Integra Contemporary & Electroacoustics

Integra Contemporary & Electroacoustics is a student ensemble that focuses on the interpretation of contemporary art music with and without electronic music components. In Integra, we build on traditional performance and compositional practices, as well as experiment with new instrumentalities, creating new performance paradigms and exploring a potential for increased musical expressivity through technology.  The integration of new instrumentalities with acoustic instruments (saxophones, guitars, didgeridoo, accordions, voices, percussion instruments, digital turntable, MOOG Voyager,  wii remotes, microphones, etc.) is an exciting aspect of the ensemble formation and leads to a very wide range of diverse and often unexpected sound combinations.

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Integra Contemporary and Electroacoustics (ICE) in rehearsal for 360° Film, Sound & Space

ICE “in rehearsal” – making music to film, Seldom Somber, by David Schlatter. Come to the concert on 8 April, Lethbridge [Canada]

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ICE EVENT on 8 April, 2017

Integra Contemporary & Electroacoustics (ICE) presents:

360° Film, Sound & Space

Featuring…

Improvisations by the members of ICE
Electroacoustic world premiere by Jon Martin
Films by Bryn Hewko, David Schlatter, as well as Daniel Franke & Cedric Kiefer
Browser-based graphic novel by Autumn Read
Artwork by Jamie-Lee Girodat
Special participation from the students of W. H. Croxford High

…bring you 360-degree headsets and phones!

7:30pm
Saturday, April 8
uLethbridge Recital Hall
Free admission

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Creating Sounds in ES P (Logic Pro X)

By Jon Martin

Overview

In this post, you will learn about how the parameters in the ES P virtual instrument in Logic Pro X can be used to shape a synthesized sound.

Before beginning, confirm that your speakers or headphones are functioning and that the system volume level is set to a moderate level.

Launch program and create new document

 

  1. Launch the Logic Pro application, located in the Applications folder.

>/Applications/Logic Pro

  1. Create a new Logic document by navigating to:

>File>New

Loading ES P

We will now load the ES P plugin.

  1. Create a new track with the ES P virtual instrument loaded. You can load the instrument by creating a new virtual instrument track, selecting the “Instrument” plug in section, and choosing ES P (Polyphonic synth) from the menu.

 

 

  1. Press Cmd+K (Logic Pro X) or Caps Lock (Logic Pro 9) to make the keyboard appear.
  1. Take a few minutes and switch through the ten provided sound presets and make some sound with each using the Musical Typing Keyboard.
  1. You will notice how the parameters of the ES P interface change as you move between presets.

ES P Parameters

We will now investigate the plugin controls. We will be looking at three main sections of the plugin: the synthesis engine on the left side, the resonance/filter section in the middle, and the ADSR section on the right.

martinesp3

  1. The Oscillator section allows you to control the type of oscillators that make up the sound produced by the plugin. From left to right, you have the triangle, sawtooth, and rectangle waves. The next two faders are sub-octave generators, the first controlling the amount generated one octave below the sound from the first three faders, and the second dropping two octaves. The final fader controls the amount of white noise that introduced into the sound. To the left of the faders are three button labelled 4, 8, and 16, which determine which octave the sound produced resides in.
  2. The Filter section introduces a low-pass filter into the signal. It reduces the range of frequencies produced about the cutoff point (labelled as frequency). The 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3 control the octave range that is covered by the lowpass filter. 1/3 will cut off the least amount of signal, while 3/3 will cut off the most. The resonance control allows you to choose how much the signal is boosted at the cutoff frequency. Changing the amount of resonance will drastically change the synthesized sound.
  3. The Envelope section allows you to control the attack (A), decay (D), sustain (S), and release (R) characteristics of the sound produced. By using ADSR to shape the volume envelope of the sound, you can create familiar or completely new sounds.
  4. The remaining controls offer additional ways to change the sound produced, including distortion and chorus effects, a low frequency oscillator, and additional envelope parameters that will not be used I this tutorial.

Creating a sound

We will use the plugin parameters to create a basic synthesized sound.

  1. Use the Recall Default setting in the preset menu to reset the plugin the its default parameters.
  2. Begin by setting all of the oscillator values to zero, at their lowest position.
  3. Raise the triangle wave slider about halfway up. Use the Musical Typing Keyboard to produce a sound.
  4. Next, raise the noise slider to add sharper attack characteristics to the sound. While making sound, find a position that you like.
  5. Select the 8’ octave range.
  6. Next we will move to the Filter section. Raise both the Frequency and Resonance controls fully clockwise and play a sound. You may have to hold down the key to hear the complete sound.
  7. Now lower the frequency control until it is cutting off the signal at a position that is pleasing.
  8. The “laserbeam” like quality to the sound is caused by self-oscillation created by having the Resonance set very high. Reduce the Resonance control until it is positively contributing to the synthesized sound and not causing unwanted distraction. You may change or lower to octave range of the filter to lessen the overall effect.
  9. Now we move to the Envelope section. The A control sets how long it takes for a sound to reach its maximum amplitude. The D control sets how long it takes for the sound to go from its maximum to resting level. The S control sets how long the sound remains at its resting level. The R control sets how long the sound takes to return to silence after the key has been released.
  10. Starting with all ADSR controls at zero, beginning moving them from left to right to shape the envelope characteristics of the synthesized sound. Moving the slider up increases the time value.

You will notice that longer attack values will require a longer key press to allow the sound to become audible from silence. Shorter values may imply percussive sounds, while longer sounds may evoke legato strings.

  1. Modify the ADSR values until a satisfactory sound is being produced. Use this sounds to play a few simple melodies, making changes to the parameters as necessary to increase the sound quality and function of the instrument.
  2. Finally, use the two sub-oscillator sliders to add lower harmonics to the sound. You may need to use high quality speakers or headphones to hear the change occurring due to low frequency content not being played back on smaller speakers.
  3. Once a desired sound has been created, click on the preset menu and click Save As… to save the sound for later use.
  4. Go through this process several times until three contrasting and useful sounds have been created.

Closing the application

  1. Close the Logic application by selecting Logic Pro > Quit Logic Pro.
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Ugliness and the Coloration of Digital Sound

By Matt Rederburg

Things can be beautiful when they begin to fall apart. It is no secret that many of us find unpredictability a very musical thing. Most like it in small doses. Many styles of rock n’ roll are bettered by a player’s utilization of tube-based guitar amp and the breakup they have come to expect from it at certain volume levels. The effect of amp-breakup on the sound of an electric guitar can be a key part of the overall tone. Take a listen to “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” by The White Stripes, or strap in for the entirety of “Dopesmoker” by Sleep. These are just the first two examples that my iTunes offered up, chosen for no other reason than the fact that these songs owe some to their sonic signature to the abuse of imperfections in a signal chain. Although standard practice now, guitar amplifiers were not originally designed to respond in such a way. A shortcoming of design is now a preferable feature.

My intention isn’t to champion the virtues of the modern electric guitar, but to support the same attitude toward other instruments and sound generating devices. Perfection and purity will never escape the realm of subjectivity, so why not place value in a bit of ugliness? By testing the limits of a piece of hardware, you allow yourself to be surprised. You also might find that you give a voice to a piece of equipment in an extreme way. An ideal situation finds you at the threshold of visceral engagement where you respond to the gear as much as the gear responds to you.

I have only, and will only, ever perform in an era where digital synthesis and manipulation of sound is an accessible option. Sound leaves to digital realm to be heard by us, but there is a very deep reserve of processing options before that stage. There are so many exhausting branches to the analog (hardware) vs. digital (software) debate, and most just get in the way of actual performance. My experience has led me to believe that it IS, however, harder to coax a sense of randomness out of a lot of digital options. The randomness that I’m looking for, an arguably inspiring randomness, is the same sort that can be found in driving hardware past a sensible point of engagement.

Do we throw computers by the wayside and instead choose from a selection of hardware and instrument options that time has already deemed acceptable? Not a single one of my peers draws such a thick line in the sand. There’s no need for it, and this musical randomness isn’t always appropriate. What I’d like to suggest, to those individuals who perform with sounds that begin in a digital realm, is to be more adventurous with the exit route of these sounds. They have to enter the world at some point to be heard. What if instead of adopting hardware to reproduce these sounds as neutrally as possible, you place an item in your chain (after the conversion from digital to analog) that’s distinct in the way it interprets the material?

Just recently, I had the pleasure of being a part of the Integra Contemporary and Electroacoustics (ICE) ensemble lineup for the Fall 2016 season, and it was a fantastic opportunity to put this idea into practice. Admittedly, my choice to instrumentation started more as a question of “What if?” than a calculated attempt at routing digital sound through an imperfect signal path. When asked to establish what instrument I was going to contribute to the ensemble, I grabbed my Macbook and a Native Instruments Maschine – which is a piece of hardware with velocity sensitive pads, knobs, and buttons used to send MIDI data. With it, I figured I would have plenty of flexibility to trigger and modulate sounds using the partnering Native Instruments Maschine software. Surely I could find a role in the ensemble easily with so many options. I also grabbed an external soundcard to provide analog outputs for my digital sounds. Lastly, I grabbed a cheap karaoke machine I had lying around. The appeal of this machine is that it had two microphone inputs with independent gain controls. These inputs ended up receiving sound from my digital rig. The manner in which this karaoke machine interpreted the sounds I was sending from my computer completely changed my role in the ensemble.

This karaoke machine distorted quite easily, and at the most extreme amount of input it would break up in a way that completely obscured the originally timbre of the digital sound. You could “play” the machine, adjusting levels of saturation, clarity and internal noise (a product of a fairly cheap design) by manipulated the two input gain knobs in combination with the master output knob. It was fantastic, and I became very excited to perform with it.

Once I understood the characteristics of the machine, I became less concerned with the complexity of the sounds I was using in the digital realm. Stock, pre-packed sounds became a new animal when coaxed through the karaoke monster. At least once per performance my deliberate tweaking jumped sideways into the territory of calf-roping as I jumped to counter a surprising response from the machine. Sometimes the inputs had a poor connection, and signal would drop out until I performed enough of the usual jiggling ritual to bring the sounds back to life. It was an experience that demanded engagement as a performer. Never did I have a free hand. The best part of my instrument was the portion that was falling apart. I invite you to try it out.

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Integrating the Piano into an Electronic Soundscape

By Carey-Lyn Holt

Adding an acoustic element, in this case a piano, to an ensemble that is primarily made up of electronic instruments is rewarding but it also presents challenges. It is rewarding because it adds a sense of depth to the colour palette of the ensemble. One of the challenges is matching the acoustic instrument’s volume with the electronic instruments. Another challenge is in the seemingly limited palette of sound the piano can produce and how to make it unique enough to blend but also to stand out from the electronic sound sources. Luckily, because the ensemble is electronic, the challenges become opportunities.
A familiar instrument, such as the piano, can establish a foundation for the listeners. Audience members and musicians alike who are beginning to approach electronic music may find the piano’s presence comforting. Regardless of the audience, acoustic instruments elevate electronic instruments because it makes them more tangible and approachable.
To successfully integrate the piano into the ensemble, amplification is needed. By amplifying the acoustic signal, it allows the pianist the full dynamic range. I toyed with the idea of processing the piano signal in a digital audio workstation. It would lend the piano a wider range of sounds and (dynamic levels allowing) would keep the original acoustic sound as a doubling. However, I did not try this, if I had wanted a processed sound a much simpler solution would have been to set up a laptop with a midi keyboard station.
Diversifying the piano’s sound is another challenge when it comes to integrating it into the electronic ensemble. The piano’s sound without alteration can give respite to the more aggressive electronic sounds. As mentioned before, audience members who are new to the world of electronic music may unconsciously (or consciously) be listening for the piano’s pure sound. In this way, the sound produced by the piano can stand out and contrast the electronic sounds. But how does one extend the piano so that it adds to the ensemble’s colour? By following John Cage’s prepared piano techniques.
By preparing the piano the player opens a whole plethora of new timbres. When new sounds emit from a familiar instrument, the initial reaction can be quite shocking. By only using your hands you can play harmonics, scratch and/or strum the strings, and much more. Starting with harmonics, it works the best when you use the lower strings that have only one thick string. By gently pressing your finger on one of the string’s nodes it will create a harmonic.
Often chalk is used to mark the nodes. Luckily, even if you can’t quite reach a node, pressing gently anywhere on the string creates a bell like sound when you play the string’s corresponding key on the keyboard with the dampening pedal depressed. The strings also have ridges in them and by drawing your fingernails down the string it can create a very characteristic scratching sound. Another interesting effect is when the player strums or plucks the strings.
Another way to prepare a piano is to insert objects into the piano and play the keyboard or do any of the previously mentioned techniques. Placing paper lengthwise over strings can create an interesting buzzing sound as the vibrations coming from the strings move across the paper. Inserting erasers and hardware between the strings is also a common direction to take. A very effective sound can be produced by placing a pencil across the strings. With every hammer hit, the pencil bounces and excites the string again creating a double hit with a hint of a deadstroke.
The sounds you can create with a piano are almost limitless and if amplification is provided, the piano should have no trouble keeping up with the evolving electronic world.

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Electric Guitar: Delving Beyond Just 6 Strings

By Richard Charlton

Even within the bounds of conventional playing, the timbre of each individual guitar player’s tone varies vastly more than the players of any other instrument. While any instrument’s timbre can widely vary depending on things like material, mouthpiece or reed, or the room it’s being played in, the variables increase tenfold once the electrified piece of wood is strapped on. Everything from the string gauge, length of the patch cord, pedals the signal is being run through, amplifier, age of the amplifier tubes to speakers the amp is pushing all combine to make a very unique fingerprint for each player. Despite all these things, the electric guitar often serves a very similar role in most mainstream productions, whether it be powerful flexing power chords, soaring leads or funky staccato rhythm playing. I’d like to walk you through some techniques I have found to improve the variety of my playing and increase the amount of sonic textures that can be created with just a single instrument.

1. Expanding Your Picking Hand Arsenal

Guitar is most commonly strummed with some form of plectrum or plucked with the fingers. The two techniques offer a wide spectrum of dynamics and expressivity, but can quickly be identified by the ear as guitar related sounds. Incorporating simple tools into your rig can expand your sound palate immensely and unlock a new realm of sonic possibilities. E-Bows are battery powered magnetic devices that can help a player achieve the sustained, bowing like tones of a violin or cello. Infinite sustain and amplified harmonics take the guitar out of its preconceived place in a mix and add a haunting, wailing ambience to your production. Guitar Trillers are relatively inexpensive tools that help imitate the percussive strike of a piano key, adding attack and brittleness to your tone.

2. Expanding Your Fretting Hand Arsenal

Guitar slides can be a good way to break away from the rigid glissando transitions between notes of a standard fretted board for smooth, floating melodies. Slides can also transcend the limitations of the fret board and help a player achieve ear-splittingly high registers. Fret board tapping can also break past its associations to 80’s hair metal and shredders to create a bright sounding keyboard like playing style. Watch performances of the Chapman Stick to truly appreciate this technique. It is also important to remember that not all notes played have to be generated on the fret board. Exploit the sympathetic harmonics of the strings to craft ghostly melodies and experiment agitating the strings on different parts of the body (plucking behind the bridge, above the nut, etc.).

3. Expanding Your Foot Arsenal (Pedals!!)

While pedals are certainly nothing new as part of a guitarist’s rig, dozens of new builders have popped up over the last five years or so, making handmade and boutique circuits a lot more affordable than they used to be. Everyone knows what a distortion pedal or wah wah is supposed to sound like, it’s when you start delving into stranger circuits like ring modulators or pitch shifters that starts to make your guitar not sound like a guitar suddenly possible. Resonant filters and flangers can help achieve the sounds of deep-sea creatures while phasers and delays will help your tone reach the distant cosmos. It’s important to experiment with the signal flow of your guitar and trying your pedals and different stages of the chain. Strive to coax unconventional sounds out of your circuits and finding great sounds using a combination of several pedals.

There is no right or wrong answer to how to set up an electric guitar rig. Everyone is a different player who has different preferences. What is important is that you continually improve on your niche of playing that gives your playing style it’s uniqueness. Happy experimenting and happy soundscaping!

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Electroacoustic Music and Pure Expression

By Owen Campeau

Composition is an art form that is constantly in flux, constantly changing and reshaping itself. Composition can be influenced by the past, present and future equally. It is one of the greatest art forms because it is nearly infinite; with each composition being differentiated by Notes, rhythm, timbre, and technique (the last of which is ever-changing with new techniques being invented constantly). The difficulty with composition comes from a very narrow concept that we are hardwired with of what makes music sound “Good.” It is difficult to make compositions that sound “good” that are still original (many of the best know songs all follow the same chord progression eg. VIDEO ). But allowing ones self to be limited by this notion of good sounding music completely eliminates the possibility of growth and advancements in music.

This is where the urgency and importance behind electro-acoustic music can be most felt. Players and composers with an interest in Electro-acoustic music are most likely already consumers of “experimental” music. We as electro-acoustic musicians are not limited to four chords for our expression, we are not even limited to conventional tonality or the inherent need for notes. Electro-acoustic music is a blank canvas where anything can be an instrument and any instrument can make any noise. A synthesizer a conventional instrument based off of the keys of the piano, through a variety of digital codes programmed into the synth it’s self, and through different plugins and setting of the computer you are running said synth out of can be anything, a guitar, a glossy pinging, an unearthly rumble. Even for instruments that are not electronic in the same way as the synth you can still treat affect them. The possibilities are endless because there are constantly more parameters that you can add, subtract or change.

This makes composition of Electro-acoustic music admittedly more complex and time consuming but over all more rewarding. When you begin your composition your first step does not have to be “what is my first note?” you can view it from a holistic viewpoint. Your first consideration can be what sound do I want my instruments to make; once you have dialed that in then it is easy to look at your composition and asses what other elements do you want to add. Do you want your instruments to juxtapose, or sound well together? Do you want your sounds to be constant/brief, warm/cold, in the foreground/background, distorted/clean? All of these parameters are controllable by you and the technology at your fingertips.

Electro-acoustic music is also an art form that is very conducive to composing as a group. The benefit of the group is that rather than only having one mind perceiving and creating the sounds that are wanted/needed you have multiple and therefore you have a broader palate to draw inspiration from. It can also act as a needed injection of creativity as it is easy to become bogged down and in some ways it is possible to become paralyzed by possibilities.

Composition of Electro-acoustic music is a freeing experience. There are no boundaries, and no set template to base your work off of. It is pure expression and it is endless.

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