electronic music design, klangregie

the computer music designer, or more generally “electronic music designer”, is a musician and sound engineer specialized in conceiving, producing and performing electronic music or the live electronics part of a music piece, dance, theater or sound installation project. the electronic music elements usually consists partly in pre-recorded elements that are spatialized (“projected”) live during the performance, partly in synthesized sounds produced by electronic music instruments which are live performed, and partly in real-time processing of live (acoustic and electronic) sounds.

for repertoire pieces, the computer music designer relies among others upon the score from the very beginning of the conception of the concert. during the performance in the hall, she or he executes the notated instructions as the other musicians.

for new music pieces, the computer music designer often starts working on the project in close cooperation with the composer long before the first performance, and thus not only on the technical conception of a project, but also on the formal, musical and sonic conception and development of the electronic music instruments that will be used during the performance.

about the term “computer music designer”

the term “computer music designer” (based on the french term “réalisateur en informatique musicale”) has been suggested by ircam in 2005 and is currently often used in many countries (1). it is precise but somehow limiting, since it focusses on the technical tool and, on top of that, on only one of the many analog and digital tools that are used (the computer). as far as technique is concerned, the computer music designer has to consider the whole electroacoustic chain (from the microphone/sensor until the loudspeaker): connecting a microphone or a sensor to an amplifier, even without any further dedicated processing, already forms an electroacoustic music instrument, which many musical works of all genres deliberately used.

analog and digital tools

it’s also worth noting that many computed-based and more generally digital audio processing techniques (for instance filters, distortions, delays, amplitude and frequency modulations…) are directly inspired by pure analog techniques, regardless of the software which is used (as for instance max/msp, pure data, reaktor, as well as all digital audio workstations – daw). this of course should not overshadow the peculiarities of the computer and the many unique possibilities it opens up, but this should encourage to consider all elements, both analog and digital, of the electroacoustic chain, as a whole.

electronic and acoustic perspective

on top of that, the conception of the electroacoustic part of the project of course imperatively requires to address it from acoustical (acoustic production of sounds and their propagation in the hall) and perceptual perspectives as well in order for instance to correctly select, dimension and position the sensors, microphones and electroacoustic sources with the aim of being as close as possible to the perceptual goal.

in this regard, the german term “klangregie” or “klangregisseur” (historically one of the first one being used, and for instance popularized by luigi nono and karlheinz stockhausen), which has admittedly the opposite drawback of being too general (“klangregie” means simply “sound direction” or “sound production”), is more adapted. It mostly refers however to a very last part of the production, i.e. the performance and/or diffusion (“sound projection”) of the electronics during the concert.

(1) some other terms, like “sound director”, “musical assistant”, “electronic musician”, have been employed to designate this function.


selected projects