Bruit pour Chanforgnophone was composed in the frame of my Music 222/220c final project (2013). It features a new musical instrument that I recently built called the Chanforgnophone. The files mentioned in this document can be sound here.

General Aesthetic Idea

Bruits pour Chanforgnophone is based on the original French version of one of Jacques Attali's most famous book: Noise: The Political Economy of Music (Bruits - Essai sur l'économie politique de la musique). It develops the idea that music is a mirror of the world and more precisely of a specific society at a certain period in history. Even more than that, he says that music can be used to foresee the future of this society. The main example given by Attali to this theory is that of western society in the second half of the twentieth century with the advent of capitalism. According to him, during this period, music became, as anything else, a product of consumption: "Music and musician essentially become either objects of cosumption like everything else, recuperators of subversion, or meaningless noise. [...] The monologue of standardized, stereotyped music accompanies and hems in a daily life in which in reality no one has the right to speak any more." (listening, first chapter of the book).

Bruits pour Chanforgnophone tries to musically transcribe the idea of this music that became stereotyped and standardized, using the Chanforgnophone as a small-scale model of our society where different kind of musical materials morph and interact with each other to form what Attali calls "the noise of men". A tenor is used as a narrator to comment on this world using Attali's words.

The Chanforgnophone


The Chanforgnophone is a musical instrument that I made in the frame of a previous project. For more informations about its construction and its previous used you can refer to these webpages: here and here. The Chanforgnophone was modified for the current piece. I maintained a blog throughout the quarter showing its evolution every week.

I wont give too much details here about how this instrument works as a lot of information about that can be found in the links given in the previous paragraph. The Chaforgnophone is made of a still metal frame that houses three different springs that can be driven with an audio signal by a transducer on one side and recorded by a piezo on the other side. The idea is that they can be used as analog reverberators. The Chanforgnophone also has strings on most of its faces thats can be plucked, stroke or bowed. Finally, a set of seven proximty sensors can be used to control different parameters in function of the section of the piece being performed. In the score (see appendixes), they are numbered as follows:


Most of the signal processors / synthesizers used in the piece were written in Faust and compiled as PD externals that are used in the main patch: chanforgnophone.pd. There, the proximity sensors that are made accessible with an Arduino and the library PDUino are used to control the different signal processors and synthesizers in function of the section of the piece. It is possible to jump to the next section by pressing the "space" button of the keyboard of the computer. Every time the foot pedal (that is also plugged to the Arduino) is pushed, an OSC message is sent to a Processing program that runs in parallel of the PD patch to display the lyrics and their translation on a projector for the audience.

All the audio signals coming in and out from the Chanforgnophone are centralized to a PD external called reverbCenter~. It implements two feedback delay network reverberators. One is just used to add reverberation to the sound of the piece while the other one is used to process the sound coming out of the strings and the springs of the Chanforgnophone that are sent at different "virtual positions" in the network. It has been modified so that its interpolated delay lines are constantly modulated by a sine wave which creates lots of nonlinearities. Sensor 5 can always be used to control the amount of sound coming from the strings that is sent in the springs and therefore in the nonlinear feedback deelay network. Also, in some sections of the piece, sensor 1 might be used to change the frequency of the sine wave that modulates the network. For more technical details, you can refer to the PD patch itself.

The following chart provides an overview of the system used in Bruits pour Chanforgnophone:

The piece

Bruits pour Chanforgnophone was written for two performers and one singer (during the final presentation and concert, one of the performer was also the singer). They are placed on both sides of the Chanforgnophone and have different tasks. One of them, that will be refered to as "the performer" in the description below is in charge of the "acoustic" part of the piece and pluck, bow, strike, etc. the instrument. The other one, that will be called "the effect controller" in the following description controls the computer-generated part of the piece as well as the spatialization and the analog and digital processing of the sound using the proximity sensors of the Chanforgnophone. Finally, the performer has at its disposal a set of objects that can be used to create sounds on the instruments: small and big wood sticks, metal bars, long screws, bow, etc.

The Voice and the Lyrics

The Lyrics

As mentioned previously, the lyrics are based on excerpts of Jacques Attali's famous book: Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Thus, it is a succession of quotations that when read linearly are meaningless but provide a general overview of the ideas developed by Attali. Therefore, it is both absurd and meaningful, exactly like how the western society depicted in the book works.

Bruits pour Chanforgnophone doesn't have any specific musical form. If we were to analyse it, we could say that it is some kind of "Durchkomponiert". Every section of the piece is based upon the lyrics. Therefore, they define the character of the music and also the global duration of the piece.

The Voice

The tenor is almost always present in the piece. As no standart score is provided, he's free to do what he thinks is the most appropriate for the piece. His intonation should be grave, austere and very dramatic. Every section of the piece don't have to be sung and it is the singer's choice to talk, whisper or grumble when he thinks it is appropriate. The nuances and the amplitude of the singing should follow that of the score.

The lyrics are segmented in short cells. At the end of each of them, the singer should use the foot pedal (see picture above) to randomly change the position of his voice in space. Pushing the pedal also displays the next sentence of the lyrics on the screen for the audience.

Sound Spatialization

Sound spatialization is done using VBAP (Vector Based Amplitude Panning) in the PureData patch. This system is portable enough to be used in different rooms equiped with various numbers of the speakers. However, it requires to know the position and the angle of each of these speakers in the concert hall in order to be properly used. Five sound sources are defined in space and correspond to the three springs and the frame of the Chanforgnophone as well as the voice of the singer. In other words, one spring equals one sound source in space and the same principle applies to the frame and the voice.

Depending on the section of the piece, these five sources can be automatically or manually moved. In the first case, random 3D trajectories are calculated and are "traveled" in ten seconds. Each sound source has different trajectories. In the case where these positions are manually controlled, specific indications are provided to the effect controller on the score (see the score in the appendixes).

The effect created by the random trajectories is used to highlight one of the key esthetical component of the piece: the Chanforgnophone seen as a small scale model of our world where "the sounds of men" are constantly moving and interacting with each other.


Bruits pour Chanforgnophone is based on six different sections numbered from A to F on the score. Each of them is triggered by pressing the "space" key on the keyboard of the computer. Transitions between these sections should be as smooth and as unnoticeable as possible. The general idea is to create an "effect of waves" like if some of the sonic elements that form "the noise of men" were temporarily becoming more distinguishable.

Section A

A simple additive synthesizer written in Faust (addSynth.dsp) that is based on four parallel sine oscillators (one for each spring and one for the Chanforgnophone structure) is used in this section. By default, they are all set at the same frequency which is 400Hz. Using sensor 1, it is possible to control the gain as well as the "detuning factor" of the oscillators. Thus the closer the hand of the effect controller gets to the sensor, the larger the frequency difference between the four oscillators will be. This creates some interesting phasing effects as the frequencies of the parallel oscillators get closer. Finally, a LFO is used to add vibrato to the generated sound. The higher the gain of the oscillator becomes, the broader the vibrato is. No acoustic sound coming from the Chanforgnophone is used in this section: the performer should wait.

This sections is based on two long crescendi that should mimic some kind of "slow breathing" that follows the text (one crescendo per sentense). They are created by the effect controller by slowly moving its right hand closer to sensor 1. Sensor 5 can be used to add more resonance to the sound and should help highlight the crescendi. The vibrato adds a very vocal character to the sound that resonates like a "scream of pain coming from the void".

Finally, sensor 1 also controls the position of the sound in space here. Originally, the sound is placed at the top of the audience. Getting its hand closer to the sensor will progressively radiate the sound around the audience.

Section B

In this section, an impulse generator sends impulses rotativaly to the different springs of the Chanforgnophone. Sensor 1 controls the rate at which impulses are generated and sensor 2 controls their amplitude. This makes it possible to generate very percussive sounds that can become "noisy" when generated very rapidly. As for most of the other sections of the piece, sensor 5 can be used to add more nonlinear reverberation to the sound allowing the creation of interesting textures.

This section is free. The only given musical indication is that it should work as a long crescendo where more and more sonic content is added before sound quickly fade out at the end. Spatialization is automated here and the sound of every spring follow random trajectories in space.

In b2, the additive synthesizer of section A is reactivated and can be combined with the impulse generator of b1. Sound are still following random trajectories in space but the elevation can be controlled with sensor 1.

Section C

This section is the first one of the piece where both computer generated sounds and acoustic sounds from the Chanforgnophone are played at the same time. The acoustic part is segmented in three subsections with different characters. The main idea here is that the performer and the effect controller work together to make a coherent musical material.

Computer Generated Part

A "wind generator" based on a noise generator and a bank of four parallel bandpass filters is used in this section. The output of each bandpass filter is fed to one of the springs of the Chanforgnophone and the instrument structure itself. Sensor 1 is used to control the center frequency of the four filters and sensor 2 controls the gain of the sythesizer as well as the detuning between each filter (see windy.dsp for more technical details).

No specific musical indications are given to the effect controller for this section. Once again, the idea is that the two performers work together. The sound material produced by the effect controller should support the performer.

Acoustic Part

As mentioned before, the acoustic part of this section is divided in three subsections. Each of them leaves a lot of freedom to the performer. He should try to use various kind of rhythm, textures, nuances, etc.

In the first subsection, the perfomer should use the small woodsticks to explore the sonic possibilities offered by the Chanforgnophone structure. Strings shouldn't be used here, only the metal frame of the instrument can be used to make sounds.

In the second subsection, the performer shall use the strings at the top of the Chanforgnophone as well as the frame. Any of the elements provided with the instrument can be used (wood/metal sticks, bow, etc.).

The last subsection is totally free, any part of the instrument can be used to make sound.

Section D

Like A and B, this section is only based on computer-generated sounds. A sound collage is fed into the springs and the frame of the Chanforgnophone. It is made of several excerpts of famous pop songs (see the appendixes to see the list) with very similar characteristics that progressively agregate leading to semi-noisy sound. This can be seen as the metaphore of what Attali says in his book when he is talking about the reuse of standardized material that forms the "noise" that surrounds us everywhere. The idea of the Chanforgnophone seen as a model of our world where the standardized musical materials interact with each other and are constantly reused, making the noise of our society is therefore highlighted in this section.

Sensor 1 is used to control the gain of the play-back. As in the other sections, sensor 5 can be used to add modulated resonnances to the sound of the system. The performer waits and doesn't play. Sound spatialization is fully automatized and follows random trajectories.

Section E

This section is totally free. It is based on an improvisation done by the performer. The effect controller highlights his play using sensor 5 to add modulated resonnance to the sound and sensor 1 to control the frequency of the modulator. Sound spatialization is fully automatized and follows random trajectories.

Section F

This is the last section of the piece. Both the performer and the effect controller are playing. The density of the musical material should slowly decrease until the end (the entire section can be seen as a long decrenscendo). The lyrics don't really bring a positive answer to what was said and explain that many kind of way out are yet possible: "Music like drugs, is intuition, a path to knowledge. A path? No a battlefield.". This should be translated in the music too.

The performer is free to do what he wants. The only musical indication here is that once again, he should colaborate with the effect controller to produce an intelligible musical material.

A synthesizer that very simply mimic the sound of a 3 tones pan flute (it is not a physical model though) is used. It is made of a noise generator and 3 bandpass filters. Each of them have a different center frequency and their output gain can be controlled separately using sensor 1, 2 and 3. They are tuned to play a A Major chord. The output signal of these filters is fed in the Chanforgnophone springs. Finally, sensor 4 can be used to pitch bend the generated sound. As in the other sections, sensor 5 controls the amount of modulated resonnance added to the sound. It is recommended that the effect controller uses his whole right arm here to control the synthesizer as he musts play with 5 sensors at the same time.

The sound of each springs and of the Chanforgnophone frame has a fixed position in space (elevation is null and the springs and the frame azimuth are respectively -180, -90, 0 and 90 degrees) that can be modulated with the pitch bending sensor (sensor 4) that will add a value between 0 and 90 degrees to the azimuths.



Lyrics and Tanslation

Le monde ne se regarde pas,
The world is not for the beholding,
il s'entend.
It is for the hearing.
Il ne se lit pas,
It is not legible,
il s'écoute.
but audible.
Notre science a toujours voulu surveiller,
Our science has always desired to monitor,
abstraire et castrer les sens
abstract, and castrate meaning
en oubliant que la vie est bruyante et que seul la mort est
forgetting that life is full of noise and that death alone is
silencieuse :
bruits du travail,
work noise,
bruits des hommes
noise of man,
et bruits des bêtes.
and noise of beast.
Bruits achetés,
Noise bought,
vendus ou
sold or
Rien ne se passe d'essentiel où le bruit ne soit présent.
Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.
Elle a envahi notre monde et notre vie quotidienne,
It has invaded our world and daily life.
elle y est inévitable,
Today, it is unavoidable,
comme si un bruit de fond devait de plus en plus,
as if, in a world now devoid of meaning,
dans un monde devenu insensé,
a background noise were increasingly necessary
sécuriser les hommes.
to give people a sense of security.
Partout où la musique est présente,
Wherever there is music,
l'argent est là.
there is money.
Même si l'on en reste aux comptes,
Looking only at the numbers,
on y consacre déjà dans certain pays
in certain countries more money is spent on music than on reading,
plus de temps qu'à se laver,
lire ou boire.
or keeping clean.
La musique,
jouissance immatérielle devenue marchandise,
an immaterial pleasure turned commodity,
vient annoncer une société du signe,
now heralds a society of sign,
de l'immatériel vendu,
of the immaterial up for sale,
du rapport social unifié dans l'argent.
of the social relation unified in money.
Elle est la bande audible des vibrations et des signes qui font la
It constitues the audible waveband of the vibrations of the that make up
Entrée dans l'échange marchand,
Entering into commodity exchange,
elle a participé à la croissance et à la création du capital et du
it participated in the growth and creation of capital and the
fétichisée en marchandise
Fetishized as a commodity,
et transformée en consommation,

la musique est devenue exemplaire de l'évolution de toute notre
music is illustrative of the evolution of our entire
La musique n'est pas innocente :
Music is not innocent:
and unproductive,
pur signe,
a pure sign,
aujourd'hui à vendre,
that is now for sale,
elle dessine à grands traits la société à venir,
it provides a rough sketch of the society under construction,
où l'informel est produit et consommé en série,
a society in which the informal is mass produced and consumed,
où la différence est recréée artificiellement dans la multiplication
in which difference is artificially recreated in the multiplication
d'objet quasi identiques.
of semi-identical objects.
Une recherche angoissée de la différence perdue,
An anxiety-ridden quest for lost difference,
dans une logique où la différence est bannie.
following a logic from which difference is banished.
La musique et le musicien deviennent,
Music and musician essentially become
pour l'essentiel,
des objets de consommation commes les autres,
either objects of cosumption like everything else,
récupérateurs de toutes les subversions,
recuperators of subversion,
ou bruit sans sens.
or meaningless noise.
Le monologue des musiques standardisées,
The monologue of standardized,
stereotyped music
accompagne et enserre
accompanies and hems
une vie quotidiene où plus personne
in a daily life in which in reality
n'a réellement la parole.
no one has the right to speak any more.
C'est le miroir dionysiaque du monde.
It is the Dionysian mirror of the world.
Le temps traverse la musique
Time traverses music
et la musique donne un sens au temps.
and music gives meaning to time.
Faire Oublier,
Make people Forget,
Faire Croire,
make them Believe,
Faire taire la musique.
Silence Them.
La musique
comme la drogue
like drugs,
est intuition,
is intuition,
voie vers la connaissance.
a path to knowledge.
A path?
non :
champ de bataille.
a battlefield.

List of Songs Used in Section D

Waka Waka - Shakira (2010)
If we ever meet again - Timbaland (2010)
Ca c'est vraiment toi - Téléphone (1982)
Rap das armas - Cidinho & Doca (2009)
Vem Dançar Kuduro - Lucenzo (2010)
Basket Case - Green Day (1994)
Ca m'énerve - Helmut Fritz (2009)
I need a Hero - Bonnie Tyles (1984)
I got a feeling - Black Eyed Peas (2010)
Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees (1977)
Bad Romance - Lady Gaga (2009)
Sexy Bitch - Akon Feat. David Guetta
Everybody Need Somebody to Love - Blues Brothers (1964)
Fernando - Abba (1976)
Quand je t'aime - Demis Roussos (1987)
Les fiancés d'Auvergne - André Verchuren (1961)


Thanks to all the people who contributed to this work! Special thanks to Tim O'Brien for the performance, Sasha Leitman for the help with the construction of the Chanforgnophone and Dave Kerr for the videos.