Experimental music studios reinvent the listening experience

For over 50 years, the School of Music’s Experimental Music Studios (EMS) have been at the forefront of electroacoustic music technology. Advances made at the studios have influenced the ways in which music is both created and performed as it has progressed into a more digital setting. One notable achievement of past studio workers is their contribution to the invention of modular voltage-controlled synthesizers, made famous and commercially available by Moog Music.

Presently, diffusion techniques using eight channel audio systems are being explored as a possible replacement of the live performance paradigm, Scott Wyatt, director of EMS, said.

“What we’re trying to do with diffusion techniques is to immerse the audience in the music,” Wyatt said. “We’re trying to bring the music around the audience and inside of the audience.”

He sees this as the future of live performances because of the crowd’s ability to better connect with the performers. The typical two channel audio system used at concerts creates a separation between the performer and audience and doesn’t provide a unique listening experience.

“We’re trying to do what you can not get on your personal listening system or in your apartment or home theater system,” Wyatt said.

EMS students are taught to read diffusion scores so they may create these performances live rather than simply play a prerecorded track. This is one more way to create a more enjoyable experience for the crowd, Wyatt said.

The quality of work from the EMS students is a testament to the teaching of Wyatt and the rest of the EMS staff. The students have won so many awards for their compositions that they have literally run out of space to display them all. Students also routinely release albums of their work to be sent to similar studios throughout the world.

Though EMS has produced its share of new musical technologies, its main purpose has always been to educate students

“The goal of this facility is to give our students the kind of access to not only the technology, but the concepts and general awareness of how to be effectively creative with technology,” Wyatt said.