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Instruments for Spatial Sound Control in Real Time Music Performances. A Review

Pysiewicz, Andreas; Weinzierl, Stefan

The systematic arrangement of sound in space is widely considered as one important compositional design category of Western art music and acoustic media art in the 20th century. A lot of attention has been paid to the artistic concepts of sound in space and its reproduction through loudspeaker systems. Much less attention has been attracted by live-interactive practices and tools for spatialisation as performance practice. As a contribution to this topic, the current study has conducted an inventory of controllers for the real time spatialisation of sound as part of musical performances, and classified them both along different interface paradigms and according to their scope of spatial control. By means of a literature study, we were able to identify 31 different spatialisation interfaces presented to the public in context of artistic performances or at relevant conferences on the subject. Considering that only a small proportion of these interfaces combines spatialisation and sound production, it seems that in most cases the projection of sound in space is not delegated to a musical performer but regarded as a compositional problem or as a separate performative dimension. With the exception of the mixing desk and its fader board paradigm as used for the performance of acousmatic music with loudspeaker orchestras, all devices are individual design solutions developed for a specific artistic context. We conclude that, if controllers for sound spatialisation were supposed to be perceived as musical instruments in a narrow sense, meeting certain aspects of instrumentality, immediacy, liveness, and learnability, new design strategies would be required.
Published in: Musical Instruments in the 21st Century, 10.1007/978-981-10-2951-6_18, Springer