Zack Settel


Immersive Music 

In the world of electronic arts, the concept of immersion has often been associated with the kinds of audiovisual (but particularly visual) experiences that are nowadays frequently encountered in computer gaming and virtual reality applications. At the base of this concept is the ability to render the audiovisual encounter for the perspective of a specific individual, thereby strengthening that individual's impression of "being there", i.e. being surrounded or immersed in the content.  In audio and certainly in music however, there have been comparatively few advances made in this direction.  Surround Sound technology marks the current level of the immersive audio experience.  Unlike current image rendering technology (e.g. OpenGL), its potential for rendering sound in space is quite limited, allowing for only a general notion of sound source directionality or incidence. 

Music in space has long captivated the imagination of composers of various epochs. From Ives to Stockhausen, ideas concerning the experience of music in space, and composition strategies have reflected thinking on the subject.  With the ability to model and simulate the experience of sound in space come many fascinating possibilities. Some of these possibilities can allow us to experiment on a very fundamental level, where rules concerning our perception of sound can be modified (e.g. "narrow focus hearing"). 

This talk will present (1) an immersive audio environment called Soundscape, which has been developed during the past two years at the Centre for Intelligent Machines at McGill University;  and (2) the arrival of Immersive music, as explored and developed during this time by the composer. 



Zack Settel Oct. 2006 1 Zack Settel was born in 1957 and raised in the New York area. He received a BFA in Music Composition from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he studied composition with Leonard Stein, Morton Subotnick, Mel Powell, and Morton Feldman. Keenly interested in the use of technology in music production/performance, Settel moved to Paris in 1986, with a Fulbright Scholarship for computer music research and composition at the Institute for Research and the Coordination of Acoustics and Music (IRCAM), headed by Pierre Boulez. After a two-year composing residency there, Settel remained at IRCAM until 1995, working full-time in the music production and music research groups. In 1997 Settel returned to North America, where he was a professor at McGill University in Canada for two years, chairing the Music Technology area, and teaching courses and graduate seminars in computer music. He was a visiting professor of composition at the University of Montreal (UDM) in 2001-02. 

In addition to composing full time, Settel now is an associate professor in music composition at the UDM. He is also in (arts/science) collaboration with the Center for Intelligent Machines at McGill, working on immersive audio/music. Since 2003, Settel has directed the immersive audio research group at the Societé des Arts Technologiques (La SAT) in Montreal. 

Some of Settel's music includes the use of advanced live interactive electro-acoustic systems. He has composed chamber works, studio works, as well as music for film, video, television, theater, dance, and opera. His music is published by Editions Ambrioso (Paris), recorded on the CENTAUR, ICMA, MIT Press, and Empreints Digitales labels, and is performed regularly in North/South America and in Europe and Asia. 

Settel has composed music for Television and Film, and has worked with various performing ensembles including the Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris), Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (Montréal), Zeitgeist (Minneapolis), the California Ear Unit (Los Angeles), and Chants Libres (Montréal).

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