Keynote Lecture: The Future of Sonic Arts: Credo?

On Thursday the 3rd of December I attended a keynote lecture led by Dr Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos titled ‘The Future of Sonic Arts: Credo?’

My notes from this lecture: 

  • Alexandros will be speaking of a beautiful story.
  • Alexandros’s aim is to expose, inspire and stimulate me by giving me some ideas about the world of sound and music.
  • Alexandros is a musician who started in science and is working in an art school – ventured into a variety of disciplines.
  • Hints about music in the last 120 years, a quick overview of some of the pioneers and dinosaurs that changed the way we think and do music/sonic art.
  • Sound art/sonic art/organised sound.
  • Big pioneers, important people that inspired and changed sonic arts.
  • Alexandros teaches us how sound can be reflected and be used in my discipline – sonic art offers a lot of interest and potential.
  • Soundscape, Canadians, importance of sound, was not until the renaissance that god became a portrait before that he was a sound, in the west the ear gave way to the eye as the most important gatherer in about the time of the renaissance.
  • In ancient times storytelling was the main medium to pass information from generation to generation, it was an oral culture, audio sound was very important but in the renaissance the paradigm changed but now were coming to an era with technology and electricity that maybe sound with regain a place.
  • A great media theorist also claimed that now with the electricity the sense of listening is going to become prominent and important again so Dr Alexandros wants to just emphasise the importance of sound which is highly neglected in our society and in an art school he thinks it has a very important role in every discipline.
  • Sound is more than an extra medium to play with it offers different ways to think about your work, it can be reflected in architecture, textiles, every discipline.
Tchaikovsky. Source -
Source –

Link to examples of Tchaikovsky’s compositions –

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (25 April/7 May 1840 – 25 October/6 November 1893), often anglicized as Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was a Russian composer of the late-Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. Tchaikovsky was honoured in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III and awarded a lifetime pension. Source –

  • Drama, power, steam engine playing very loud – Pyotr Tchaikovsky a Russian composer, a powerful orchestra, the music is huge and big, the music is like a factory, it actually is a factory and works like a factory, 100 musicians all directed by one maestro.
  • Technology of the orchestra, technology in music and culture in music is always related, they go hand in hand, and important aspect of the music factory (the metaphor).
  • Dr Alexandro’s recommends we go see an orchestra play in the St David’s Hall – a classical music concert, it’s very cheap and there is nice ice-cream in the breaks. 
John Cage Source:
John Cage (1912 – 1992)

Link to an example of one of John Cage‘s compositions:

Cage was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of music instruments. Critics have launded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. Source:

  • John Cage – a key figure, composer of the last century, weird personality, 30’s, music inventor, influential, changed what could be considered as music, played an important role in the Fine Art and was inspired by Fine Art. Different composition, no orchestra, uses ordinary objects, well calculated, interesting and very fresh approach of music making. 
  • John Cage introduced the concept that every sound is music, he embraced randomness, he said “I want the sounds to be themselves, I don’t want to control them anymore, I want the escape of my memories and my learning, I want sound to flourish without me, and how can I do that? – with randomness” – Cage was predicting the future of electrical in music, he was trying to figure out a machine that would liberate us and other composers so that it will be possible to do almost everything that you can imagine. He found the instruments poor, we need to refresh the way we approach music and everything related to music. Manifesto by John Cage ‘The Future of Music: Credo’. Like a prophet he sees the future.
Old tape recorder. Source -
An old tape recorder.
Source –
  • The instruments came – tape recorders, we played with samples.
Pierre Schaeffer Source:
Pierre Schaeffer (1910 – 1995)

Link to an example of one of Pierre Schaeffer’s compositions:–K9kpEwY0&list=RDEM_DI_r4XL9muG9u2jN3756g&index=4

Schaeffer was a French composer, writer, broadcaster, engineer, musicologist and acoustician. His innovative work in both the sciences particularly communications and acoustics and the various arts of music, literature and radio presentation after the end of World War II, as well as his anti-nuclear activism and cultural criticism garnered him widespread recognition in his lifetime. Most widely and currently recognized for his accomplishments in electronic and experimental music, at the core of which stands his role as the chief developer of a unique and early form of avant-garde music known as musique concrѐte. Source –

  • Pierre Schaeffer – collage sounds – recorded train stations, places, activities etc. Musicology of how we do things with music and discovered collage with sounds, used the technology of the tape recorder not as a medium to record existing compositions but as a medium to create new music, the first man to discover the loop (replaying the tape over and over) to create a repetitive pulse like it is used in house music today.
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928 - 2007) Source:
Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928 – 2007)

Link to an example of one of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s compositions:

Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. He is known for his ground-breaking work in electronic music, aleatory (controlled chance) in serial composition, and music spatialization. Source –

  • Karlheinz Stockhausen – the term electronic music came from Mr Stockhausen, more pure, starts with the vary basic material, the devices that only create tone, used apparatus that you will find in a lab, experimenting with the help of the tape recorder, the fathers of electronic music, there work is a foreign language to us, Stockhausen did research, his work sounding more like a sci-fi cheap movie of the 50’s, sonic universe, molecules of sound.
Max Mathews (1926 - 2011) Source:
Max Mathews (1926 – 2011)

Link to an example of one of Max Mathew’s compositions:

Max Mathews was a pioneer of computer music. Source –

  • Max Mathews – the father of computer music, first person to make computers sing or make a single bleep back in 1957, synthesized the first music with the computer, every possible sound could be implemented, explored how the ear listens to sound, engineered the system on the computer.
Jean-Claude Risset (1938). Source:
Jean-Claude Risset (1938). Source:

Link to an example of one of Jean-Claude Risset’s compositions:

Risset is a French composer, best known for his pioneering contributions to computer music. Source –

  • Jean-Claude Risset – started exploring the computer in a musical way, discovered sound synthesis, difficult music to digest, melody+chord+gong, same ingredients can manifest itself into sound compositions, machine to make sounds.
  • These people used taped – found objects, primitive devices.
Lejaren Hiller (1924 - 1994). Source -
Lejaren Hiller (1924 – 1994). Source –

Link to an example of one of Lejaren Hiller’s compositions:

Lejaren Hiller was an American composer. In 1957 he collaborated with Leonard Issacson on his String Quartet No. 4. Illiac Suite, the first significant use of a computer to compose music. Source –

  • Lejaren Hiller – “Can I use a computer to compose a score”, to make music.
  • Great ideas are coming from connecting the dots, people coming together from different disciplines – that’s where innovation starts. So if you stay safe in your area maybe you will not innovate, this doesn’t mean you will not do excellent stuff. Most of the people in the school believe this that’s why we force you to do a project together with a field and force you to see it as a constellation together because we want to create this type of synergies. That’s the composition that the computer did. Music is a very codified system something like mathematics. Hiller put rules into the computer. We do not want the computers to take over we just need tools, tools that will take us to new territories and places.
Michel Waisvisv. Source -
Michel Waisvisv.
Source –

Link to an example of one of Michel Waisvisz’s compositions:

Waisvisz was a Dutch composer, performer and inventor of experimental electronic musical instruments. Source –

  • Michel Waisvisz – weird instrument, jumping 30 years ahead, gloves – data gloves, trying to invent the performance aesthetic by designing new interactions with the computer, a new area: how we interact with instruments, how do we make the instrument (computer) to help us to make the composition and how do we make the computer do the sounds. Waisvisv innovated and makes new instruments and new sounds, performs in concerts.
  • Notating music was amazing technology, invented in the early 1000 by an Italian monk, figured out how to put time and pitch onto paper.
  • Sometimes musicians seek for the science before science seeks for the science.
  • The people just mentioned wanted to create music and go to unexplored lands.
  • Early studios – machines left and right, they occupy a lot of space, now it’s all done on a computer.
Moog Modular synthesizer. Source:
Moog Modular synthesizer. Source:

Link to a demonstration of the Moog Modular synthesizer –

A Moog modular synthesizer is a monophonic analogue modular synthesizer designed by the electronic instrument pioneer Dr. Robert Moog. Source –

  • Moog Modular synthesizer – machine, influenced rock music a lot – like Pink Floyd and Brian Eno used one. Bulky old school system – the ultimate trend now.
Yamaha DX7 electric keyboard.
Yamaha DX7 electric keyboard.
John Chowning - a very successful man.
John Chowning – a very successful man.

Demonstration of the Yamaha DX7 –

  • The Yamaha DX7 – in the 80’s commonly seen nowadays, digital set up, synthesizer, the first commercial success, John Chowning became a millionaire because he sold his sonic art and algorithms to Yamaha, a very serious and spiritual composer, sound of the 80’s.

John M. Chowning (born 1934) is an American composer, musician, inventor, and professor best known for his work at Standford University and his invention of FM synthesis while there.

Miller Puckette. Source -
Miller Puckette.
Source –
Example of Miller Puckette's creation of Pure Data (Pd)
An example of Miller Puckette’s Pure Data (Pd) performing platform. Source –










Miller Puckette (born 1959) is the associate director of the Centre of Research in Computing and the Arts as well as a professor of music at the University of California, San Diego, where he has been since 1994. Puckette is known for authoring Max, a graphical development environment for music and multimedia synthesis, which he developed while working at IRCAM in the late 1980s. He is also the author of Pure Data (Pd), a real-time performing platform for audio, video and graphical programming language for the creation of interactive computer music and multimedia works, written in the 1990s with input from many others in the computer music and free software communities. Source –

  • Then the emergence of software by connecting bits together, computer language, multi-media works, programming, Miller Puckette invented this language.
Mark Hansen and Ben Rubins. Source:
Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin’s. Source:

Link to an example of Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin’s project: – Listening Post is an art installation that culls text fragments in real time from thousands of unrestricted Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and other public forums. The texts are read (or sung) by a voice synthesizer, and simultaneously displayed across a suspended grid of more than two hundred small electronic screens.

  • Dr Alexandros collected and presented contemporary projects linking to sound art, like this sonic art and new media installation by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin’s.
Iannis Xenakis (1922 - 2001) Source:
Iannis Xenakis (1922 – 2001)

Link to an example of one of Iannis Xenakis’s projects:

Xenakis was a Greek-French composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer. He is commonly known as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers. Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models in music such as applications of set theory, stochastic processes and game theory and was also an important influence on the development of electronic and computer music. He integrated music with architecture, designing music for pre-existing spaces, and designing spaces to be integrated with specific music compositions and performances. Source –

  • Iannis Xenakis – sonic arts and architecture.
Brian Eno (1948) Source:
Brian Eno (1948)

Link to an example of one of Brian Eno’s stunning compositions that I adore – )

Brian Eno is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music. Source –

Ambient music is a style of gentle, largely electronic instrumental music with no persistent beat, used to create or enhance a mood or atmosphere. (Source:….0…1c.1.64.serp..0.3.234.L5PzkDwBWC0

Ambient music is a genre of music that puts an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. Source –

  • Brian Eno – sonic arts and painting, inventor of ambient music, Fine Artist. Worked on records by Coldplay and many more works created by brilliant composers.
  • Transforming ordinary stuff into magical situations. Sonic arts and design – Daily tous les jours. Daily tous les jours is an interaction design studio with a focus on participation – empowering people to have a place in the stories that are told around them.

An example of a project by Daily tous les jours:

Carsten Nicolai. Source -
Carsten Nicolai. Source –

A project by Carsten Nicolai, expensive project that Nicolai was commissioned to create, he enjoyed playing with the facades of buildings –

Carsten Nicolai is a German musician. He uses the stage names Alva Noto, Noto and Aleph-1. He is a member of the music groups Diamond Version with Olaf Bender (Byetone), Signal with Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, Cyclo with Ryoji Ikeda, and Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto with Ryuichi Sakamoto, with whom he composed the score for the Hollywood film The Revenant. Nicolai was born in Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany (then Karl-Marx-Stadt, Saxony, East Germany) in 1965. He studied architecture and landscape design before pursuing art. In 1999 he founded Raster-Noton. Nicolai has recently written an opera, Sparkie: Cage and Beyond, in collaboration with Michael Nyman.

Nicolai has performed and created installations in many of the world’s most prestigious spaces including the Guggenheim, New York, the SF MoMA, Modern Art Oxford, NTT Tokyo, Tate Modern and Venice Biennale, Italy. As a member (and co-founder) of the Raster-Noton label he was responsible for the acclaimed CD series ’20 to 2000′ that went on to win the Golden Nica prize at Prix Ars Electronica, 2000. Carsten Nicolai also works as a visual artist. Using the principles of Cymatics he often visualizes sound. In 2013, Nicolai participated as a visual artist in Noise, an official collateral show of the 55th Venice Biennale of Art. Source –


  • Sonic arts and cityscape – Carsten Nicolai.
Martin Messier and Nicolas Bernier. Source –

Link to an example of one of Martin Messier and Nicolas Bernier’s projects –

  • Sonic arts and woodwork – Martin Messier and Nicolas Bernier – highly expressive, a lot of interaction.
Nicolas Collins. Source -
Nicolas Collins. Source –

Link to example of Nicolas Collins work –

Nicolas Collins (born March 26, 1954 in New York City) is a composer of mostly electronic music and former student of Alvin Lucier. He received a B.A. and M.A. from Wesleyan University. Subsequently, he was a Watson Fellow. Nicolas Collins was “a pioneer in the use of microcomputers in live performance, and has made extensive use of ‘home-made’ electronic circuitry, radio, found sound material, and transformed musical instruments.” He has presented over 300 concerts and installations in Europe, Japan, and the United States as a solo artist and as a member of various ensembles. He is a member of The Impossible Music Group with David Weinstein, David Shea, Ted Greenwald, and Tim Spelios.

Collins is a prominent curator of performance and installation art, and has been a curator, policy adviser, and board member for numerous cultural organizations. For example, in the early 1990s he was both artistic Co-Director at STEIM (Studio for Electro Instrumental Music), located in Amsterdam and a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) composer-in-residence in Berlin. Collins is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Leonardo Music Journal, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the MIT Press. He is also the chair of the sound department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2006 Collins’ book Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking was published by Routledge. An expanded, updated edition was published in 2009. He was a major influence on the establishment of the Musical Electronics Library in New Zealand. Source –

  • Sonic arts and makers/hackers – Nicolas Collins, he developed an aesthetic of Arduino culture.
Ben Burtt. Source:
Ben Burtt. Source:

Link to an example of Ben Burtt’s WALL-E project –

Benjamin “Ben” Burtt, Jr. (born July 12, 1948) is an American sound designer, film editor, director, screenwriter, and voice actor. He has worked as sound designer on various films, including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film series, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), WALL-E (2008) and Star Trek (2009). He is most notable for creating many of the iconic sound effects heard in the Star Wars film franchise, including the “voice” of R2-D2, the lightsaber hum, the sound of the blaster guns, and the heavy-breathing sound of Darth Vader. Burtt is also known for “voicing” the title character, Wall-E, in the 2008 Pixar movie WALL-E. He also created the robotic sound of Wall-E’s voice, along with all the other characters in WALL-E, and was the sound editor of the movie. The winner of four Academy Awards (two of which are Special Achievement Academy Awards), he is the director of various documentary films. He is also the editor of the three films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Source –

  • Sonic arts and illustration: Ben Burtt – R2-D2, WALL-E, developed sounds to convey emotions and communications.
Christine Sun Kim. Source:
Christine Sun Kim. Source:

Link to an example of Christine Sun Kim’s creativity –

Christine Sun Kim is an American sound artist who has been deaf since birth. Based in New York City, she started as a visual artist, but started to be attracted to sound as a medium because of the “rules” society attaches to it and her disconnect from sound as most people experience it. She states her mission as to “unlearn sound etiquette.” Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Hull House Museum in Chicago, and Art Basel in Hong Kong. She was named a TED Fellow twice. Source –

  • Sonic arts and materiality: Christine Sun Kim – physicality of sound, the way they vibrate – paint on speakers.
Björk. Source –

Link to examples of Björk’s compositions –

Björk Guðmundsdóttir (born 21 November 1965), known mononymously as Björk, is an Icelandic singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and occasional actress. She initially became known as the lead singer of the alternative rock band The Sugarcubes, who’s 1987 single “Birthday” was a hit on US and UK indie stations and a favourite among music critics. Björk began her career as a solo artist in 1993. Her album Debut was rooted in electronic, house, jazz and trip hop and is widely credited as one of the first albums to introduce electronic music into mainstream pop. Over her three-decade solo career, Björk has developed an eclectic and avant-garde musical style that incorporates aspects of electronic, alternative dance, trip hop, experimental, glitch, jazz, alternative rock, avant-garde, and classical music. Source –

  • Sonic arts and electronic music performances: Björk.

Dr Alexandros’s conclusion of the lecture:

Sonic Art – The term generally designates the art form in which the sound is its basic unit. A liberal view of sonic art would indicate it to be a subset of music. Sonic art is associated both with musicians as well as fine and new media artists.

Sonic art is a wonderful extension of your play (discipline), play with this universe. Dr Alexandros would like to see us playing with sound and taking it to different places.

What did I gain from this lecture? 

From this lecture I obtained an enlightening insight and a useful understanding of the life of sonic arts established through creative and influential developments using technological advancements produced over time powered by the constellation of great and inspiring people.

This broad aspect of field work is how I gained a wider perspective of the outstanding beauty of minds structured from an alliance of diverse disciplines inspired and stimulated, coming together to innovate and make fascinating progression and discoveries to further thrive the art industry. I emphasise and understand now how important sonic arts is as an avant-garde of sounds conforming to our technological culture and this form relating to the powerful sense of hearing being such an important tool of communication and learning which we take for granted. I recognise how sonic art is becoming more and more utilised and subjected by designers of technology in this expanding electric world of cyborgs today for example smartphone Apple’s Siri and GPS voice navigations.

From Dr Alexandros’s lecture I grew a stimulating interest in the idea of creating new sounds with my own invented instruments to technologically collage and formulate effective sound designs using a computer to function with my illustration discipline as an additional communicative powerful tool to further engross my audience and to gain an acquired skill and a first-hand experience of this growing electronic sonic art realm through practice.

What I particularly admired about this lecture was the success of experimentation by using primitive devices with sounds made from ordinary objects enforcing the idea that everything can be a tool to our creations and the exciting idea of taking something with a distinct purpose and then reinventing this career to a new path opening new possibilities and potentials as we excitingly and forever encourage venturing into unexplored lands. As suggested by Dr Alexandros I will go see a classical music performance for the first time and consider in investing in a tape recorder.


Author: ellosweetmellon

I am 21 years old and I live in Cardif. My dream is to be a great illustrator that can sell and exhibit my work with pride.

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