Clarke, Michael, Dufeu, Frédéric and Manning, Peter (2015) An interactive simulation of John Chowning’s creative environment for the composition of Stria (1977). In: Computer Simulation of Musical Creativity study day, 27th June 2015, Huddersfield, UK. (Unpublished)

The TaCEM project (Technology and Creativity in Electroacoustic Music), funded by the AHRC for a duration of 30 months (2012-2015) and based at the University of Huddersfield and Durham University, investigates the relationship between technological innovation and new creative potential for composers. Alongside a contextual and historical research and musicological analysis, a significant part of the project seeks to recreate in software the digital environments with which pioneering composers of the field created their works. This software, which will be freely available, enables its users to engage aurally with the techniques originally employed by the composers and enhances the understanding of their creative potential and their relationship with the aesthetic orientations that eventually led to the actual musical work.

In this workshop, we present our approach in the context of one of our eight case studies: John Chowning’s Stria (1977). This work for quadraphonic tape was created with frequency modulation digital synthesis, a technique invented by Chowning himself, and reverberation in Max Mathews’ Music 10 language, driven with parameters generated with an algorithm written by Chowning in SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Language). On the basis of several sources, including some provided by the composer, we have been able to recreate the synthesis engine and the algorithm used to generate the whole set of compositional data and sound materials for the 33 events building up the piece. By simulating Stria’s entire composing environment, our interactive software enables its users to experiment with the time, pitch and spatialisation parameters of the algorithm in order to build her/his own musical events and to evaluate both the possible creative outcomes of such a compositional system and the relevance of Chowning’s decisions in creating a work that appears today as emblematic of the electroacoustic repertoire.

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