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Visual Systems for Sonic Form and Energy


Absent the complex and nuanced modes of activation inherent to the vibrational systems of acoustic instruments, electronic musical systems begin with a foundational need for expressive control of their sound processes. This dissertation examines the role of the control layer in structuring synthesis and articulating the myriad dynamic processes which are used for the sculpting of sounds in time. It evaluates elements of the control layer in terms of characteristic behaviors that they can bestow upon sound parameters, and explores the utility of defining higher-level control systems which are capable of behaviors that would be difficult to achieve otherwise. Several new musical systems are created which showcase how diverse methods of screen-based visualization can provide conceptual and parametric structure for these systems.

This is demonstrated in Chapter 2 through the design of amalgamated systems for generating musical form that draw from traditional electronic methods, but are presented as contrasting visuospatial relationships which reveal useful sonic relationships. The control systems presented in Chapter 3 are modeled on physical properties related to change in the real world: the accumulation and dissipation of energy over time, and characteristics of motion and inertia. It’s shown how simple, physically-inspired approaches can build upon our innate understanding of real world environments, allowing us to design systems and interactions which feel metaphorically familiar, and contribute similarly to the musical behaviors that they evoke. Visual methods are thus exemplified as uniquely conducive to the conceptualization and realization of expressive musical systems.

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