Albert Andersen's Exploration of Harmonics for Innovation in Sound

We catch up with Music Production & Sound Engineering student Albert Andersen for a Q&A to discuss his Innovation in Sound honours project. Read on to find out more about his work ahead of the exhibition at The Watershed this week on the 5th and 6th of May.

This week on the 5th and 6th of May, third-year undergraduate students from across dBs will be showcasing their Innovation in Sound honours projects at The Watershed for a public exhibition. The student cohort has created some dazzling projects to exhibit, from installations to immersive AV performances. Here, we caught up with Music Production & Sound Engineering student Albert Andersen for a Q&A to discuss his project ahead of the launch of the exhibition this Thursday.

Tell me about yourself. What are you studying at dBs and what’s your background in music?

Albert Andersen: I'm doing Music Production & Sound Engineering at dBs. I've been making music since I was probably about 13 or 14. I started out in early 2012 when big, American dubstep came to Denmark. I never really grew up with underground club music, so I think that was my entry into electronic music. Then I ended up discovering Drum and Bass and more of the sound design side of things. Four years ago, I thought to myself that either I was gonna start studying in Denmark, or I was going to move to Bristol. Bristol has been on the map for ages. I decided I was going to move to Bristol for between three and six months, but I just ended up loving it here, so I decided to stay and study at dBs.

Were you aware of the sound culture in Bristol when you were growing up in Denmark?Portrait of Albert Andersen djing at Take 5 Cafe

AA: Yeah, definitely. I got into Culprate and KOAN sound all of that sort of stuff and there's an old production forum called Neuro Hop Production Forum. There weren't really that many people active, but it seemed like everybody was from Bristol. Either Bristol or Brisbane weirdly enough. That helped to form my knowledge of Bristol music.

Once you moved to Bristol, you decided to study at dBs. How has dBs influenced the way your journey as a producer?

AA: I applied to the Music Production & Sound Engineering and the Electronic Music Production course. I got accepted into both, but I decided to do the Sound Engineering one. As I said, I've been dabbling in producing music for quite a while now, but I never really understood the production aspect, as in mixing and engineering. I thought that was something I'd like to hone in on and do a bit more with. Also, in terms of getting work afterwards, I thought it'd make a bit more sense to learn engineering as a skill. I think, in terms of my music tastes, that has really been influenced more by being in Bristol than specifically dBs. But in terms of production, I've just learnt to do a lot less to my production - to not completely over-produce it. I've learned loads over the past three years, but it's really difficult to say what has come from where. I think specifically this year with Innovation in Sound with Emmanuel Spinelli, that's been a massive highlight; getting into the more abstract sonics outside of music has been really interesting.

What has it been like learning from Emmanuel?

AA: I've absolutely loved it. I think what I’ve enjoyed most is the contextualization of sound as fine art. When you listen to it, it can feel a little bit pretentious; a little bit gate-kept. But then once you start understanding the context of why certain things have been done, it opens up this completely new way of using sound as a medium, not just for listening to tunes and making music, but something that's more of an art piece rather than for consumption. When I make music, I think about it being mixed. I think about how mixdowns will sound in a club. It's very within the framework of music, whereas the stuff Emmanuel has been teaching is completely outside of that, which has been really interesting.

Landscape image of Albert Andersen djing

What is your project for the Innovation in Sound exhibition this week?

AA: It's really difficult to explain. I think it's easier to talk about what I've done. I've taken different recordings of naturally resonant objects. There's one recording of the Freedom Bell in Berlin. There's one recording of the Blackpool Tram Bell and I've got one of a gong. Then I took the recordings and did an FFT analysis of them and picked out the five most prominent harmonics of those recordings. I've created a patch in Max that takes the information from set harmonics and sort of re-synthesises it. There's an interview with Éliane Radigue where she had to do a piece and remove the transient sounds from recordings of bells. What's left in the recording is just the ringing out harmonics. It's quite interesting taking something that's usually quite a transient sound and then there's no transience in the middle. In the piece, I'm doing it's a drone performance, so it is taking those sounds of gongs and bells and stretching them to infinity.

Is there going to be a visual aspect to the performance as well?

AA: Hopefully! Yes, I've done visuals in TouchDesigner, which is a free programme, you can code. It's like Max for Live, but with visual elements. I've created a visual programme for that. I'm still working out how to integrate it into a seamless performance, but the plan is that there's going to be visuals for the performance as well.

Albert Andersen behind a disco ballAre you excited to perform it at the Innovation in Sound Exhibition?

AA: Yeah, I'm very excited. It's gonna be on the multichannel system as well, with eight speakers. It should be quite an immersive experience. I had my first listen to it on the 8.1 system last week and I was surprised by how well it actually works doing it in proper surround.

What's the process of that whole project been like?

AA: Emmanuel taught us about Max in maybe week four of the first semester and I just really got along with it. There's something in my brain that just clicked with it. The music I make outside of this project is made using a modular setup and I love using that. I think Max just proved to be a way to have a modular setup with an infinite amount of modules and no space requirements or cost requirements for it. So it was just sort of using a module interface in a computer programme. I really got along with Max. For the first semester, I built the base patch and I've just expanded on the patch I created in the first semester for the exhibition, which is, again, based on taking those recordings and doing the FFT analysis and then creating the relationships between the harmonics in Max. It’s quite simple in a sense, but it's taken a lot of fiddling to get it right. It’s all been based in Max pretty much and in terms of the discipline Emmanuel has been teaching us, which is not sort of linear music, it does help to make something like that in Max where you haven't really got a timeline, you’re not really recording anything; it is a generative system in itself.

Albert has also submitted his dissertation, which is an exploration of the psychology of noise music; why people listen to it and what psychological drivers there are for noise music consumption. You can catch Albert’s Innovation in Sound performance at the Watershed this Thursday 5th May. Register for a ticket to the exhibition here.

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