Computer Music - a Multidisciplinary Field of Study
Computer Music - a Multidisciplinary Field of Study
  • Richard Dudas
  • 승인 2014.09.25 20:12
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During the past two decades, the study of Computer Music (sometimes referred to as Electroacoustic, Electronic or New Media Music, or even Music Technology) has become increasingly prominent both within universities and on the musical scene in Korea. Computer music first began to appear in the Korean higher education system in the early to mid 1990s, and dedicated Masters degree programs began to be organized a decade later, in the 2000s. Many of these programs are attached to music schools and, more specifically, music composition departments, but on occasion programs have been created within technologically-oriented departments at some universities. Generally speaking, these more technical programs tend to focus on practical applications of computer audio to games, design, multimedia and the visual arts, whereas those attached to music schools are generally focused on the creation of concert music, interactive performance with computers and sensors, and laptop ensemble improvisation. At Hanyang University College of Music, our composition department’s New Media Music program (our term for “computer music” -in this case implying music that is created using new technological tools) offers graduate degrees in both computer music composition and computer music performance and technology, where students can focus on a more performance-based or technology-oriented thesis. In 2012 Hanyang University, where I am Assistant Professor in Composition and Computer Music, became one of the first to offer a Doctorate in Computer Music Composition.
In the realm of Contemporary Classical Music, many ensembles have been somewhat reluctant to incorporate new technologies, mainly because of the specialized knowledge and extra work required. Europe has been the leader in this area: contemporary music ensembles - such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris or the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt - regularly perform music integrating new technology. Recently, however, a few ensembles and festivals in Korea have been beginning to include music with a technological component as a part of their concert season. This is usually done in conjunction with university -based and independent computer music studios and centers such as ours, the Center for Research in Electro-Acoustic Music and Audio Technology (CREAMA) -collaborations that enrich and benefit both ensemble and center.
In the field of Popular Music, although technology has been widely embraced by producers and performers -sometimes in a highly sophisticated and creative way- it often tends towards a rather conservative, even banal, “cookie cutter” approach. This is a far cry from the edgy, exciting experimentalism of the 60s and 70s, when new electronic instruments and audio processing techniques were first introduced to the public by bands such as the Beatles, Tangerine Dream, ELP or Kraftwerk. So, I feel there is a lot of work to do, both artistically and technologically, to advance the creative use of computers in both the Classical and Popular Music arenas. This process of advancement actually begins by engaging both musicians and scientists in a creative dialogue that may serve to bring these genres towards a closer understanding of one another. And that begins with education: teaching musicians about technology, and teaching scientists, researchers and developers about the artistic potential of the tools and materials they create.
In spite of the fact that Korea has been a leader in making technology for the world, there has not yet been a concerted effort in the Korean university system to develop and integrate the computational side of New Media Music with its artistic side, unlike some more established Computer Music degree programs in Europe and the US, such as those at Stanford, MIT, Queen’s University (Belfast), etc. So this is one potentially rich area of development for the future in Korea -the creation of musically- informed multidisciplinary degree programs which balance the study of Music, Audio Engineering, Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and Acoustics. It is vital that these programs contextualize the study of these subjects within a historical and cultural perspective, with such a wide spectrum of musical genres of music now sharing the same technologies, despite their substantially different aesthetics.
In his influential book Elements of Computer Music, F. Richard Moore points out that Computer Music is a synthesis of five disciplines: Music, Computer Science, Engineering, Physics and Psychology. Music provides an overarching artistic, theoretical and compositional foundation for the discipline as a whole, Computer Science offers the essential logical, algorithmic and programming skills, while some understanding of Engineering is needed for Digital Signal Processing and hardware design -both indispensable components of Computer Music. Physics is vital for a thorough knowledge of instrumental and room acoustics, and finally, Cognitive Psychology offers a grasp on how these elements work together to affect the listener on a perceptual level. It is an admittedly broad curriculum, but the study and practice of all these branches can be achieved within the context of a New Media Music degree program such as ours at Hanyang. Perhaps more exciting and rewarding, from the musician’s point of view, is that their fusion may offer a lifetime of learning and discovery in a world where both music and technology continue to play a central role in all of our lives.