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PhD Theses

Below is an overview of some of the theses researched at SARC.  


Dolphin, Andrew A portfolio of original compositions
Green, Matt In and Out of Context: Field Recording, Sound Installation and the Mobile Sound Walk
Newland, Imogene The Piano and The Female Body: the Erotic, the Seductive and the Transgressive
Mullan, Eoin Physical Modelling Sound Synthesis by Digital Waveguide Extraction with Application to Computer Games and Virtual Environments
Cullen, Brian A Portfolio of Audiovisual Compositions for the 
‘new media everyday’
Hollerweger, Florian The Revolution is Hear! Sound Art, the Everyday and Aural Awareness
Chatziioannou, Vasileios  Forward and inverse modelling of single-reed woodwind instruments with application to digital sound synthesis
Bennett, Peter The representation and control of time in tangible user interfaces (designing musical instruments for the manipulation of temporal media)
Renaud, Alain The Network as a Performance Space: Strategies and Applications
Vega, Henry A portfolio of original compositions
Kowalczyk, Konrad Boundary and medium modelling using compact finite difference schemes in simulations of room acoustics for audio and architectural design applications
Davis, Tom The Ear of the Beholder: Ecology, Embodiment and Complexity in Sound Installation.
Tan, Chui Chui An adaptive architecture to support web graphics exploration for visually impaired people
Kuber, Ravi Developing an assistive haptic framework for improving non-visual access to the web
Kuster, Martin Inverse Methods in Room Acoustics with Under-Determined Data and Applications to Virtual Acoustics
Geistweidt, Jason A portfolio of original compositions
Fee, David Dereverberation of acoustic signals via adaptive filtering
Hosltead, Rachel Portfolio of original compositions


Dolphin, Andrew | 2011

A portfolio of original compositions

A collection of original works are presented that explore a broad spectrum of compositional possibilities.

Five open form non-linear works are introduced as sound toys. These are designed to be exploratory and playful compositional frameworks, or systems for composition, that are relevant to the fields of sound art and electroacoustic music. Compositional decisions are controlled or influenced by an end user (or player) in these playful open form works. Multidisciplinary compositional approaches and alternative mediums for the presentation and dissemination of electroacoustic artworks are investigated.

Five fixed media electroacoustic pieces are presented. Ideas of kinesis and kinetic energy as an external compositional agent, and multichannel spatial approaches are central to these works.

Cross-pollination of aspects of both aesthetic and technical concerns of each discipline are explored, and these fields have been allowed to feed each other.

supervisor: Wilson, Paul


Green, Matt | 2011

In and Out of Context: Field Recording, Sound Installation and the Mobile Sound Walk

This thesis chronicles the practical and theoretical research that has been undertaken in conjunction with, and in support of, the creation of a portfolio of original works. The portfolio comprises five works of sound art: two are sound installations, and three are what I call ‘mobile sound walks’. All five works are site-specific, meaning that they have been designed for a specific space, in response to a specific social and environmental context, and take into account the cultural, historic and political significance of the hosting site.

The first half of this thesis is dedicated to an in-depth discussion of the work of six artists with whom I align my own creative practice. These include the composers Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari and R. Murray Schafer, who are noted for their use of everyday sounds as compositional material; the sound installation artists Max Neuhaus and Bill Fontana, who create site-specific, environmental sound art works; and Janet Cardiff, a pioneer of mobile sound art.

In the second half of this thesis I provide a detailed analysis of my own work, with a particular focus on my mobile sound walks, which use location-aware technologies as a means to map sounds across a landscape. Such technologies have received little attention through existing sound art discourses. This thesis addresses this lack, by offering conceptual perspectives and methodological tools for understanding and producing what I call ‘locative soundscape composition’.

Throughout this thesis I draw upon a range of critical theories and method- ologies both from within, and from outside of, sound art studies, which help to shed new light on sound as it relates to, for example, the city, the politics of everyday life, the production of space and place, and the relationships between site-specific art, urban environments, and social actors.

supervisor: Rebelo, Pedro   

Newland, Imogene | 2011

The Piano and The Female Body: the Erotic, the Seductive and the Transgressive

This thesis proposes an “erotics” of music performance based on a close analysis of the relation between the female body, the piano and the body of the spectator. This practice-led research consists of a written thesis and five original performance works using choreography, installation, film and photography.
As a pianist specialising in contemporary repertoire I have a particular interest in the overlap between gesture-based choreography and music performance. Through “embodied improvisation”, I explore physical expression in virtuosic repertoire using the analogy of sexual metaphor. Presenting the tactile relation between the female body and the piano as a concupiscent exchange of energies and desires, I propose a feminisation of the piano and the pianist's body based on the writings of Richard Leppert (1995 [1993]) and Susan McClary (2002 [1991]). Using choreographic theory I suggest “full” and “empty” body approaches to conceiving physical expression in music performance and how such approaches reflect on notions of gender ambiguity, abjection and the gaze (Butler: 2008 [1990]), (Claid: 2006), (Kristeva: 1982 [1980]) and (Mulvey: 2006 [1975]). The thesis concludes music performance as a seductive and transgressive act, supported by emerging theoretical findings and realised through original interdisciplinary practice-led research (Bataille: 2006 [1957]) and (Baudrillard 1990 [1979]). 

supervisor: Rebelo, Pedro


Mullan, Eoin |2011

Physical Modelling Sound Synthesis by Digital Waveguide Extraction with Application to Computer Games and Virtual Environments

While the  first computer games synthesised all their sound effects, a desire for realism led to the widespread use of sample playback when technology matured enough to allow it. However, current research points to many advantages of procedural audio which is generated at run time from information on sound producing events using various synthesis techniques. A physical modelling branch of synthesis has emerged, primarily from research into musical instruments, and this has provided audio synthesis with an intuitive link to an environment's virtual physical parameters. Some physical modelling techniques, primarily modal synthesis, have been used to synthesise audio in real-time in interactive virtual environments.

This thesis presents a new technique called digital waveguide extraction which models the motion of a two dimensional membrane. The technique exploits the efficiency advantages of digital waveguides, which are commonly used to model one dimensional objects, by extracting harmonic subsets from the membrane's spectrum based on plane waves travelling in a single direction. The technique is shown to be mathematically equivalent to modal synthesis. A detailed method of implementation is provided, the output of which is shown to closely match that of modal synthesis in frequency content and amplitude envelope. A means of decreasing the computational complexity of the technique, while affecting minimal change to the synthesised sound, is proposed and justified. The saving can be applied to a varying degree which is useful in environments where objects can have different levels of perceptual importance and processing availability can vary due to factors unrelated to audio. Perceptual listening tests reveal that, without affecting any perceptual di erence to the sound produced, the computational complexity can be reduced by at least 72%, typically around 95% and under some circumstances beyond 99%.

Finally, the digital waveguide extraction technique has been linked to a purely geometrical analysis of a membrane. This provides an alternative understanding of the technique and indicates potential for a new wave-based approach to modelling non-ideally shaped objects and rooms.

supervisor: van Walstijn, Maarten



Cullen, Brian | 2010

A Portfolio of Audiovisual Compositions for the ‘new media everyday’

By examining three audiovisual compositions, A Natural Balance (2006), Pixel Parasites (2006) and Thrice Removed (2008), this thesis explores an approach that attempts to tackle problems associated with composing in the new media everyday. Each composition, which together I refer to as the ‘audiovisual portfolio’, addresses different aspects of the new media everyday. In a similar manner to television, film and videogames, the portfolio exploits computer graphics and sound manipulation techniques. However, there is an abundance of audiovisual content in the new media everyday. This thesis discusses the portfolio with respect to such content and covers issues relating to artistic communication in our creatively crowded society. It analyses the portfolio as both a critical response to, and an inescapable by-product of, the rich audiovisual experiences of our daily lives. In addition, it tackles the contradictory ways these experiences both excite and anaesthetise our senses.

supervisor: Rebelo, Pedro


Hollerweger, Florian | 2010

The Revolution is Hear! Sound Art, the Everyday and Aural Awareness

This thesis presents a body of practical and theoretical work, which interprets sound art as a means of encouraging aural awareness in an everyday context. Through a methodological feedback loop of artistic practice and theoretical re- flection, strategies for the aestheticisation of everyday aural experience have been developed and situated within a wider context of contemporary aural cul- ture. The current state of this culture is critically examined. The widespread claim that we live in a deeply visualised culture is questioned. It is argued that contemporary Western society can also be characterised in terms of an increasing interest in auditory perception, which the development of sound art as an artistic discipline is one symptom of. The technological mediation of listening is discussed and characterised in terms of a mobilisation and individ- uation of aural experience. An overview of different listening modes informs a discussion of six different perspectives on sound as a physical and perceptual phenomenon. Various listening practices, which have been proposed in the field of sound art, are presented. It is argued that the development of sound art as an artistic discipline can be characterised in terms of an interest in the everyday as a source of sound material on one, and as an environment for aestheticised listening on the other hand. Sound art is proposed as a means of auralising the rhythms inherent to everyday life, and subtlety is identified as an aesthetic category for doing so. It is investigated how technological mediation can be applied to the aestheticisation of mobile and social listening experiences. The above issues have been addressed by means of artistic practice. The results of this process are presented as a portfolio of eight artworks, including sound installations, public interventions, site-specific electroacoustic pieces, graphical scores and mobile hardware projects.

supervisor : Rebelo, Pedro


Chatziioannou, Vasileios 

Forward and inverse modelling of single-reed woodwind instruments with application to digital sound synthesis

Physical modelling of musical instruments aims to translate a set of physical model parameters into audio, by simulating the sound generation mechanism of the instrument(physics-based synthesis). The inverse process, physics-based analysis, addresses the extraction of the physical model parameters from the oscillations of the instrument.

Focusing on single-reed woodwind instruments, the main objective of this study is to formulate such an inverse modelling approach. Given a natural sound, measured under real playing conditions, physical model parameters are extracted, so that they can be used to resynthesise the original sound.

Under this inverse modelling scope, a physical model of the clarinet is created, with special focus on its non-linear reed-mouthpiece system. A two-dimensional distributed model is formulated, in order to study the mechanical behaviour of the reed, in the absence of acoustic feedback. This model is used to inform a lumped model formulation

of the reed. Complex fluid dynamical phenomena are also incorporated in the lumped model, which is then coupled to a linear model of the instrument bore, to form a virtual representation of a clarinet.

Based on this lumped model formulation, the inverse modelling process consists of a two-step optimisation routine. Given the pressure and flow signals in the mouthpiece, the first step uses a parametrised relationship between the pressure and flow in the mouthpiece in order to estimate the parameters of a simplified model. Starting from this

parameter set and simulating the oscillations of the instrument, the second optimisation step estimates the lumped model parameters, trying to match the original and the resynthesised sound. The accuracy of the process is tested based on a set of numerically synthesised data. Finally, the model is applied to various sets of measured data and

the robustness of the parameter extraction process is discussed.

superisor: van Walstijn, Maarten


Bennett, Peter

The representation and control of time in tangible user interfaces (designing musical instruments for the manipulation of temporal media)

Musical applications of tangible interfaces are successful because they solidify the ephemeral sounds and structure of music, presenting them to player as readily graspable bricks, pucks and tangible objects. This thesis proposes that a detailed study of how time may be used within tangible interfaces is required in order to allow a better understanding of how to design new systems with this capability.

Music and sounds are not existing physical objects; therefore representing them as objects provides the designer with a very wide selection of possibilities. Rather than following a prescriptive route of giving the designer a set of guidelines, this thesis takes the more open approach of creating a design-space and interaction model that can help synthesise new design ideas, helping to draw attention to lesser explored areas.

This thesis proposes and evaluates the temporal-MCRit interaction model; a conceptual model of how time can be used in tangible user interfaces, adapted from a standard TUI model. This new interaction model can be used to both analyse existing systems, and synthesise new ones. The aim in proposing the interaction model is to encourage the design of tangible interfaces that go beyond a simple spatial mapping of time, towards future designs that allow fluid, intuitive interaction with temporal digital media. The BeatBearing tangible rhythm sequencer is presented in this thesis as an instrument designed to explore the tTUI design space and develop the interaction model. Variations of the BeatBearing are compared to evaluate the ability of the temporal-MCRit in assisting the designer of new temporal-TUIs.




Renaud, Alain | 2009

The Network as a Performance Space: Strategies and Applications

supervisor: Rebelo, Pedro


Vega, Henry | 2009

A portfolio of original compositions

supervisor:  Alcorn, Michael



Kowalczyk, Konrad | 2008

Boundary and medium modelling using compact finite difference schemes in simulations of room acoustics for audio and architectural design applications

Simulation of acoustic spaces with the aim of developing virtual immersive applications and architectural design applications is one of the key areas in the field of audio signal processing. In this thesis, a complete method for simulating room acoustics using compact finite difference time domain (FDTD) schemes is presented.

A family of compact explicit and implicit schemes approximating the wave equation is analysed in terms of stability, accuracy, and computational efficiency. The most accurate and isotropic schemes based on a rectilinear nonstaggered grid are identified, and the optimally efficient explicit schemes are indicated.

Novel FDTD formulations of frequency-independent and frequency-dependent bound- aries of a locally reacting surface type are proposed, including a full treatment of corners and boundary edges. In particular, it is proposed to model generally frequency-dependent boundaries by local incorporation of a digital impedance filter (DIF), and the resulting formulae for compact explicit schemes are provided. In addition, a numerical boundary analysis (NBA) procedure is proposed as a technique for analytic evaluation of the numer- ical reflectance of the presented boundary models. The digital impedance filter model is also extended to model controllable surface diffusion based on the concept of phase grating diffusers.

Results obtained from numerical experiments and numerical boundary analysis confirm the high accuracy of the proposed boundary models, the reflectance of which is shown to closely approximate locally reacting surface theory for different angles of incidence and various impedances. Furthermore, the results indicate that boundary formulations based on the identified accurate and isotropic schemes are also very accurate in terms of numerical reflectance, and outperform directly related methods such as Yee’s scheme and the standard digital waveguide mesh. In addition, one particular scheme - referred to as the interpolated wideband scheme - is suggested as the best FDTD scheme for most audio applications.

supervisor: van Walstijn, Maarten


Davis, Tom | 2008

The Ear of the Beholder: Ecology, Embodiment and Complexity in Sound Installation.

This thesis presents a body of practice and theory based work, based on a study of an application of models from Complexity Theory to music creation, with a focus on Artificial Life inspired techniques applied as musical processes. It identifies two important issues that are subsequently explored through the creation of sound installations. Firstly, issues pertaining to the employment of models from the field of Complexity Theory for the creation of music; a concern with transference of metaphor, a regrounding of referents in the specificity of music. Secondly, through a discussion of the employment of process in music it identifies a need to employ generative techniques that are more open in their nature, both on a structural and an interpretive level. It thus proposes a conception of process that is open in an ecological sense, in which a level of agency is prescribed to the technological agents that construct the installations, their environmental context and the human interactants within this context. It outlines a body of sound installations that exploit a concept of emergent musical structures as a process of timely perception, rather than fixed objects of empirical observation. In this conception, aesthetic meaning came forth not through the transitivity of the object but through the process of conjoined action between agents, the environment and the human interactant. This thesis formulates an understanding of sound installation as a situated and timely act that is best understood from an embodied, ecological perspective and develops a conception of engagement that is contingent on space, place and personal subjective experience. It outlines strategies that were developed through the process of creative practice for the creation and perception of complexity that exploit notions of embodiment within installation design.

supervisor: Rebelo, Pedro


Tan, Chui Chui | 2008

An adaptive architecture to support web graphics exploration for visually impaired people

This thesis employs a user-centred approach to design and develop an extensible, adaptive system, the ACTIVE system to improve Web graphics accessibility for visually impaired people.  It is capable of adapting to its context of use such as graphics type, assistive technologies and user profiles in order to choose a suitable graphical multimodal application for the user.  Additionally, the system consists of a user model which contains information about a user in terms of their background, experience levels, and preferences.  By performing a series of experiments with visually impaired people, it reveals that people with similar profiles and experience levels prefer certain exploration conditions.  Consequently, a list of adaptation rules have been derived and applied in the system.  By using a feature-based approach, the ACTIVE system learns about the users from their previous interaction with applications and presents to them with their most preferable and appropriate interface.  The ACTIVE system was designed in accordance with usability and accessibility guidelines.  The system was evaluated with visually impaired people and the results reveal that it has improved the overall experience and satisfaction of people with sight loss when accessing graphics non-visually.  Furthermore, the adaptation accuracy level of the ACTIVE system increases with the degree of system use, where 96.67% of accuracy was achieved in the experiments.  This thesis shows the possibilities in developing a coherent, adaptive system by integrating various variables such as graphics types, assistive technologies and multimodalities.  It also demonstrates that adaptation can bring benefits to people with visual impairments in enhancing their graphics accessibility.

supervisor: McAllistair, Graham


Kuber, Ravi | 2008

Developing an assistive haptic framework for improving non-visual access to the web

Haptic technologies have the potential to help the blind community overcome many of the challenges experienced when accessing the Web.  With limited design guidance available to web developers, haptic effects could be selected arbitrarily for use on a web page, with minimal consideration given as to how the sense to touch could assist a blind user.  Poor interface design is known to reduce the quality of the subjective browsing experience.  In this thesis, research has been conducted with the aim of developing effective spatial and navigational cues to address issues of accessibility on a web interface.  Using a structured participatory-based design approach, force-feedback cues have been developed to represent objects commonly found on a web page (e.g. images and hyperlinks).  The application of a modified version of the approach, has led to the design of tactile pin-based stimuli, which provides similar levels of structural and navigational support to the force-feedback cues.  Findings have informed a library of software, with accompanying guidelines for their application on a web page.  These are housed within a haptic framework.  This tool provides a vital reference for developers, allowing them to replicate effects on their own sites, and offers support during both the design and evaluation processes.  It is left to the discretion of the developer to include the mappings that are most appropriate to the context of the web-based task, and ensure that these cues are targeted to the needs of a broad range of blind individuals when using a tactile or force-feedback device.

supervisor: McAllistair, Graham



Kuster, Martin | 2007

Inverse Methods in Room Acoustics with Under-Determined Data and Applications to Virtual Acoustics

With the advent of commercial surround sound systems there is a growing demand for a system that can convert existing mono and stereo recordings into a surround sound recording. A part of this problem is to generate the reverberation for the additional audio channels from the reverberation in

the mono or stereo recording. In this thesis, it is investigated whether a room model can be constructed from one or two room impulse responses and in which a virtual surround sound recording can then be performed. The estimation of the room model parameters is based on the three well-known room acoustic models;

the geometrical acoustic model with specular reflections, the eigenmode model and the diffuse field model. It is shown that the scope with the geometrical acoustic and the eigenmode model is limited but it is possible to obtain useful and consistent results for the room volume and the source-to-receiver distance from the diffuse field model. Based on these findings, the problem of generating multiple room impulse responses from one or two input room impulse response(s) is approached slightly differently. The very early part of the

room impulse responses (the early reflections) is generated by a geometrical model with specular and diffuse reflections. The remainder of the room impulse responses are copies of the input room impulses obtained by convolution with a set of filters that control the coherence between them. The values for the coherence are given by expressions for the coherence between microphones with firstorder directivity in a diffuse field and these expressions are derived in the thesis. The results from objective and subjective tests indicate that this method works successfully.

supervisor: van Walstijn, Maarten


Geistweidt, Jason | 2007

 A portfolio of original compositions

This dissertation focuses on a portfolio of original musical compositions created at the Sonic Arts Research Centre between February 2003 and June 2006.  The dissertation includes an analysis of the following works: Trans-mission; METROPOLIS ‘04; Terrestrial Variations; The orchestra of the noises of war ..; A letter from the trenches of Adrianopolis ...; Combine (after Rauschenberg); and Fuinneoga.  In his critique, the composer puts forward his own internal reasoning for the compositional act and points to his understanding of what are the salient features of the portfolio, discussing issues of function, form, and control.  In addition to the critiques, the portfolio includes scores, recordings, and software of the compositions discussed.

supervisor: Alcorn, Michael


Fee, David | 2007

Dereverberation of acoustic signals via adaptive filtering

This thesis investigates the blind dereverberation problem and proposes the use of predictive deconvolution as a tool for single channel dereverberation. Prediction deconvolution uses the principles of linear prediction to estimate a high order, minimum phase, inverse room impulse response directly from the reverberant audio signal’s linear predictive residual. Simulation results are present for speech and music sources reverberated with image-method generated room impulse responses. Due to the minimum phase property of predictive deconvolution and the nonminimum phase nature of rooms, higher-order statistics based adaptive filtering is also investigated. The subband kurtosis maximization adaptive filter is evaluated with speech and music sources. The room transfer function can be modelled as the product of a minimum phase and allpass component and predictive deconvolution, by reducing the effect of the minimum phase component, is shown to improve the stability and performance of the kurtosis maximization algorithm. Simulation results show up to 6dB reduction in reverberant error energy achieved with this combined approach. The use of linear predictive coding, to extract a decorrelated residual signal prior to dereverberation, is investigated with simulations demonstrating the effect of predictor order on performance. A sinusoidal-plus-residual model is proposed for audio signals with a large amount of harmonic content, such as the male singing voice, and shown to improve dereverberation performance. Finally listening test opinion scores are presented. These show that predictive deconvolution processed speech was judged to be closer to the anechoic source than the reverberant version by 65% to 70% of subjects; scores recorded for female speech processed with the combined predictive deconvolution and kurtosis maximization approach are higher than scores for kurtosis maximization alone.

supervisor: Woods, R. 



Hosltead, Rachel | 2005

Portfolio of original compositions

This Portfolio of Original Compositions highlights the development of my compositional approach during the years 2001 to 2004. Nine pieces of music are assessed:  Rain between the Showers for tape, For Two for oboe, clarinet and trumpet, Jatayu for flute/piccolo/alto flute and 8-channel tape, dissolving into light for clarinet, viola and piano, One.. many for solo soprano, flute, oboe, percussion, double bass, 4 drum kits, DJ, small vocal ensemble, choir, Balinese gamelan and electronics, Enchant for tape, Around the Corner:  Souvenirs of a day on Rathlin for high and low voice, kayagum and bass viol, Thar an bhfarraige gheal (Over bright sea) for seannós singer, Irish traditional fiddle, 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and tape and Music for Metropolis for amplified violin and double bass, electronics and tape.


Through this body of work, issues of style, technique, expression and form, and the roles of context, collaboration, intuition, compositional and pre-compositional processes are explored.

supervisor: Alcorn, M.