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Completed research

The alchemy of sound : creating unbelievable believability through audiovisual fusion

Student: Jansen, Rhyno
Date: 2011-03

ABSTRACT: This thesis represents an attempt to explore the use of metadiegetic film sound and its connection with qualities displayed by human physiology. Metadiegesis is chosen as the focus of this study, in order to point out the potential of film sound to be representative and not to slavishly imitate its visual counterpart. Therefore, because metadiegetic sound is deictic in nature, the first hurdle to clear was to navigate through a terminological minefield, allowing a clear glimpse of its true meaning and its connection with the filmic image. The researcher attempts to create hypothetical scenarios in order to analyse and discuss metadiegetic examples from films, convincingly utilised and less-convincingly so. The intention was to understand, clarify and disambiguate terminological uncertainties and inaccuracies. An exploration of asynchronous metadiegetic sound follows as refinement of the first step. This is done by resorting to existing examples in the form of extracts from films for demonstration purposes. As a result, the use of metadiegetic film sound is clearly defined and its use explained by attaching it to three concepts: a ‘story within a story’, external story space, and internal representation. It is argued that through these concepts, sound can be amalgamated with image to create a different realm, where sound and image tell more than an audio-visual story.

A multidisciplinary study of the phenomenon of violin vibrato

Student: Wilken Calitz
Date: 2009/03

ABSTRACT: Violin vibrato is the action by which a violinist periodically changes the frequency of a sustained note by moving the finger on the string, rapidly backwards and forwards. If it is artistically applied, it adds life, character and warmth to an otherwise dull sounding note. Although it has been used since the sixteenth century, very little research has been done on the reason why humankind would experience such periodic fluctuations as an object of beauty in violin performance. In answering the question, this study explores a variety of angles of approach in order to understand the phenomenon in its full context. The history, development and geographical origin of the technique are firstly discussed in a diachronic fashion and provide the background for the subsequent synchronic research on the physical nature of violin sound and violin vibrato. The vibrato rates and widths of four virtuosi are measured and compared to highlight the differences and individuality which are argued to be a contributing factor to the perception of beauty of the technique. It is established in the final chapter that the brain is stimulated more by sounds with periodic changes than those that are presented in the steady-state which cast some light on why vibrato may be experienced as an appreciated addition to sound. The thesis aims to present a unique view on the possibilities of interdisciplinary research of the phenomenon of violin vibrato. It further aims to present the research findings in a concise, logical, and systematic manner that could be of interest to both musician and scientist.

An introduction to audio post-production for film

Student: Nozaic, Claire
Date: 2006-12

ABSTRACT: In South Africa there has been an increase over the last few years in audio engineering courses which include modules of study in audio post-production or even offer audio post-production as a major focus of study. From an academic standpoint however, and despite the growth in the local film industry, very little study of this field has been undertaken in South Africa until recently. In 2005, a MMus thesis was submitted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal entitled Acoustic Ambience in Cinematography: An Exploration of the Descriptive and Emotional Impact of the Aural Environment (Turner, 2005: online). The thesis briefly outlines the basic components of the soundtrack and focuses on describing and analysing the properties of ambience, a sub-section of sound effects. At Stellenbosch University, research has recently begun in the fields of film music and Foley (sound effects associated with human movement onscreen). The purpose of this thesis is to provide an overview of audio post-production and the contribution of sound to the film medium. It provides an outline of the processes involved in creating a soundtrack for film and includes a description of the components of the soundtrack and recommendations for practical application.

Designing a Hyperinstrument with Gesture Interface for Musical Performance

Student: Mario Cronje
Supervisors: Mr Theo Herbst & Prof Johan Vermeulen
Date: 2011-10

ABSTRACT: The field of gesture based research and the interaction between human and computer with the focus falling on musical applications, is well established internationally. However, in South Africa, research in this field appears dormant. The reasons for this state of affairs are complex and can be argued from different angles covering socio-economical, philosophical and educational perspectives. This document describes the design, creation and implementation of an operational gesture interface environment which holds the potential to be expanded in the future. The implementation draws on cost-efficient hard- and software in the design of elementary to more advanced musical and even non-musical virtual environments (VEs) harbouring potential for further research and performance. Hard- and software available at Stellenbosch University’s Konservatorium were used together with selected free downloadable software from the internet in creating VEs, which to a degree simulate other techniques of sound manipulation. The choice of software was guided by the availability of support and prominence in terms of usage. Software basically had to incorporate hand movement tracking and the mapping of data to manipulate several parameters. Three independent systems, each representing a different VE, were studied, experimented with and programmed in order to validate the thesis. The first system manipulates a complete electronic musical instrument. The second system incorporates the simulation of a real-life musical performance and the third system focuses on manipulating specific sequencing software by a basic alternative computer mouse implementation. The outcome of this thesis provides an environment within which several programming techniques are treated and combined to form a template for teaching this field, and future development and research. These techniques incorporate the manipulation of digital audio, deal with a digital communication protocol, basic computer graphics and other necessary programming algorithms. In addition, the thesis strives to provide an outline for the understanding, design and implementation of a VE installation. The three systems will be installed for operation during a presentation of this thesis. Together with the three operative systems, this document strives to act as an initial platform from which exciting futuristic research and activity can be launched.

Research into and design of a digital sound sample library for acoustic drums

Student:Meijer, Helmut
Date: 2004/04

ABSTRACT: Sound sample libraries represent the format in which huge collections of sampled sounds are made available for use within digital samplers and/or other digital audio workstations (DAW’s). Although in use for many years, little or no academic research has been done on the methodology of compiling a commercial sound sample library. In this endeavour, the factors influencing the design, recording and publishing of a sound sample library are investigated through the actual design of a drum sample library. The rationale behind the sampling of a drum kit is carefully depicted in the light of various other factors influencing the instrument, as well as being influenced by the instrument itself. A professional drummer was engaged to play a state-of-the art Gretsch acoustic drum kit. Samples of the kit, consisting of various individual instrument parts, were recorded in three locations within the Konservatorium of Stellenbosch University, for reasons carefully explained in the text. These numerous drum hits were mixed and cut into individual drum samples. The samples were mapped into a digital software sampler, GigaStudio, creating five distinct collections of drum samples that faithfully represent the quality of the drum kit, the recording rooms as well as the equipment used in the process. The outcome of the study is a professional product in the form of a Gretsch drum sample collection, prepared for commercial release. Many of the drum samples have already been used successfully in commercial music releases over the past 12 months. Whilst the drum sample library is currently being published, the product and documentation clearly depict the viability of the study in terms of the artistic and academic expectations that have been met. The study anticipates future research on the subject.

Paljas: 'n Filmklankteoretiese ondersoek

Student: Roche Fourie
Supervisors: Mr Theo Herbst & Prof Johan Vermeulen

In search of the "true" sound of an artist: a study of recordings by Maria Callas

Student: Adriaan Fuchs
Supervisors: Mr Theo Herbst & Prof Johan Vermeulen

ABSTRACT: Modern digital signal processing, allowing a much greater degree of flexibility in audio processing and therefore greater potential for noise removal, pitch correction, filtering and editing, has allowed transfer and audio restoration engineers a diversity of ways in which to “improve” or “reinterpret” (in some cases even drastically altering) the original sound of recordings. This has lead to contrasting views regarding the role of the remastering engineer, the nature and purpose of audio restoration and the ethical implications of the restoration process. The influence of audio restoration on the recorded legacy of a performing artist is clearly illustrated in the case of Maria Callas (1923 - 1977), widely regarded not only as one of the most influential and prolific of opera singers, but also one of the greatest classical musicians of all time. EMI, for whom Callas recorded almost exclusively from 1953 - 1969, has reissued her recordings repeatedly, continually adapting their sound “to the perceived preferences of the record-buying public” (Seletsky 2000: 240). Their attempts at improving the sound of Callas’s recordings to meet with the sonic quality expected of modern recordings, as reissued in the latest releases that form part of EMI’s Callas Edition, Great Recordings of the Century (GROTC) and Historical Series, have resulted in often staggeringly different reinterpretations of the same audio material that bear no resemblance to previous CD or LP incarnations or “evince no consolidated conviction about exactly how Callas’s voice should sound.” In essence, some commentators argue that the “Callas sound” we hear on recent CD releases is not necessarily exactly as the great diva might have sounded. The purpose of this study is to consider the influence of audio restoration and remastering techniques on the recorded legacy of Callas, by illustrating the sometimes startlingly different ways in which her voice has been made to sound, examining and comparing the way in which different remasterings of the same audio material can vary in quality, as well as demonstrating how vastly different sonic reinterpretations of a single recording can affect our perception of an artist’s “true” sound. To this end, various reissues of six different complete opera recordings, including four studio recordings: Tosca (1953), Lucia di Lammermoor (1953), Norma (1954), Madama Butterfly (1955), as well as two “live” performances of Macbeth (1953) and La Traviata (1958), have been evaluated and compared, using the “true” sound of Callas’s voice as reference in comparing the different remasterings. Pitch and frequency spectrum analysis was used to confirm or support any subjective claims and observations and further analysis performed with the aid of a specialised Matlab algorithm.

African music in the FET curriculum: an investigation into teaching strategies and the development of a technological resource

Student: Carla Mangiagalli
Supervisors: Prof. M Smit & Mr. Theo Herbst
Date: 2005-12

ABSTRACT: The South African Department of Education (DoE) recently introduced a new curriculum for schools. This curriculum, namely Curriculum 2005 (C2005), and later revised as the National Curriculum Statement (NCS), is functional at a national level in South Africa and claims to be a more equitable curriculum than its predecessor by incorporating a philosophy that accommodates all South African learners from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. C2005 (NCS) promotes the principles of outcomes-based education (OBE) and shows a high regard for the Constructivist Learning Theory. In 2006 teachers will be expected to implement the Further Education and Training (FET) Band of the NCS. This study critically investigates C2005 (NCS) with the view to an improved understanding of multicultural education. The focus then turns towards music education by reviewing suggested teaching practices for multicultural music education. Following this is a thorough exploration of several approaches for the teaching of music from diverse cultures with an examination of the various appropriate models for music teaching. However, certain issues arise within the South African context as to whether music teachers have had the necessary preparation for the effective implementation of the prescribed music syllabus of the FET band. The prescribed music syllabus of the FET band includes a variety of musical genres and styles. This analysis culminates in a reflection on African music, which includes an investigation of how African music functions within traditional African societies and an approach for the effective transmission of African music in schools is proposed. Also, arising from numerous reviews concerning the teaching of African music, are opposing convictions that afford the reader an opportunity for creative thought. The lack of adequate didactical resources for the teaching of African music has resulted in a keen interest by the author in employing technology for instructional purposes. This study concludes by exploring recommendations concerning the design of an effective instructional programme that relies on technology and discusses the development of an appropriate technological resource for the teaching of African music.

Automatic Music Transcription: An Exploratory Study

Student: Peter Matthaei
Supervisors: Prof Johan Vermeulen & Mr Theo Herbst
Date: 2004

Musical Networks. The case for a neural network methodology in advertisement music research

Student: Hannelore Olivier
Supervisors: Mr Theo Herbst & Prof Johan Vermeulen
Date: 2005-04

ABSTRACT: Countless scientists had been struggling for centuries to find a significant connection between cognition, emotion and reasoning – resulting in today’s rather embarrassingly imperfect understanding of even the most basic human cognition. We should apprehend that it is unlikely that major breakthroughs in the Cognitive Sciences, Psychology, Sociology or the Medical Sciences will elucidate everything about the human brain and -behaviour in the very near future. Realizing this, it is realistic that we should transfer our attention to things that we do know and understand, and reconsider the power that lies in the integration of results and an interdisciplinary perspective in research. Using the tools we have to our disposal today – digital tools such as ANNs which did not exist a few decades before – this is actually readily viable today. This thesis demonstrates that it is possible to break the traditional boundaries that have periodically prevented the Humanities and the Natural Sciences to join forces towards a greater understanding of human beings. By using ANNs, we are able to merge data from any subfield within the Humanities and Natural Sciences in a single study. The results, interpretations and applications which could develop from such a study would certainly be more inclusive than those derived from research conducted in one or two of these fields in isolation. Sufficient evidence is provided in this dissertation to support a methodology which employs an artificial neural network to assist with decision-making processes related to the choice of advertisement music. The main objective of this endeavour is to establish the feasibility of combining data from many diverse fields, in the creation of an ANN that can be helpful in research regarding South African advertisement music. The thesis explores the notion that knowledge from many interdisciplinary study fields ought to play a leading role in the creation and assessment of effective, target-group-specific advertisement music. In obtaining this goal, it examines the probability of producing a computer-based tool which can assist people working in the advertising industry to obtain an educated match between product, consumer, and advertisement music. Taking a multidisciplinary point of view, the author suggests a methodology for the design of a digital tool in the form of a musical network model. It is concluded that, by using this musical network, it is indeed possible to guarantee a functional musically-paired commercial, which effectively addresses its target-group and has an appropriate emotional effect in support of the marketing goals of the advertising agent. The thesis also demonstrates that it is possible to gain new insights regarding a fairly unstudied discipline, without necessarily conducting new research studies in the specified field. The thesis proves that - by taking an interdisciplinary approach and by using ANNs - it is possible to attain new data that is scientifically valid, even in an unacknowledged field such as South African advertisement music. Although the scope of the thesis does not provide for the actual implementation of the musical network, the feasibility of the conceptual idea is thoroughly examined, and it is concluded that the theory in it’s entirely is definitely feasible, and can be implemented in a future study.

Applying the phi ratio in designing a musical scale

Student: Konrad Van Zyl Smit
Supervisors: Mr Theo Herbst & Prof Johan Vermeulen
Date: 2005-03

ABSTRACT: In this thesis, an attempt is made to create an aesthetically pleasing musical scale based on the ratio of phi. Precedents for the application of phi in aesthetic fields exist; noteworthy is Le Corbusier’s architectural works, the measurements of which are based on phi. A brief discussion of the unique mathematical properties of phi is given, followed by a discussion of the manifestations of phi in the physical ratios as they appear in animal and plant life. Specific scales which have found an application in art music are discussed, and the properties to which their success is attributable are identified. Consequently, during the design of the phi scale, these characteristics are incorporated. The design of the phi scale is facilitated by the use of the most sophisticated modern computer software in the field of psychacoustics. During the scale’s design process, particular emphasis is placed on the requirement of obtaining maximal sensory consonance. For this reason, an in-depth discussion of the theories regarding consonance perception is undertaken. During this discussion, the reader’s attention is drawn to the difference between musical and perceptual consonance, and a discussion of the developmental history of musical consonance is given. Lastly, the scale is tested to see whether it complies with the requirements for successful scales.