Widgets Magazine

The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics holds its annual fall concert

The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) will be holding its annual fall concert, Transitions, in the courtyard of The Knoll. The concert is spread over two days: tonight, Oct. 1, from 8-10 p.m. and tomorrow, Oct. 2, from 7:30-10 p.m. According to CCRMA Concert Coordinator Eoin Callery DMA ’17, CCRMA will use around 24 speakers with eight subwoofers.

On Wednesday, Transitions will feature primarily members of the CCRMA community. On Thursday, there will be two performances from the CCRMA community; the rest of the works will be from around the world. Sets will be a combination of live pieces and fixed-media or pre-recorded, pieces. Below are previews of several upcoming CCRMA performances.

Mountains in Space, Wednesday

Mountains in Space is a musical duo with Luke Dahl Ph.D. ’14 and Colin Sullivan M.A. ’13 who met at CCRMA. They have collaborated musically since 2013. Their music is formally ambient electronic music — on their site, they describe their sound as “a time-dilated dive into fractal cosmic jello,” focusing on the feeling of slower, distorted time.

The moniker came out of a “Lord of the Rings” versus “Star Wars” discussion, during which Dahl had pointed out, “They’re kind of the same — one is wizards in mountains and the other is wizards in space.”

The name also describes the feeling of their music — “sounds bouncing around in space,” as Dahl described.

Sullivan’s primary role during the Transitions set is setting up the rhythmic structure as Dahl works on the tonal and textural sounds through synthesizers.

Mountains in Space has performed at Codame ART+TECH Festival in the sound room as part of a program called 5ENSES, revolving around the five senses. In addition, the duo has also played at Burning Man, Berkeley Arts Festival and Chillits Ambient Music Festival, among others.


(Courtesy of Luke Dahl)

Luke Dahl, Wednesday

Luke Dahl, the other half of Mountains in Space, will be performing “I am sitting in a courtyard.” The piece is a derivative of experimental musician Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room,” where Lucier recorded a monologue and continually re-recorded the playing of the recording. Gradually, the monologue became hazy, and the resonance of the room emerged.

Similarly, Dahl will live-record a monologue and record the recording being played. His goal — through looping his voice, the night sounds and other sounds during his set — is to capture the resonance of The Knoll courtyard in the experimental piece.

“It’s mostly a chance to refer to this other piece, but also seeing how it works outside,” he said. “”What’s appealing for me about experimental music is that you don’t know exactly the outcome of the piece until you perform it, and because the piece is unique to that moment, you tend to be more present there. And since this will be my last concert at The Knoll, in a way, it’s also about that moment for me, too.”

The main genres Dahl composes in are electronic pop, techno, and house music. Some of his notable projects include collaborating on audio engineering for the earlier iPods; “TweetDreams,” a sonification of live Tweets from the audience; and SoundBounce, an app instrument for “throwing” sound. His current doctoral research is on air drumming and improving timing in gesture-controlled instruments.


(Courtesy of Luke Dahl)

Shu Yu Lin, Wednesday

The set by Shu Yu Lin M.A. ’15 will contain “Water,” one of five movements from a collection called “Images of Elements.” The name of the collection pays homage to Wu Xing, a five-element scheme that is the conceptual cornerstone of traditional Chinese philosophy in fields from cosmology to medicine. Lin has also completed the conceptual composition of the other four elements: wood, metal, earth and fire.

The musical elements of “Images of Elements” come from the sonification of planetary data from NASA. Lin began composing “Water” by converting data into sound through an audio programming language called ChucK, transforming her ideas into literal sketches of her concept, continuing into several versions of composition and ending with a final product.

Lin composes classical music, and she is interested in the psychological connection humans have with music. She also researches Chinese music.

Julius Smith and Gina Gu, Wednesday

Julius Smith, Professor of Music and (by courtesy) Electrical Engineering, and Gina Gu M.A. ’08 will be performing a variant of Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, arranged, Smith explained, “to tell a story through modern technology.”

For the set, Smith will use a moForte Guitar, an iOS application that he helped to develop over the past few years. Smith, who specializes in audio signal processing, does not consider himself a composer — instead, he said that “a sprig of composition” appears in the process of repurposing music from the past via technology.

“A lot of music has untapped potential,” he said, giving the example of the piece he had performed at a previous CCRMA concert. “Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor works beautifully as a jazz ballad, and I thought, ‘This should be a great jazz standard!’ So, adapting it in this direction naturally led to notes and chord-variations that Chopin did not write.”

While Smith plays the lead voice on the moForte Guitar, Gu, who is a sound designer for commercial work such as “Call of Duty”, will be manipulating over 100 tracks. Her accompaniment will emerge as background, and then, at a point in the piece, overpower the lead voice.

As for the final effect of the piece: “Things will happen,” Smith said. “We don’t want to give away the story, but let’s just say it’s over 100 tracks of interestingness.”

Pablo Castellanos Macin, Wednesday

“Not like a fairy tale, but more science fiction,” said Pablo Castellanos Macin M.A. ’14 about his upcoming set. Initially performed live in spring at CCRMA, the piece, “Communication,” will be pre-recorded, or a fixed media piece, for Transitions.

“Communication” features instruments Macin had built at CCRMA from watching online tutorials. He did not disclose the type of instruments to preserve the mystery of his piece. Macin recorded the voice of each instrument on separate tracks so that each instrument will be played through a different speaker at Transitions, which will create what he referred to as “an interaction of sound.” By being fixed media rather than a live performance, “Communications” disguises the source of the sounds.

“It’s hard for the mind to nail this sound down to a specific thing,” he said about the sound of the instruments. “It definitely feels like you’re in the middle of mystical animals — mystical because there are no animals with this native sound. It’s what your mind wants to think — that they’re animals and you’re among their conversation.”


(Courtesy of Pablo Castellanos Macin)

Bill Schottstaedt, Thursday

Bill Schottstaedt, former Research Associate at CCRMA, will play “I’m Late!” for Transitions. The piece was composed in 1989 for the Samson Box which, for over a decade, the primary digital synthesizer at CCRMA.

Most of Schottstaedt’s compositions make use of frequency modulation, which concerns the transformation of timbres, or tone quality, of sound. Three of his pieces, “Water Music I,” “Water Music II” and “Dinosaur Music,” were featured in “Dinosaur Music,” a 1988 five-track album of computer music created with two others from the CCRMA community. Like the track “Dinosaur Music,” “I’m Late!” uses an instrument called the FM violin and is largely tonal.

Initially a composer interested in sound synthesis, Schottstaedt has now shifted his focus onto programming. He currently works on software primarily aimed at composers.


(Courtesy of Bill Schottstaedt)

Contact Irene Hsu at ihsu5595 ‘at’ stanford.edu

About Irene Hsu

Irene Hsu is a music contributing writer, and a former Deputy Desk Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. She is a sophomore from San Jose, CA and is double-majoring in English and Symbolic Systems. Contact Irene at ihsu5595 'at' stanford.edu