Scott Wilson's research in the Department of Music

Title Scott Wilson's research in the Department of Music

Duration 4.24 mins


I'm Scott Wilson, I'm a Senior Lecturer in the Music department at the University of Birmingham.

My research has basically involved a few different areas over the last few years. 

One of them is large scale multi-channel loudspeaker systems like BEAST which we have here in the department. BEAST is short for Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre and it is a large-scale loudspeaker system for the presentation of electronic music. We can do with BEAST up to something like 100 discrete channels or 100 discrete loudspeakers. discrete meaning each getting its own individual signal.

When I arrived here that was something that seemed to have crystallised as a kind of a moment - the development of all this. That we now have this system which ran largely on commodity hardware. We needed to switch to a digital system in terms of routing and controlling this because it wasn't possible to manage it with off the shelf analogue gear anymore.

I became involved in developing software for that and also in, probably more in the research sense, trying to answer questions about how one deals with that. What one should do with a system like that? What are the possibilities? What are the best approaches?

So that's one big strand of things that's been going on. Another one is working on real-time interactive electronic music systems. That means sometimes works with instruments. I've done a lot of works that involve electronic music and instruments, perhaps responding in an interactive real-time way. Sometimes with real-time video and things like that as well.

I've been composing those sorts of pieces and I've been developing software to do that. It can also mean things like laptop performance. We now have a laptop ensemble that started here and so we're also doing things with networked music performance. We're sharing data and actually also working with what's called live coding. We're actually programming music software in real-time and we're sharing that code over our network situations. It's an interesting way to improvise and that's kind of an interesting thing that we've started doing here recently. 

The last big thing I've been doing relates to the other two which is that I've been involved for some time in the development of this computer music programming language called SuperCollider (which I've used in both of those other areas quite extensively). 

I was involved in a book called The SuperCollider Book which was recently published by MIT Press. I was the lead editor for that, which apparently is the fastest-selling book on computer music that they've ever published, so that's quite exciting. It seems to be leading to a lot of people teaching it more, it's really helping the language. So that's been quite an exciting thing. 

As far as postgraduate recruitment goes, we've had a lot of people actually come here because it's a SuperCollider-friendly place. People who've been doing SuperCollider before have come. And actually quite diverse things, not just things that relate to what I do or what other people in the Music department do but perhaps involving that tool. 

That's been a kind of very nice thing for us and has been I think for me to supervise people like that. It's also been nice for the other people in the department that these new things are coming in. 

Obviously we have interesting people doing composition for electroacoustic music, instrumental music, mix things live, and interactive music. We've also had some people do some more technical projects. I've had a postgraduate student who did a viola controller for electronic music. A Viola-based controller. We've had some people do some work on things like Stochastic Synthesis and things like that. So, we're also interested in those sorts of things.