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Research Case studies

Aural Intimacy: The case of micro-space in acousmatic music

Our Work

This work aims to develop, and explore in compositional practice, the notion aural micro-space, an area whose aural architecture is not accessible to the listener unless it is mediated by recording technology. 

The research involves the development of new theoretical concepts, novel recording techniques, using bespoke microphone hardware, as well as new ways of using ambisonic technology in the composition of new acousmatic and mixed media works. 

The compositional methodology employed in the development of these works, is an attempt to unify spatiomorphology and spectromorphology in the workflow; to consider those in conjunction with each other during the development and arrangement stages of the compositional process. 

The signification of the musical text appears to have benefited by a perceived increased tangibility of sound materials employed in these works as a direct result of this approach. If one is to consider the reception of this work as an indicator of quality and /or clarity of musical meaning, a more holistic approach to recording and working with acoustic space could provide some of the answers in the quest for “something to hold on” in electroacoustic music. 


Our Impact

The impact of this practice-based research, which culminated in a series of acousmatic and mixed media works, stems from new approaches in electroacoustic composition which consider the articulation of micro-space in acousmatic sound by using specific sound design and novel sound recording techniques. The impact claimed in this case study relates to widening public engagement at an international level with new work, the generation of new cultural capital and the enhancement of public cultural life in general as well as the development of young musicians.

Plus Icon Ballisticory

Ballisticory, an acousmatic composition for tape composed in 2015 has been featuring in a number of competitions and festivals of electroacoustic music and in 2016 it secured the 1st Prize at the Open Circuit Electroacoustic Competition in Liverpool, the only competition of electroacoustic music held in the UK during that year. The work was chosen from 230 international entries and was performed during the open circuit festival. The work was also awarded an honourable mention at the International Competition of Electroacoustic Composition and Visual-music in Argentina organised by the Destellos Foundation and was broadcasted on radio shows which featured the winning works in Canada (UCKU FM), Chile (Beethoven FM) and the France national radio (France Musique). In 2017, the work was presented by BBC producer Verity Sharp on her seminal radio program Late Junction, which in 2016 was one the fastest growing programs on BBC 3 (audience grown by 36% on the year before). BBC 3 is reaching an audience of around 2 million per quarter. The work over the last three years has been programmed in festivals and concerts around the world (UK, USA, Mexico, Portugal, Austria, France, Greece).

Plus Icon Topophilia

Τοpophilia, a 5.1 acousmatic composition for tape, which was composed using new techniques for capturing aural spatiality in micro-space, was arguably the most internationally awarded electroacoustic work of 2016 securing prizes in five different international composition competitions:

  • 1st Prize, International Electroacoustic Composition Competition “Iannis Xenakis”, Contemporary Music Lab of Aristotle University, Greece.
  • 1st Prize - Acousmatic Category, IX° Foundation Destellos
    Competition 2016, Argentina.
  • 3rd Prize - Résidence ICST-Zurich, Concours International de
    Composition Electroacoustique de Monaco
  • Honorable Mention, 8ème concours biennal de composition acousmatique
    Métamorphoses, Belgium.
  • Electronic Music Category Winner, The New Music Consortium,
    University of South Florida, USA

This success resulted in numerous artistic residencies (UK, Switzerland,) performances of the work (Mexico, Argentina, UK, USA, France, Germany, Greece, Russia, Belgium), radio broadcasts (Canada, France), CD publication (Belgium) as well as talks and presentations on compositional methodology and rational to young composers and audiences in the USA, Greece and the UK. The composer was invited to discuss the work and the techniques used with young composers at the university of South Florida and with audiences in Athens during the “Bridge over Sygrou” Festival organised by The Onassis Cultural Centre. In 2017 the work was selected to represent the UK arm of the International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music at the ICEM 35th General Assembly in Moscow.

Plus Icon Granicus

Granicus, a work for solo multi percussion and tape, has been performed in concerts in major festivals in the UK (Sounds like this Festival, Leeds; MANTIS festival Manchester) and Mexico (Mexican Center for Music and Sonic Arts -CMMAS) and has attracted around 3000 plays on you tube. Several young percussionists from around the world (UK, Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, USA, Germany, Belgium, Colombia) have requested to perform the work in concerts, competitions and graduation recitals, identifying a lack of contemporary percussion and electronics repertoire.

Next Steps

The next steps for the project involve working closely with colleagues to apply the techniques developed in this project in Virtual Reality realisations of electroacoustic music and VR tools for the control of multichannel recordings.

A more holistic approach to recording and working with acoustic space might provide some of the answers in the quest for “something to hold on” in electroacoustic music

Dr Nikos Sarvopoulos
Plus Icon Research Outputs
  • 1/ Stavropoulos, N. (2015) Ballistichory, [Acousmatic composition / fixed media]
  • 2/ Stavropoulos, N. (2016) Granicus, [Composition, solo multi percussion and fixed media]
  • 3/ Stavropoulos, N. (2016) Topophilia, [Acousmatic composition / fixed media]
  • 4/ Stavropoulos, N. (2017) Karst Grotto, [Acousmatic composition / fixed media]
  • 5/ Stavropoulos, N. (2018) Aural intimacy: The case of micro-space in acousmatic music, Proceedings of the Sound and Music Computing Conference 2018, SMC 2018.
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