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DMA Project:
Digital Music Academy

by Faruk Ceviz -
2010

ABSTRACT


DMA, Digital Music Academy, a new type of education project that aims to prioritize creativity through technology. The scheme will expand and evaluate students' individual practical and academic skills by exploring their musical personality. 

CONTENT

INTRODUCTION

1.1 A Brief History of Film Music 
1.2 Hans Zimmer
1.3 Virtual orchestra
1.4 Technology & Music Education
2.1 Vision
INTRODUCTION

The convergence of technology and art. Change in music education & new business areas

In the last decade, thanks to the rapid technological developments, electronic music has become extraordinary with virtual instruments and orchestra. While producing music in the digital domain is becoming a passion among young people, the leading universities of the world are trying to meet this demand by opening undergraduate and graduate programs in areas such as music production, film music and sound design. Why should music educators not ignore these important changes while the musical productions that used to be made only in professional studios are now gradually delivered at home studios too? 
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1.1 A Brief History of Film Music 

Without a doubt, cinema is an effective art form that takes up a great deal of space in our lives. The film music, on the other hand, that enhances the effectiveness of this art form and creates a long-lasting effect on the audience, usually goes unnoticed. A film music differs from a concert music with its own style and aesthetics that come to fruition with the cooperation of the director and composer. Since it involves many complex techniques, application of high technology of the time is inevitable.

In silent movies, the music was once made with live piano accompaniment which almost disappeared with the production of King Kong movie that had a reputation for great success in the early 1930s. Max Steiner's soundtrack was recorded with a full-size orchestra accompanied by modern sound recordings at the time. The orchestral music, fully synchronized with the scenes, was almost a revolutionary process in the evaluation of the film music production. The composition technique of Steiner, heavily influenced by Wagner's operas, is still found in the works of contemporary composers such as John Williams, Danny Elfman and James Horner. 

From the middle of the 1950s until the early 1970s, the orchestral music fell under the shadow of jazz music. However, the orchestral score was returned to the scene with the Steven Spielberg' movie “Jaws", co-produced with composer John Williams. Nowadays, film directors sometimes prefer other types of music, but the sonic tone of the classical orchestra is undoubtedly indisputable.

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From the other side, the prominent film music composer Hans Zimmer entered the film music world by the early 1980s. He used the music production technology as the prime source, then he later developed his technique by combining synthetic sounds and the live orchestra with a touch of ethnic timbre. 

Through nearly two decades of progress in audio technology and digital instruments, composers have been able to use the studio as an instrument. One of the most important examples of our time comes from director Peter Jackson's movie, King Kong (2005) of which the soundtrack was composed by James Newton Howard. I remember the childish thrill I felt when Prof. Paul Chihara was presenting the acoustic and digital versions of Howard's music at the Film Music Media production festival at MIT. While one thousand audio channels were used in music production, the digital orchestra demonstrations seemed almost indistinguishable from the acoustic recordings. Howard's premiere work on the King Kong film took place in the history of film music as one of the most powerful productions of the virtual orchestra and computer technology. 

It is obvious that producing a major film music is an ideal platform for the simulation of an acoustic orchestra for the composers. it is also a good proof that music and technology go hand in hand. The notion of virtual orchestra finds the opportunity to progress aesthetically in the film music platform and opens up new doors in music education.

1.2  Hans Zimmer

The virtual orchestra gained momentum with the audio samples of London Symphony Orchestra recorded by Zimmer first in the early 1990s. One of the aims of Zimmer was to present a musically high-quality demo to the film directors for them to try out / test different ideas quickly. This technique is also more economical and minimises the risks before the final orchestral recordings take place. Hans Zimmer's hybrid production technique of using Digital Audio Workstation, synthetic orchestra and combination of the live recordings has become a routine nowadays. Furthermore, with these high-quality demos, the outcome has become convincing enough for independent film productions.
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1.3  Virtual Orchestra 


Simulating an acoustic orchestra is a complex task and not as easy as it sounds. If your goal is to perform the Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, you need to combine several skills that used to be done by professionals. This technique more often involves a serious training process including understanding about music performance, sequencing-midi programming techniques, acoustic, sound engineering and mastering audio. Additionally, if you have a dream to compose concert music in the digital domain, you will need to hold formal classical music training and highly developed artistic skills. That's why we need to encourage the leading universities in the world to form a new division in their programmes to experiment and explore this new subject.

Some academics are approaching interesting theories with formations that come directly from technological developments and are directly related to music education. Dr Paul Ramshaw emphasises that composing in digital environments is intertwined with sound engineering and music production, while American film music composer Jeff Rona argues that the recording studio is like an instrument and needs to practice as much as at least one piano virtuoso to make professional music.

With the traditional point of view, some of us may not take making music in the digital environment seriously at first or may see it as a threat to traditional classical music education. On the contrary, I think the dynamism between music and technology creates a great opportunity to explore new areas of making art. Now let's imagine a student who is interested in music technology simulates orchestral part of Rodrigo's guitar concerto. Thanks to this simulation, another student will have the opportunity to practice the solo part unlimited number of times to improve his guitar performance skills. Or a soprano who wants to listen and test her intonation, sound effect, and timbre for a new type of abstract work gets help from a fellow student to record her voice. On the other hand, an electro-acoustic music student could come up with innovative composition by just using her voice recording. These sort of practices already have been happing for a number of years. However, a new aesthetic necessity is emerging by quantizing and rearranging the foundation of creativity and bringing the science and art closer to the high-quality outcome, so we say that the only limit is imagination.
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1.4 Technology & Music Education


So the question is how this new discipline reserves a place in the current music education? Unfortunately, while the visions of the music conservatories do not incorporate with the media music and music technology, the faculties do not come up with trainers who will respond to the demands in this field. As a result, the inadequacy of this platform partly removes the possibility of raising generations who will be seriously interested in electronic and media music. 

Technology associated music education has been applied to various trial programs of some special future courses and foundation schools while practising electronic music is mostly focused and casually performed on popular music in the sector. On one side, the universities are implementing programs that aim excellent academic education. On the other side, the indirect experience of the unfiltered mainstream media creates controversial points that need to be studied. We should not ignore the standards achieved in the world in order to raise a quality generations.

In summary, today, the digital music is used extensively in the media world in order to enrich the acoustic spectrum and bring out alternative projects, and I think there is a potential to fascinate even the traditional audiences in the future. Is it important whether the music is acoustic or digital for the audiences who can not distinguish between real and synthetic sound? There is a lot of evidence we can observe that the music in the future will be produced and performed in the digital environment, along with some perspectives and preferences among some possible counterpoints about the subject. But the contemporary approach to the subject will always be beneficial for the societies in which it has emerged.

SOME OF THE LEADING FILM MUSIC & TECHNOLOGY SCHOOLS AROUND THE WORLD:

The Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program
The University of Nottingham
Berkeley College of Music
The Dartmouth İnstitute
Contemporary Music Lab
Point Blank Online School
Southampton Solent University
Conservatorium van Amsterdam
University of Sussex
The University of York
University of Liverpool
University of Leeds
University of Westminster
New York University
Keele University
University of Huddersfield
Madison Media Institute
IUPUI Music and Arts Technology
Trinity College, Dublin
Juilliard Music Technology Centre
Montana State University
Oregon Music Technology School
Music Technology of Northwestern
SAE Institute of Technology
Columbia College, Chicago
International Academy of design and Technology
Birmingham City University
Grad School
Los Angeles Recording School
Institute of Audio Research
IRCAM Institut De Recherche et Coordination Acoustique, Paris
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2.1 Vision
The aim of the project is to establish highest standards in music production and prioritize creativity through technology. This method targets the provision of mandatory techniques to compose music for film, TV, animation and video games and also promotes ‘creativity’ with experimental projects by using a virtual orchestra, MIDI programming and audio sampling for music production and sound design.

Considering the dynamic relation between academic and practical disciplines, proposed method will develop students' vision in both ways. Students will realize their projects under several techniques supported by relative essay works. Eventually, students will build up a strong CV with the projects in optional subjects such as composing for moving images, music production and sound design.



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