Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship - Dr Erik Nystrom: Synthesis of Spatial Texture Topology in Composition and Performance

Project: Research


Colleges, School and Institutes


The project concerns sound synthesis, spatialisation, and structuring in computer music, and has two primary objectives. The first is to develop and classify principles of sound synthesis applicable to topology of spatial texture, a concept developed in the author’s PhD research (Nyström 2013). A topology, in the present context, is a variable, spatiotemporal distribution of textured sound occupying multiple areas of perceived vertical space (spectral space; Smalley 2007) and horizontal space (perspectival space; ibid) simultaneously, thus forming a three-dimensional spatial texture. Each instance of a topology may have different perceived manifestations; a topology is elastic in that it has potentials for continuous transformation within the constraints of fixed aspects of its structure. The concept is in this respect similar to the meaning of topology in mathematics (Weeks 2002). In the approach presented, a musical work is conceived through the shaping of textural topologies over time. Rather than approach sound synthesis in terms of conventional species (e.g. Roads 1996; 2001), the research model seeks to develop new terms and classify principles that influence the connection between techniques and spatial percepts (Kendall 2010), and to integrate lower and higher structural levels in synthesis topologies.
Second, the research aims to situate the topological synthesis model within an approach to musical creation that brings composition and performance in closer relation, drawing on the principles of elasticity and variability through incorporating performative actions and generative processes. The proposed paradigm is an alternative to entirely pre-composed fixed media electroacoustic music, introducing a model for real-time synthesis works which offers the composer any desired degree of parametric control of spatial and temporal aspects of texture and structure upon performance, allowing for better control than what is offered in conventional presentation of electroacoustic works. This should be attractive to electroacoustic practitioners within both academic and non-academic contexts.
Due to its technical nature, the research requires state of the art multi-channel sound systems for composition and concert presentation. The advanced BEAST (Birmingham Electro-Acoustic Sound Theatre) concert system and studios at the University of Birmingham Department of Music offer ideal facilities for the aims and challenges of this project.

NYSTRÖM, E. (2013) Topology of Spatial Texture in the Acousmatic Medium. PhD Thesis, City University.
ROADS C. (1996) The Computer Music Tutorial. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT.
ROADS C. (2001) Microsound. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT.
SMALLEY, D. (2007) Space-Form and the Acousmatic Image. Organised Sound 12(2): 35–58.
WEEKS, J. R. (2002) The Shape of Space. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Layman's description

The project is about digital synthesis and spatial distribution of complex textural sounds over multi-channel loudspeaker systems. It integrates synthesis and spatialisation techniques within an approach to composition and performance that is real-time-based. The concept of topology indicates that every instance of a sound or work is subject to different conditions and thus variable.
Short titleLeverhulme Early Career Fellowship - Dr Erik Nystrom: Synthesis of Spatial Texture Topology in Composition and Performance
Effective start/end date1/09/1531/08/18