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Aaron McLeran’s Piano Transformation MP3s

There’s no datestamp to the entry, but up on the website of composer Aaron McLeran are examples of granular synthesis methods that he has applied to a sample of solo piano. The original is a slow, romantic piano piece (MP3). Following that are five digital etudes, each applying a different transformational technique to the original. What’s immediately striking about the five variations is the relative absence of that telltale sign of granular synthesis: those brittle, glitchy, abrasive micro-slices of sound that often seem like the sample has been shredded to pieces by some landmine, with virtually no resmblance to the source material.

Quite the contrary here — for example, version three (MP3) retains the shape of the unmediated version, but it sounds more like a more shrill rendition, as if played on some sort of alien glass harmonica. Likewise version five (MP3), which, again, follows the contours of the original, though the melody is now rougher, as if a DJ were muting it heavily and rapidly excising segments with a volume knob.

The research is evidence of work McLeran is doing at the Media Arts and Technology graduate program at UC Santa Barbara, with professor Curtis Roads and with Bob Sturm, a PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering. More information and the complete list of files at mat.ucsb.edu/~amcleran.

According to the MAT website, mat.ucsb.edu, McLeran, Roads, and Sturm,  working with another professor, John Shynk, were recently recognized with a Best Paper award for work on “atomic decompositions” at the 2008 International Computer Music Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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