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SCSU music professors debut piece at New Music + Technology Festival

Jun 03, 2023Jun 03, 2023

Three Department of Music faculty members at St. Cloud State University recently debuted a new piece of music titled "Coupling" at the New Music + Technology Festival in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The piece began development in 2022 at the Spatial Music Workshop in Virginia Tech's Cube, a five-story-high, state-of-the-art theatre and high tech laboratory that serves multiple platforms of creative practice.

Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. Shannon Wettstein Sadler attended the week-long workshop, which offered an opportunity to became familiar with working in the massive, immersive audio environment at Virginia Tech. The Cube has over 125 speakers, offering exciting possibilities for exploring sound in new ways.

"We spent a tremendous amount of time working and experimenting with how sound came out of speakers in the space, how it would move in different ways and be transformed depending on what Shannon was playing at the piano," Miller said. "It was a fantastic bit of fun."

Miller comes from a classical music background and specializes in composing electroacoustic work. He wrote "Coupling" over the past year, often working with Saddler and percussionist Dr. Terry Vermillion in SCSU's Performing Arts Center. While they only had eight speakers at their disposal to practice, they were still prepared to perform "Coupling" at Virginia Tech on May 2.

"The title refers to the coupling between sound in the space and what happens to it," Miller said. "The sound seems to move in the environment, and with that many speakers that can be a subtle and interesting experience."

"Coupling" serves as a complementary work for Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Kontakte", a seminal work of spatial music for piano, percussion, and 4-channel tape.

"The percussion and piano is influencing the sound we hear and where it's coming from," Miller added. "There's an overlap between the sound it does make and the sounds we hear electronically; the source of the sound is ambiguous. That can be very dramatic and shape your experience in interesting ways."

Miller is now in the process of finding performance opportunities in Minnesota for "Coupling". You can watch the May 2 performance here.