Instrumental re-synthesis: few challenges
a presentation by Fabio Cifariello Ciardi
References, memories, associations, symbols constantly contribute to our understanding of the soundscapes that surround us in our everyday lives. Composers of almost any time period or style have embedded this knowledge into music through intuitive investigations of the acoustic properties of various natural sounds (e.g., birds songs, animal calls, environmental sounds). More recently, the rise of digital technologies has fostered compositional processes in which field recordings or other referential sounds are transcribed for acoustic instruments (i.e., instrumental re-synthesis) through the mediation of semi-automatic analysis tools.
Pre-existing sonic objects used as a source material may include pitched sounds of human and other animal vocalizations, various horns and signals used in urban settings, as well as more complex sonic aggregates, such as multilayered field recordings or instrumental ensemble recordings.
Despite such a variety of sound typologies, composers interested in instrumental re-synthesis usually face a recurrent set of interwoven challenges: (1) difficulties in relating a decontextualized referential sound to its original sources and causes; (2) data losses in quantization, segmentation and analysis of the referential sound; (3) recognition and treatment of artifacts produced in the previous steps; (4) music notation constraints; (5) score interpretation and realization; (6) listener recontextualization of the reference material within the composer’s work.
For most of these challenges a general solution has yet to be produced.
In this presentation, the author’s instrumental music based on speech transcription will be considered to outline difficulties, possible solutions and the aesthetical implication of the aforementioned issues.