Music 307

Lab 2: Digital Musique Concrète

We know that musique concrète began in the late 1940's with the advent of magnetic tape media. This was a period of electroacoustic composition that was quite fertile. In those days, they had only analog tape machines and some crude analog devices like filters, which they used to manipulate sounds and create music. Now, in the 21st century, we have digital technology that is light-years ahead of those days. We can very easily duplicate the techniques that they employed, and in addition, we now have numerous others that go far beyond what could be done in the early days of tape machines. Historically, in musique concrete the composer manipulated natural sounds; we will do the same here, but adding whatever mechanical, vocal, or other sounds we encounter on our outing. As I mentioned in class, I'd like you to mainly use the techniques they had in the 1950's, but it's OK to use some other plug-ins or processing, as long as that doesn't become the main point of your project. You can do a lot with just the standard "tape studio" techniques. Remember: "Constraint is a driver of creativity."

DIRECTIVE: Make a short piece of digital musique concrète, using the source materials that we recorded on the portable audio recorder.

There are many files! If you sort them by name, they will be in the order we recorded them, which will make it easier to find things, since you probably have a vague memory of the chronology of our sound-walk.

Do your manipulations using any available sound editor. We have Pro Tools and Reaper in the studio, Audacity is free, Reaper is nearly free, or you can use your own audio editing software/DAW if you prefer. Max/MSP is another way to manipulate your audio (optional). You may also find it convenient to work in B006, the main library, or the SIM lab in the Fine Arts Building, where they have Pro Tools and other audio resources.

AUDACITY is free and runs on all platforms (open source).


1. Your audio file, 48 kHz stereo 24-bit linear (remember the source files are in M-S format -- info here (class 5 Jan 24). Your piece should be from 2-4 minutes long, and should use the techniques available in creative, interesting ways. Your source material can be barely recognizable (or not), but you should do something creative with it. You should put this in the dropbox for this assignment in Brightspace.

2. A brief (one or two-page) description of what you did, what software you used, what you did that was particularly interesting or difficult to achieve, what you would have liked to do but couldn't, what the editor did well, what it did poorly, your triumphs and frustrations, etc.

NOTE: Do NOT use mp3 files for this assignment. They are only appropriate as a final delivery format, but not for sound editing, mixing, or manipulation!



Compositional strategies:

—Macroscopic/form (top-down, typical strategy for "classical" music / typically notation-driven, but not always)

—Microscopic/timbre/sonority (bottom-up, typical for classic musique concrete / see documentary 1962)

—Genre-driven (search for appropriate sounds to make the instruments for your genre)


—Intent-driven/psychological/physical reaction

—Narrative-driven (try to tell a story with sound)