Thursday, August 27, 2015

An acronym marking the intersection of music and information technology: CCRMA for Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics

Computers are frequently employed these days to generate music. Computers are also used to analyze music. Further, they are used to analyze soundscapes of both urban and natural environments. To close the cycle, composers weave environmental sounds, such as animal sounds, into their musical creations.  A composition that incorporates an imitations of a bird song such as a nightingale melody is a case in point.

A natural soundscape is not just a great stimulation for musical compositions, but constitutes a complex acoustical web, which is not fully understood by humans and remains a rich resource for human enjoyment, recreation and (re)connection to the natural world. At the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, CCRMA—pronounced “karma” (the first “c” is silent), musicians and researchers are teaming up and exploring computer-assisted technology as an artistic medium and as a research tool [1].

Bernie Krause includes the CCRMA innovators into his review of biophonically inspired composers in Chapter Six “Different Croaks for Different Folks” of his book "The Great Animal Orchestra"[2]. Mentioning the British composer Benjamin Britten, some of whose orchestrations are strongly influenced by the urban and natural soundscapes that Britten experienced at his home in East Anglia and during his travels, Krause continues:

And there are others, including works by a few students at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford—where composers and innovators such as John Chowning study the intersection of music and information technology using advanced synthesizers as creative media tools through which they express what they discovered. Some of the students have begun to reexamine the potential of natural soundscapes and early instruments as important sources of compositional stimulus.

The oldest musical instrument known today is a Stone Age flute, carved from bone and ivory at least 35,000 years ago [3]. Neither do we know the ancient natural soundscape of southwestern Germany, where the flute was found, nor do we know what tunes were played on it by the early European humans.  But certainly, listining to the soundscape and making sounds (often too many and too loud) is part of human nature and activities.

Keywords: soundscapes, eco-acoustics, biophony, musical science, anthroplolgy.

References and more to explore
[1] Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics:
[2] Bernie Krause: The Great Animal Orchestra. Back Bay Books, New York, March 2013; page 150 in first Back Bay paperback edition.
[3] Archaeologists unearth oldest musical instruments ever found: