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32 l August 2012


The event included listening sessions of works by avant-garde and contemporary composers

with various expressive aims, according to composers’ aesthetics, clearly heard by some of the works performed.” In Wolfango Dalla Vecchia’s

Atrocissime tange for mime, percussion and electronics, the electronic sounds move through space in various ways: contrasting circular clockwise and counterclockwise movement at different speeds; gradual expansion of the sound from the stage, moving through the room to envelop the audience; and rapid random movements, flashes of sound shooting out in all directions.


Spaced out sonics

Padua University’s pioneering Centre for Computational

Sonology showcases its innovative work in sound spatialisation, writes Mike Clark

THE ITALIAN city of Padua is an important international hub as far as electronic music is concerned. This reputation has been enhanced thanks to the Centre for Computational Sonology, part of the University of Padua’s Department of Information Engineering, which recently staged Visions of Sound, an exhibition and series of concerts covering the city’s musical research from its medieval roots to the end of the 20th century. Side events included an

exhibition of rare vintage instruments and interactive demos of innovative social work by the centre, including functional re-education and teaching handicapped children. Research activities by the centre (founded in the 1970s) include sound synthesis via physics-based models, 3D sound

rendering, digital audio post-processing techniques, analysis and modelling of expressive and emotional content in music performance interaction. There was also a series of performances and listening sessions of works by avant-garde and contemporary composers, featuring musicians, singers, live electronics and spatialised sound. The concerts were held in the auditorium of the Cesare Pollini Conservatory and sound spatialised via a 9+1 d&b system: centre cluster with six T10, two E12 (left + right), two B4 subwoofers and four E3 surround speakers. Achieving effective sound

spatialisation in an entire auditorium, not just in the centre, was the main challenge addressed by the group, as founder member and artistic director Professor Alvise Vidolin explains: “Various techniques give results, but can only be enjoyed in a precise listening point, normally at the centre of the system of loudspeakers. These systems can’t adapt to rooms’ architecture, so we decided to use the auditorium as a workshop and develop a method for ‘tuning’ spatialisation, enabling it to be used in rooms of various sizes.”

Apart from the microphones and loudspeakers, the system works entirely in the digital domain. It was constructed using Max/MSP software on an iMac connected via FireWire 800 to an RME card and from there with 16+16 ADAT channels to a Yamaha DM1000 console. The control platform in the centre of the room is connected to the monitor console via fibre with 16+16 MADI lines and A-D-A microphone and amplifier conversion done on-stage.

The digital system included a Yamaha DM1000 console

Upstream of all this there’s considerable research work carried out at the centre in collaboration with the Conservatory’s SaMPL (Sound and Music Processing Lab), studying the perception of space and laboratory simulations of various spatialisation techniques, enabling users to identify the one most suited to a specific room. Vidolin continues:

“Technology aside, one of the key aspects of the magic of sound spatialisation is its use

Adriano Guarnieri’s Sospeso d’incanto for piano and live electronics allows the audience to listen to the piano music as if they were actually inside the piano. With Marco Stroppa’s

Traiettoria deviata for piano and magnetic tape, the resonance of a chord is expanded by the sounds flowing from under the piano and slowly expanding to invade the whole auditorium, embracing the audience with changing sonic nuances with which the piano ‘converses’. Annie Fontana’s Wassar for female voice and recorded sounds was premiered at the event, and the singer was accompanied by the edited sound of water played back in octophony with octophonic reverb. The Visions of Sound listening room (equipped with an 8+1 Genelec system, with eight 8030 and a 7060B) also hosted an AV reproduction of a multi-track recording of part of Adriano Guarnieri’s Medea opera-video for soloists, chorus and orchestra, processed live using the original 2002 algorithms. Here spatialisation plays a key role. Among the various techniques, ‘celluloid’ consists of splitting the sound of the chorus into small sound particles that partially overlap, to ensure sound continuity, but that move very rapidly from one loudspeaker enclosure to another, creating a sort of vibrating soundscape. Vidolin concludes: “The

centre now works increasingly with composers who include spatialisation in the scores they write for live performance.”n

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