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"Into Darkness"

A Computer Music Composition
by
Thomas Wells

Director, Sound Synthesis Studios
Ohio State University School of Music
Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State University School of Music SOUND SYNTHESIS STUDIOS is a center for research and composition in computer music. Founded in the early 1960's, the studios consist of a network of Unix (DecStation 5000/200, NeXT, Sun) and Macintosh computers, with over 8 gigabytes of disk storage. OSU SSS was the host of the 1989 International Computer Music Conference. Thomas Wells is the Director of the Ohio State University Sound Synthesis Studios.


21st is proud to bring its readers a short excerpt of Professor Thomas Wells award winning composition, "Into Darkness. According to Wells, "My basic idea was to create an entire work from spectral manipulation of vocal sounds, using techniques of spectral interpolation, compression, and expansion. The primary sound source in this work is an excerpt from Don Carlo Gesualdo's Tenebrae, recorded by the Hilliard Ensemble, and used by permission of ECM Records. The music is dark in mood, befitting the text and the style of Gesualdo's vocal setting.

The 60" excerpt on which the entire work is based was transferred directly from CD to hard disk using an Audio Digital Systems AES/EBU/SCSI interface developed at The Ohio State University under a National Endowment for the Arts Centers for New Music Resources Grant. The recorded material was processed using phase-vocoder-based spectral modification programs written by Christopher Penrose, Eric Lyon, and myself -- programs to perform timbral interpolation, spectral expansion, compression, and inversion.

These programs run on a NeXT 040 Cube in the Ohio State University Sound Synthesis Studios. The IRCAM Super Phase Vocoder, running on a DECStation 5000/200 was employed in this work for time expansion, and the Mark Dolson phase vocoder, running on a SUN 3/280 was used to provide analysis files for manipulation using cmusic scripts. Linear prediction was used, albeit very sparingly, using the mxv application, written by Doug Scott, and running on the NeXT 040 Cube. Timbral interpolations were made between different excerpts of the Gesualdo samples, as well as between Gesualdo samples and software-synthesis produced sounds (made using FM, waveshaping, granular synthesis, and resonant-filter synthesis). The spectral modification techniques were applied, for the most part, successively, in order to achieve a desired timbral richness, and to distance the material somewhat from the original patterns and inflections of the Gesualdo. Mixing was done with the Lansky/Dickie rt application.

The recording was made on a Sony PCM-2500 DAT, recording directly digitally from the Audio Digital Systems interface.


Thomas Wells Bio

Thomas Wells was born in Austin, Texas, and holds the B.Mus. and D.M.A. degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. His principal teachers include Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kent Kennan, Hunter Johnson, and Clifton Williams. He is the author of The Technique of Electronic Music, and has been involved with computer music for over twenty-five years. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ohio Arts Council, Texas Commission on the Arts, Pennsylvania Arts Council, Ohio Humanities Council, and others, and has served on executive boards of national composers' organizations. He received the Governor's Award for Outstanding Individual Artist in the State of Ohio in 1990.

His works include over a dozen works for electroacoustic media; chamber music, orchestra music, and concertos. Recent performances of his music include his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Spokane Symphony in November, 1994, and Into Darkness, computer music, at the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the U.S. national conference in Ithaca, New York in February, 1995, and also at the Society of Composers National Conference in Iowa, City, Iowa, this April. He is also active as collaborative pianist, in the viola/piano duo Duo Contemporain, with violist Edward Adelson.

He teaches composition and allied courses, and directs the school's computer music facilities, the Sound Synthesis Studios at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.


Some Interesting Divertimenti

Thomas Wells has put together a short list of interesting computer music sites for our readers. Enjoy!


Anonymous Ftp to ftp.princeton.edu

CMIX Home Page

Winham Computer Music Laboratory (Princeton)

Some Computer Music Home Pages

ACCAD (OSU) Home Page

 

21st, The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com

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