Reading Response #4 to Artful Design • Chapter 4: Programmability and Sound Design “Visual Design”

Aaron H.
Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

Paul Lansky’s “Homebrew” really took me back to my drumming days when I played with The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers (THUD) during undergrad (which is ironic considering his piece is much older than our compositions). There’s something about taking everyday life objects and using them in unexpected ways that creates magical moments in music. One example I would like to point to is a piece my group composed in THUD called “Restaurant Rhythm”. As you can guess by the title, we laid down some restaurant beats and jammed out on them. Very similar to the make-up of Lansky’s piece, we had pots, pans, forks, plates, and even a bucket of water to wash “dirty” utensils. In THUD, we thought of making these objects musical through percussive nuances and theatrics that fit into the theme of our show. Chapter 4 really made me curious what it would be like to even sample some of these sounds and programmatically alter them like in “Homebrew”. There are some interesting palates to play with like hitting the plate while submerged in water or the beats formed from hitting between the floor and the chairs. Not to mention we have a ton of videos with other unconventional percussion compilations and grooves. This was something I always wanted to do in our group to enhance our expression and instrumentation. Somehow integrate computer music seamlessly with percussive beats and make the sounds we produced even more engaging. There was a strong emphasis on acoustic sounds and little experimentation with processing the sound. I think our group could have benefitted greatly from Principle 4.6 to “Use the computer as agent of transformation”. With the frequency spectrum of percussive instruments, I would imagine working a lot with the comb filter or subtractive synthesis could create some cool sounds.

Expanding from the idea of using kitchen items as instruments, I resonate heavily with Lansky’s notion of searching for “personal music filters”. We kind of got a chance to do this is 220A with the ambisonic microphones. It does make me wonder what sounds people would associate Stanford with? Or even closer to home, could we create a sound logo for CCRMA using personal music filters? I would imagine FM synthesis and a synthesizer would have to be involved, but how would we portray all of the CCRMAlites that made CCRMA what it is today? And would that mean that the sound logo would continuously change based on who current resides in the Knoll?