is based on a review of perceptual research in electroacoustic music, as well as a summary of spatial approaches and observations made by electroacoustic music composers.

EMS11 Proceedings