Hello World: Launching the Sonic Writing Project

Posted by Thor Magnusson on February 1, 2016

This website will document research activities relating to a two-year AHRC funded fellowship starting on February 1st, 2016. The Sonic Writing research project aims to investigate the complex relationship between musical instrument design, musical notation, and phonography, in order to get a better understanding of how digital media transform these established musical practices. The transduction process that takes place when digital media become the prevalent platform for musical production, dissemination, and consumption is exciting, yet deeply problematic, as with the abundance of new techniques and social connectivity brought by the digital media, we also leave behind knowledge and practices that are not translated into the digital. Entailed in the digital is an abstraction and representation of reality, a process that is bound to exclude features, add new ones, and marginalise others. The question of how musical traditions can be preserved in digital media is a real and pressing one.

The primary output of the project is a book, Sonic Writing: Technologies of Musical Expression Notation and Encoding, which will be published by Bloomsbury's Music & Sound Studies series. The research is conducted with five project partners: IRCAM in Paris, STEIM in Amsterdam, CNMAT in Berkeley, CMC in New York, and the C4DM (Queen Mary) in London. These will host residencies where the research team will organise workshops and symposia on key research themes: instrument design, musical notation, phonography (including machine listening), and music in digital media. Workshops and symposia will be advertised here and on other media outlets.

The project is in many ways building on the experiences and knowledge gained from running the highly active Live Code Research Network together with Alex McLean. The past two years have been amazing and I thank you Alex for the wonderful collaboration.

The project will result in various outputs: software, papers, articles, symposia, an international conference (ICLI), and a book. For news and updates on events, please follow @thormagnusson on Twitter.

Launching an extensive research project is exciting: feelings of anticipation, curiosity, and adventure coalseque with the agitation involving entering territories of the unknown. With me on the journey are two other research team members, Sam Duffy and Alex Peverett, who are perfectly placed to make this journey both academically fruitful and fun. Here is to the next two years!

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