Listening List – Intro to Electroacoustic Music

I taught two introductory classes about  electroacoustic music in Fall 2015. One of the assignments in these classes is a weekly listening report on selected music. Can you guess the topics discussed in each week by looking at the listening list?

Week 1:

Autumn Signal  (1978) by Joan La Barbara :  Identify signal processing techniques that extends the singer’s acoustic limits

Klang (1982) by Jonty Harrison : What is the computer’s role in creating harmonic language and form of the piece?

Week 2:

Out of Breath  (2000) by Paul Koonce :  What can you listen and identify besides “two” flute notes?

Kits Beach Soundwalk (1986) by Hildegard Westerkamp : How were the studio techniques used to narrate the story in this piece?

Read & Summarize Section 1 (pg 1-7) of Sound Reinforcement Handbook by Davis and Jones


Read pg 9-10 of Living Electronic Music about WSP and Kits Beach Soundwalk

Read Soundscape and Truth section (p120-124) of the same book

Gainesville Soundscape (2007) by Joo Won Park : There is no need to write a  summary on your teacher’s piece, but have a listen.

Appalachian Grove I (1977) by Laurie Spiegel : Could this piece have been played by non-electronic ensemble (i.e. orchestra)? Why or why not?


Two-Part Invention in F Minor (1977) by Wendy Carlos : discuss the historical/social significance of this piece.

Compare and contrast Bye Bye Butterfly (1965) by Pauline Oliveros and Silver Apples of the Moon (1967) by Morton Subotnick. Do a little research on the instrumentation and their usage.


Crystal (1982) by Maggi Payne : This piece may appear to have no conventional sense of rhythm. What should we listen for, then?

1971 Arp 2600 by Benge (2007) : The artist uses the same synthesizer we have in the Studio 4. Discuss how envelopes, filters, and oscillators were used in this piece.

Week 6:

Apparitions (2004) by Ed Martin : How effective was the notations of electronic parts in this piece?

O Superman (1982)  by Laurie Anderson : If you were to perform this piece on stage, how will your setup look like?

Week 7:

Listening/Reading Report I is due

Week 8:

Fall Recess

Week 9:

Cubicle (2007) by Paul Riker : Discuss the form of this piece.

Three Fictions (Northern Mix) (2000) by Natasha Barrett : The composer states that “each movement presents a brief glimpse of a sight, a sound, a sensation.” Do you agree?

Week 10:

Requiem (1973) by Michel Chion : The piece was recorded/edited/processed in magnetic tape. Listen to the entire album. Write a response on techniques (you may need to do some research) and aesthetics.

Week 11:

Maa (Earth) I. Journey (1991) by Kaija Saariaho : Discuss the transitions from one section to another.

Grains of Voices (1995) by Ake Parmerud : Describe how the sense of time  and place was composed and manipulated in this piece.

Week 12:

The following pieces use sound materials quite different from what we have heard so far in the class. Describe how the two pieces use such sounds to create music (or not).

10’00 (2006) by Shibuya, Moslang, Nakamura

Time…dot (2002) by Carsten Nicolai & Alva Noto

Week 13:

Read one audio/electronic music magazine available the public lab. Write a summary on the magazine itself or an article.

Week 14:

Compare and contrast the following two pieces. Discuss the artistic usage of time and place.

sparrows in supermarkets (2011) by Paula Matthusen

Petite Musique Sentimentale (1984) by Yves Daoust

Week 15:

Submit the listening/reading report  BEFORE the reading period begins.

Double Decker Music Series

I participated in Double Decker Music Series in last September, and it was easily the most fun gig I did in this year.

DDMS is organized by Sebastian Petsu and Bowerbird in Philadelphia. According to the website, “the Double Decker Music series is a unique, intimate mobile concert experience on an open-top double-decker bus. It features live performances in an urban setting paired with a guided tour of Philadelphia’s attractions.” In other words, it’s an experimental music show on a tour bus. Imagine that!

I played a 30min set with no-input mixer and custom synth (and no computer!) on a perfect September weather in Philadelphia for my friends and strangers. The tour bus passed by the Eagles stadium, Far-South Philly, and other places that represents an interesting side of the city. In my performance, I interacted with street musicians, police cars, random drunk people, and street lights. At one point, there was a helicopter hovering above the bus, and I played and interacted with one of the most amazing machine sounds.  I was also happy to share the stage with Myrrias, who played beautiful music (I remember their very unique keyboard!). Sebastian was also an excellent tour guide. Take his bus if you want to tour Philadelphia.

I begin to play at around 7:30, but I suggest you to watch the entire video. It’s quite fun.


Armor+2 – for clarinet and computer

Required Software and Hardware

  1. Bb clarinet and Bass clarinet : A solo player will switch the instruments during the piece.
  2. Computer : a Macintosh with OS 10.9+ is preferred, but PC should also work.
  3. SuperCollider : this is a free software that runs the computer part.  Download it at if SuperCollider is not installed already
  4. Armor+2.scd file : this is the computer part for the piece. If you don’t have it already, download it from the composer’s website (Here) or contact the composer at
  5. One Microphone: Close-mic the clarinet. A good condenser microphones is preferred.
  6. Audio Interface: The interface should have at least one microphone inputs and three outputs. The first two outputs send computer part. The third output sends a click track.
  7. Headphone: connect the click track output to the headphone for the performer.
  8. Speakers/PA : Connect the stereo output of the audio interface to the sound reinforcement system.

How to Use Armor+2.scd File

  1. Make sure that your audio interface is set as the default input and output device for the computer.
  2. Open Armor+2.scd in SuperCollider.
  3. Go to Menu-> Language-> Evaluate File.
  4. You will hear measure 1 in few seconds. Press command+period(.) or go to Menu-> Language-> Stop  to stop.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 to restart.
  6. Do not let the computer go to sleep mode. It may cause a disconnection between the hardware and software.

Performance Instructions

  1. The electronic part should be as loud as the acoustic part. Adjust the gain and/or microphone position accordingly. Most of the computer parts are live-processed or algorithmic. The computer part processes the sound of the ensemble in realtime, and it will sound slightly different in each performance.  It is important to follow the tempo as accurately as possible to be in sync with the computer part.  The click track is not absolutely necessary, but it may assist the performance. The performer should be able to operate the computer part as the computer part requires runs automatically after the first measure.
  2. The click track starts at measure 1 without a count off. Place the bass clarinet near the performance space for a quick switch at measure 68.
  3. The following boxed words notated in the computer part indicate an addition or variation of the computer part: AM, AM2, and FM add harmonic elements. Ticks are short percussive sounds. Stutter imitates a short segment of the performer’s sound. Reverb simulates a room sound. Pad is a long synthesized tone, which can have a smooth or sharp beginning.
  4. There are some extra files in the download site. If the performer wants to practice the piece by sections, use the files in ForPractice folder. Armor+2-ClickOnLeft.scd has the click track on the left channel. If the performer does not want to operate SuperCollider part during the practice, he/she can use the recorded electronics part in ForTapeVersion folder.

Mid-Missouri Composers Symposium at Osage Arts Community

I was attending Mid-MO Composers Symposium in mid July. This week-long event was initiated and directed by composer Nolan Stolz, and was hosted by the Osage Arts Community in Belle, MO.  Total of eleven composers from all over the country gathered at the OAC, and we discussed various topics and inspired each other.  In fact, I don’t think I ever had this much fun talking about music since the college years.


Here are some topics we have discussed in the formal discussion panel:

  1. Electronic music
  2. Perceiving musical form
  3. Timbral/behavioral counterpoint
  4. Intertextuality in instrumental composition
  5. Teaching students in the interdisciplinary arts
  6. Perceiving musical form
  7. Outreach and funding
Here are some planned (and a few unplanned) activities
  1. Hang out at the river
  2. Listening and discussion of Corigliano’s score for Altered States
  3. Attend Alarm Will Sound’s open rehearsal at Mizzou International Composers Festival
  4. Attend county fair and demolition derby
  5. Watch the movie Untitled
  6. Tour of a restored Missouri prairie
  7. Karaoke night
  8. “Guess the composer of this program notes” game
When there were no activities, each composer worked at his/her work in a private and quite space. The center has many buildings in the town, and is transforming the town into an artist heaven. All accommodation and foods are provided by the OAC for free.  In short, I highly recommend the Composers Symposium and residency at the OAC. I know I will come back when I need a time and space for my projects.

Lastly, Belle is located in a beautiful rural area. I was happy to hear many inspiring sounds. The below is a recording of a chicken coop owned by OAC. You can almost hear checkins pecking my leg and the recorder.



Snake Extension – What I have learned in the Spring semester

I taught Digital Signal Processing Theory class in the last Spring. I have never studied this hard to teach a course. As a result, I learned (or relearned) about DSP quite a bit. More specifically, I learned to appreciate elegance of “classic” techniques, such as AM, FM, sample-and-hold, and delays. I think I can explain them in digital terms. Most importantly, I learned that digital signal processing is all about (good) math.

The best way to wrap up the semester and summarize what I have learned is to make a piece using the new techniques I have learned.

1. To start the piece, I begin with a sinusoid generated with very slow Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) on its pitch. The LFO’s shape is made with a  wave shaping function using polynomials. The result is an unusual curve pitch pattern.

2. On this polynomial curve, I add sample and hold. The smooth line gets “steps” in terms of pitch. I change the S&H rate to create different rhythms

3. As the piece progresses, I would like to have some frequency modulation gradually fading in.

4. This should sound fun if I have more of them. Here is an example of all the techniques with four sinusoids. The rate of S&H, the shape of polynomial curve, and the modulation rate of FM are randomly selected for each line.

The resulting sound sounded like a good accompaniment for a noisy electronic piece. So I played a no-input mixer and custom synthesizer over the polynomial pads. I also continued the piece with algorithmically drum part that I have developed for Snake and Ox track in my latest album (more about this track later).

Here’s the final result, Snake Extension. I think I’ll add this to my solo repertoire.