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Interface Aesthetics: Sound, Software, and the Ecology of Digital Audio Production


This dissertation investigates the ways in which the composition and production of electronic music is influenced by software and digital instrument design. Through my research, I found that musicians, sound designers, and multimedia artists are not only creative agents, but must also balance aesthetic preferences with the affordances and constraints of audio software. My inquiry combines multiple research methods. Ethnographic data gathered from participant observation and interviews with software developers, interaction designers, and electronic musicians in Southern California has revealed the extent to which digital producers increasingly borrow the tools and techniques of artists working across media platforms. Close readings and technical analyses of specific software have allowed me trace new genealogies in the evolution of music technology. Finally—influenced by the praxis-based approach of digital humanities—the creation of original software and digital applications has made it possible for me to bridge the gap between theoretical and technical perspectives on music and media production. By applying the techniques of media theory, computer science, design, and digital humanities to critical practices in media art in the twenty-first century, the project brings to bear shifting understandings of cultural objects as they increasingly converge with computational processes.

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