Aki Pasoulas
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Research Activities

Stimulus Complexity and Time Judgments

In my endeavour to try and understand the main mechanisms of time perception in electroacoustic music, I explored complexity and how it can affect our experience of timescales and passing of time. This experience ultimately influences our understanding of structures and balancing of sections, our appreciation of gestural and textural development, and the interconnection of concurrent, near and remote
events. For the purpose of this research, important papers in time perception written mainly by cognitive psychologists have been examined, and relations to music perception were drawn. A list of situations where complexity may occur in electroacoustic music, with an emphasis on acousmatic music, has been compiled. The relationship between complexity and psychological time is followed by an examination of complexity related to various parameters of sound.

This paper was presented at the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC 2011) in Huddersfield in August 2011, and it is published in the Proceedings of the conference.
 

The Perception of Timescales in Electroacoustic Music

PhD thesis, defended successfully in January 2011 (outright pass with no corrections).
Supervisor: Emeritus Prof. Denis Smalley; External examiner: Prof. John Young; Internal examiner: Dr Miguel Mera.


Abstract

The purpose of this doctoral research is to explore the nature and perception of timescales in electroacoustic music, to examine modes of experiencing time, and to discover a method that uses this knowledge to the advantage of the composer. Although the main focus is on acousmatic works, much of the research presented here has a broader scope and is relevant to music and sound art in general. 

This thesis is initially inspired by Deleuze’s philosophical views on time to discover relationships between the flow of time and music, and continues to investigate time perception by exploring prevalent theories in the fields of psychology and psychoacoustics. In parallel, it identifies and systematically analyses a set of factors that influence time perception and the formation and segregation of timescales. Theoretical analysis, hypotheses and reasoning were practically tested in the five electroacoustic pieces composed for this particular research.

The study revealed and reinforced the importance of psychological time in perception and interpretation of structures in music, developed the idea of using parallel temporal forms in composition, and through an exploration of timescales, it necessitated a redefinition of microsound. Moreover, an analysis of extrinsic and intrinsic factors that affect our perception of time and thus our interpretation of a musical work reinforced the notion of acousmatic music as a holistic experience that comprises all its surrounding elements at the time of listening.

This research is useful for both the composer and the analyst because it offers insights into time structures, and a better understanding of the listener’s response to temporal constructs. 

Temporal Associations, Semantic Content, and Source Bonding

Inspired by Denis Smalley's theoretical ideas on spectromorphology and Albert Bregman's auditory scene analysis, I started an investigation into the formation and segregation of timescales in electroacoustic music. This research inevitably led me to an exploration of the factors that shape our perception of time
passing and estimation of durations, where spectromorphological issues intermingle with extra-musical associations, autobiographical experiences, emotional responses, and the surrounding environment at the time of listening. Ultimately, time perception affects the structural balance of a composition. This paper examines how the perception of time is affected by the semantic meaning and the spectromorphological characteristics of sound events.

The article is published in Organised Sound Vol.16 (1), in the issue dedicated to Denis Smalley's influence on the theory and practice of electroacoustic music. Date of publication April 2011.

 

Temporal Information and Source Bonding

Seminar presentation at City University, in April 2008. It explores temporal associations connected with sound material and is concerned mainly with the esthesic dimension, where meaning is constructed upon reception. It examines recognisable sound events, as well as remote surrogacy and the in-between stages of recognisability. Temporal qualities of specific sound events are studied, which generate a list of suggestive information implied by the associations of sounds. The idea of stimulus complexity and its relation to time judgements is also explored.

An Overview of Score and Performance in Electroacoustic Music


An analysis of notational systems and their relationship with electroacoustic music, and the function of the score for a performer, analyst and composer. References to acousmatic music, sound diffusion, electronic resources with live performers, computer-assisted performance and the UPIC system.

This article appears in the online journal eContact, issue 10.4 (2008), published by the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (CEC).

The Mechanisms of Musical Expression

It explored the question of whether music is expressive, and if so, how its mechanisms of expression work. After briefly considering and eliminating the idea that music is a language capable of conveying a meaning, the text sought to locate the emotion in the composer, the listener and the musical work itself. The study presented popular views and theories on the dynamic character of music, it speculated on the use of connotations and metaphors, and pointed out the possibility of deception in emotive content and the role of titles and programme notes in musical works. Moreover, it suggested that there are forces of expression in music working in parallel, and that the listener's focus depends on perceptual position.

Perceptual Analysis of Sound at the Micro Level

Seminar presentation at City University, in March 2006. It explores the ambiguous nature of microsound identity, by investigating textural behaviour and source-bonding characteristics in the micro timescale. It also develops the idea of dependency of microevents on their neighbouring sound material, emphasising an ecological perspective of listening.

Temporal Syntax and Time Structures

Seminar presentation at City University, in April 2007. It investigates structural organisation that carries temporal information, such as suggestions about pulse, speed and duration. It aims to identify and categorise the various levels of time structure that may take place in an electroacoustic piece, exploring the relationships among levels, and analysing the usefulness of this categorisation.

Physical and Psychological Timescales in Music

This paper investigates the perception of time in music and the behaviour of duration. It presents the timescales of absolute time, reasoning that listeners are only concerned with four timescales, those of macro, meso, sound object and micro. However, two sound events or two pieces of music which have identical physical duration can be perceived as having dissimilar psychological (experienced) durations. A metric system cannot be used for measuring psychological time, therefore an alternative system is proposed. This paper tries to identify factors which, when they interact with the physical timescales, produce different results in the psychological domain.

The paper was presented in the sonic arts symposium at the Science Museum's Dana centre in London during the Cybersonica international festival of music and sound, in April 2005.
 
The Flow of Time: Past, Present and Future

This paper investigates the nature and perception of time in music. It identifies that time can only be perceived through events and can be thought of as a collection of units and as a process of change. Drawing ideas from Deleuze's writings on cinema, it is suggested that time in music always reaches the listener through an apparatus, which gives special characteristics to time itself. Based on the psychologists' Pöppel and James studies on time experience, key temporal experiences are also
identified as relevant to time perception in music. The attention is then drawn to the experience of the present and the ways it is recognised and perceived. The paper ends with a discussion on the experience of motion in music, and a brief summary of the key issues on musical time.

This has been presented in the Sonic Interactions conference on interactivity and sonic arts at Goldsmiths College in Feb 2005.

 
Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St Sophia, London

Recording and accompanying notes published in Earshot (the Journal of the UK and Ireland Soundscape Community - affiliated to the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology), issue No.4 (Dec 2003) on Time and Visibility II (essays on Sound and Architecture).
 

Stockhausen and Formel-Komposition


A review on Stockhausen's development and extension of serialism into the use of 'formulas' as a basis for his musical language. The gradual process that brought Stockhausen to the use of formulas as he worked his way progressively from the micro- to the macro-level is investigated.

The journey starts in the 1950s, when his compositions were characterized by an organization related to acoustical processes. Following references to the 1960s and the relaxed control of his compositions, the review culminates in the 1970s when Stockhausen concentrated on precisely notated compositions based on his concept of the 'formula'. Among the works examined are Mantra, Am Himmel wandre ich... (Indianerlieder), Inori and various sections from Licht (Die sieben Tage der Woche).

This article was published in NoiseGate magazine (2002, issue 9).

Dissertations (older PG and UG work)

Vocal Production, Meaning and Universality: A Review of Throat Singing in Disparate Cultures


A number of disparate cultures display various similarities in vocal music production, which are explained in different ways according to the views of scholars. This dissertation examined a particular vocal technique, throat singing, which is found in cultures far apart from one another, and through an overview of the main styles of this technique, it attempted to locate and elucidate the similarities.

It included an introduction to the methods of production of throat singing technique, and presented an overview of throat singing on selected regions and cultural groups. Those include the nomads in Tuva and Mongolia, the Buddhist monks in Tibet and the Xhosa people in South Africa, as examples of overtone singing; the Inuit in Canada and Ainu in Russia demonstrate the 'panting style' of throat singing technique. In addition, the dissertation comprised a synopsis of the various theories regarding the issue of universals in music by various scholars, including Dale Harwood and his approach to the topic from the point of view of 'information processing'; Alan Lomax and his definition and use of cantometrics; and the universalist, diffusionist and phylogenetic explanations of similarities between distant cultures by Jean-Jacques Nattiez.

The Role of Music in Australian Aboriginal Society: Social and Technical Aspects


This comprised an overview of the Aboriginal myths and religion, their connection with music, and an exploration of ceremonies. The song as a component of a ritual, its religious associations and origins were explored, introducing the ritual performance, its main categories, and the instruments used.

The text included an examination of the educational system which placed music in a social context, examining the significance of song in the Australian Aboriginal culture. The song was investigated through a technical point of view, and also through extra-musical information provided by the different meanings of song texts. The project looked briefly at the problems of Aboriginal music after the encounter of the indigenous people with the European settlers, and the value of music for the Australian Aborigines.

Symposium on Acoustic Ecology (8-9 November 2013, University of Kent)

Organised the two-day Symposium on Acoustic Ecology, which investigated soundscapes as complex sounding systems that change in space and time, and shape our understanding of the surrounding world. The symposium received 130 submissions from around the world, which included compositions, installations and paper presentations. Keynote speakers were Prof Barry Truax, Dr Katharine Norman and Richard Ranft.

The Symposium brought together several partners: the Sound-Image-Space research group (School of Music and Fine Art), the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (School of Anthropology and Conservation), the Unit for Sound Practice Research (Goldsmiths, University of London), the UK and Ireland Soundscape Community (an affiliated member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology) and the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust. It was funded by Simon Fraser University, Goldsmiths College, Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (KIASH), the School of Anthropology and Conservation and the School of Music and Fine Arts (SMFA) University of Kent.

The Symposium on Acoustic Ecology was endorsed by the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE).

 

2017© A. Pasoulas

Acousmatic Transcendence: A Feast of Diffusion (14, 15 and 16 May 2015, University of Kent)

Organised the three-day Acousmatic Transcendence festival of sound that comprised spatial sound workshops and concerts. The events brought together two sound diffusion systems (MAAST and ACP Acousmonium from Vienna) that amounted to over 60 loudspeakers, and took place
in Slip 3 at Chatham Historic Dockyard. The Call for works received 104 submissions from 25 countries, a selection of which was performed during the festival. The second day of the events was dedicated to works by Denis Smalley and Jonty Harrison; Jonty was our special guest and diffused works by both composers.

The project Acousmatic Transcendence aimed to develop alternative sound diffusion setups and to firmly establish the relation between the institution and the organisation that normally work independently with these two large sound systems (MAAST and Acousmonium). Both diffusion systems are mobile, which makes them flexible and able to perform in diverse and challenging spaces. Combinations of systems are rare and have not been deliberately tried to discover the implications of such mixtures; software and hardware synergies brought interesting starting points for exploitation of the systems and spatial exploration.

The MAAST/Acousmonium combination took full advantage of the spatial acoustics and choreographed the sounds in the architectural space, making the actual building an integral part of the performed works.

 

The Listening Experience of Paramnesia


Chapter in the book Environmental Sound Artists - In Their Own Words, edited by Frederick Bianchi and Vincent J. Manzo, published by Oxford University Press. The chapter details the process of composing the acousmatic piece Paramnesia, the role of environmental sounds in the piece, and the power of associations that come through the richness of soundscape material.

Available as a hardback, paperback and ebook. Official release on 11 July 2016: Oxford University Press

 

Seawater


Electroacoustic short composition, published in the CD 54 Electroacoustic Miniatures by Hellenic Electroacoustic Music Composers Association (HELMCA, 2015). The CD is prefaced by Prof Simon Emmerson.


CD link


 
Paramnesia

Acousmatic composition, published in ICMC 2010 CD by the International Computer Music Association. (ICMA, CD IC120, 2010)

 

The Abyss, Supernaturalizer, Rising Fear


Three compositions and additional sounds, published by KPM/EMI in the CD Sound Design Tools (CD KPM752, 2010). This is production music, made specifically for film, TV and radio. The compositions and their related sounds have been used worldwide in various channels and programmes, such as Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, More4, Japanese Online, National Geographic, Singaporean Films, Spanish Broadcasting, Czech Republic Films, Canadian Films, USA (ASCAP) Television & Cable, Swedish Films, and Quest Primetime.

 
Denis Smalley 70th Birthday Celebration (20-21 May 2016)

Organised the concert of Denis Smalley’s 70th birthday celebration, which included his new multichannel piece Fabrezan Preludes, commissioned by the School of Music and Fine Art, University of Kent. The event included a pre-concert talk by Simon Emmerson and a discussion between the two composers. The talk concerned pioneering theories and innovative artistic contributions in D. Smalley’s work, providing insights within the broader context of listening strategies, perception, reception, space and the sound world in general.

 
Listening, Spaces and the Sounding World

Led a six-hour workshop on the interaction between sound, space and listening. A collaborative project with Sound-Image-Space research centre (SIS), Kent Interdisciplinary centre for Spatial Studies (KISS), and   the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE).

Workshop Link

 

The Sound of Memory: Sound-track / Sound-scape (22-24 April 2017)


Co-organised and co-chaired the three-day Sound of Memory symposium, which brought together filmmakers, artists and composers to explore the broad domain of acoustic ecologies and soundscape’s engagement in place. The symposium received 148 submissions from 30 countries which included compositions, installations, films, workshops and paper presentations. Keynote speakers were Hildegard Westerkamp, Simon Emmerson and Sarah Turner. There were three concerts with the MAAST system.

The Symposium explored the aesthetic, philosophical and political approaches of composers working in acoustic ecologies and artists working within social ecologies where the primary engagement is a form of sonic ethnography.

The Symposium brought together the Sound-Image-Space Research Centre (School of Music and Fine Art, University of Kent) and the Unit for Sound Practice Research (Goldsmiths, University of London), partnered by The School of Sound International Symposium. It was endorsed by the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE).