What is electro-acoustic music?
Electro-acoustic music is a broad category, involving the interaction of acoustic instruments with amplification or alteration by electrical or computer processing. A clarinet, for instance, is an acoustic instrument. Play the clarinet into a microphone, and process the sound using a delay pedal, and you have electro-acoustic music. Sound processing can be done electrically, using pedals (also called stomp boxes), or via the computer. In order to make sound waves understood by the computer, sound must be transformed into digital information by means of an interface, or audio to digital converter. Whether a player uses pedals or the computer (or both), the processed sound is then sent to a speaker.
The computer uses a language called MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) in order to communicate with instruments. MIDI has been a remarkably stable platform, and has changed little since its standardization in 1983. There are many instruments which are built to communicate directly with the computer via MIDI – in this case, the instrument provides pitch and dynamic information, and the computer supplies the sound via samples stored in the computer’s memory. Other electronic instruments create or synthesize their own sound. Examples in EARS include a Moog synthesizer, a Reactable, and an Eigenharp.
Founded in 2017, EARS is directed by Associate Professor of Horn Daniel Grabois. Funding for the space was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with additional funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Three Macintosh computers, one desktop and two laptops
Three digital interfaces (two Apollo 16s and one Apogee Symphony I/O)
Microphones for recording and amplifying, along with mic stands
Two Behringer X32 digital mixing boards
20 terabytes of computer storage
Two Ableton Pushes
Eight Bose L2 tower speakers
One Reactable synthesizer
One Minimoog Performers Edition synthesizer
Software, including Ableton Live and Protools
One Moog “Theremini” Theremin
One full size Haken Continuum Fingerboard
One large format inkjet printer