my favourite music technology

Trevor Wishart writes at the beginning of Audible Design: a) any sound can be the starting material for a musical composition; b) the ways in which this sound may be transformed is limited only by the imagination of the composer; c) musical structure depends on establishing audible relationships amongst sound materials. These three assumptions are largely based on the power offered by technology in the last century and reflect the aesthetic implications of the new tools. A huge creative potential has been unlocked and this freedom has changed our relation to sound and music in a very profound way. At the same time, they express a liberal and wise view of music and music making in general, generalizing on the concerns and fantasies of composers over the centuries. In any case, they meet with my own intuitive approach and define an aesthetic frame of reference throughout my work.

The experience of working with recording equipment and the electroacoustic research studio has significantly influenced my compositional approach. I have been capturing sounds of any type and magnitude, storing them digitally en masse. Having extensive control over the audible relationship each captured trace would appear to have with the physical events from which it emanated, I could impose extra characteristics and musical qualities. In most cases extra characteristics were being imposed on the sounds I was capturing, anyway. I was able to instantly listen to that material from any point and as many times as I liked. At the same time I had very detailed, synchronised visual representations of it in any time scale. Digitisation, storage space, retrieval speeds, very precise reproduction and monitoring, indexing and representation facilities allowed me to have considerable control on sound and offered free access to an infinite pool of material around me. This abundance of resources is reflected in the maximalism of pieces such as The Maze, Chaotic Lucidity or Rites of Passage, as well as in the eclecticism of manipulations in A Beautiful Dream or Suvenires.

Led by aspects of the sound objects themselves or by some other physical or conceptual process, I transformed, integrated and exchanged sonic characteristics in time varying manners, often arriving at something perceptually independent. I synthesised new simple or complex sounds, based on the nature of found sounds or following energy trajectories suggested by each thematic. I could cut and paste all these materials, move them around in multi-track environments and repeat, layer and juxtapose them, structuring and articulating words, phrases, paragraphs and chapters.

The involvement of my work with visual references and language relates directly to a way of working with sound, which is directly suggested by this facility to arrange and direct musical meaning by design. As an important part of my practical research, besides pieces integrating lots of different sounds, the malleability of sonic substance allowed me to compose pieces made from one source sound only, such as Rainwater, Love Raga, or The Door Study.

I have been operating across time scales. I would for example repeat a pulse creating pitch but also compress an hour-long recording to a short gesture. I could edit grains and long sections with the same ease, in the same environment. Moreover, I was able to process the material over and over again without having to compromise on the quality of the result.

All stages of my work have incorporated indeterminate elements, either as expressed by the freedom to explore and improvise, or in an ever-changing dynamic distribution of parameters in making and manipulating sound. Also, the adoption of ‘real world’ sound introduced the chaotic behaviours of natural phenomena into my music, both within the sound objects themselves and in models for sonic articulation. Almost total control of recorded material liberated my approach to the physical generation of sound. As I started to appreciate and adopt the beauty and the creative potential in all sounds around me, I used traditional instruments in unconventional ways and any object or system that could generate audible vibrations for recording or performance.

I composed sound onto a fixed medium to be reproduced with abundant dynamic range across the spectrum. In electroacoustic concerts like those by Electroacoustic Wales or BEAST, I have been using many loudspeakers to fill the space with sound and to articulate the dimensions, position and perspective of the projected sonic image in real time. Multi-speaker sound diffusion has been informing my music as an intuitive and magically captivating performance practice, projecting the sound into the room and making it flourish.


About stelios giannoulakis

composition, sound design, engineering, improvisation
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