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Relationship of Minimalism to Electronics? (any good refs?)
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Stanley Pain



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

is a sine wave more minimal than a square wave?
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Acoustic Interloper wrote:
elektro80 wrote:
Very Happy
Try attaching that file to a post.

Duh. Here goes nuthin'.

This is an early sketch. I posted the original question in early July, & just installed & started to learn Live to house this prototype about 10 days ago. I made this MP3 mostly so my son can work out bass accompaniment.


THX for posting this. I see what you are getting at, This is quite interesting work. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 1:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

a pleasant piece indeed Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Stanley Pain wrote:
is a sine wave more minimal than a square wave?
Absolutely!

Actually I'm a maximalist who enjoys an occasional minimalist encounter, John Adams being one of my favorites.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
This is quite interesting work. Very Happy

seraph wrote:
a pleasant piece indeed Very Happy

Thanks. This approach has potential. Listening to that exercise, a couple of issues to be worked out in this early stage of investigation come out:

1. The ratio of foreground / background, for example accented melody notes to background harmony and drones, is a little washed out. Live's generated WAV file needed a little post-processing, but that's only a minor problem and perhaps my inexperience in using Live. But the first big problem is that I don't have a good way to hear the final effects of the wet/dry mix and the feedback in the delays yet! The reason that I don't is that I am sitting in a room playing an acoustic instrument while wearing headphones, but the headphones do not block room sounds much at all (in fact I like to use them outside to superimpose the sounds of the neighborhood birds on music I'm listening to sometimes), so when I am playing I hear a much higher ratio of dry-to-wet, and less feedback, and hence more foreground in this piece, than what comes out of loudspeakers.

So I think in general there is a problem for anyone playing an acoustic instrument into a DSP chain, that because the player will *always* hear the acoustic instrument up in the mix, while the listeners may not (depending on room size & acoustics), they may get two different perceptions of the piece. In fact, to some degree, they always will.

I could switch from headphones to monitors, but that doesn't really fix the problem. The banjo is still there, and my mic/FX seem very sensitive to feedback. I plan on looking into headphones with better isolation from room sounds. I also need to project using speakers/amplifiers, and let my son pass some judgements on these two parameters. He has a good ear, but he's headed off to audio production school in Canada next month, so I've got to act soon. Also I can capture a raw audio trace, then play that through the effects and stand in front of the speakers, but of course the acoustic contribution of the banjo is then zero. Fundamentally, there's no way anyone playing a mic'd-then-processed instrument can hear what listeners hear, but then I suppose that's true of any performance to some degree.

Additional issues come from how this processing changes the hearing of arpeggios. Three-finger-picked banjo is all about arpeggios; in my case they are often arpeggios over intervals+1 or more pedal points; in bluegrass they are typically arpeggios over chords, with accented melody and passing chromatic notes, which I also use. In unprocessed playing the pedal points are interrupted repeatedly, at least because they are plucked repetitively, but also sometimes because I'll use a string alternately as an open pedal point and a fretted melody or harmony note. In this exercise there is a low B pedal point on the open 4th string and an E pedal on the 3rd string, between which I alternate, and I also hammer and play other notes on those strings, alternating with the pedal points. So, in normal playing, the pedal points pop in and out. But in this exercise, the pedals sustain as drones, because even when I am picking something else on that string, a delayed copy of the pedal is still playing. In this exercise it sounds almost like a droning horn in the background. I think it works, and it's one of the attractions, but in order to cultivate technique I've got to hear it and learn how to control it while playing, partly via the wet/dry and feedback parameters, and partly by downplaying accents on pedal points where appropriate. Technique! An opportunity to explore!

Another issue that I haven't studied is how the notes of the delayed parts align in time with respect to harmony. So far I have concentrated on accents and rhythm, because I need a sense of that while playing. In normaly playing its common to toss in some transitory chromatic notes, partly because the arpeggiated playing style quickly resolves them in the next pick. But with delays they stay around. It suugests the possibility of emergent chords, where the notes I am playing do not form a chord until they line up in time via delays, and so you could have very fast chord voices and chord-to-chord "flutterings," where the sound flutters at eighth note speed, between two emergent chords. There is a hint of this between 2:00 and 2:15 in the piece, where harmony flutters between a B and an E tonal center, but that already exists in the strictly acoustic piece, and is at a coarse time frame. (Last night when my wife heard this recording, she commented positively on that section exactly as she did the acoustic version a few months ago.) The delays would allow very fast, emergent fluttering, but that will require some planning of harmonies distributed across time. You can hear that sort of thing in Reich's pieces, albeit one instrument against another rather than delayed arpeggios on 1 instrument.

Finally there is an appropriate quote from Reich in an essay "The Desert Music - Steve Reich in Conversation with Jonathan Cott (1984)", which is chapter 28 in Reich's *Writings on Music 1965-2000*, which I read after I posted the exercise. (I've already quoted from a different part of this essay, Reich's thoughts on microtones, at http://electro-music.com/forum/post-130786.html#130786). I think this quote applies to the exercise pretty well.
Quote:

JC: All great events, William Blake once stated, start with the pulsation of an artery. It's almost as if one could say, "In the beginning was the Pulse." And in the beginning of "The Desert Music," one immediately enters the realm of pulsation.

SR: Purely, And without anything else added. The opening of the piece is a kind of chorale, only instead of individual chords sounding for a given length of held notes, they're pulsed; instead of a steady tone, you get rapid eighth notes repeating over and over again, which sets up a kind of rhythmic energy that you'd never get if the notes were sustained. And that energy is maintained in different ways by the mallet instruments throughout the work. "The Desert Music" begins with this pulsation in order to set up the feeling, structure, and harmony of the entire piece.

This is going to be fun sunny

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Nicholas Slonimsky once told me it was like listening to a washing machine or an air conditioner. I've always loved old washing machines. Wink


Hey, Howard, check out the stepping motor and solenoids at the start of our washing machine water-fill cycle. No modifications other than volume. Also the drain pipe in the basement at the end of washing. Don't worry, you'll get to hear it in a piece. There's lots more where this came from shakng2

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Acoustic Interloper wrote:
1. The ratio of foreground / background, for example accented melody notes to background harmony and drones, is a little washed out. Live's generated WAV file needed a little post-processing, but that's only a minor problem and perhaps my inexperience in using Live. But the first big problem is that I don't have a good way to hear the final effects of the wet/dry mix and the feedback in the delays yet! The reason that I don't is that I am sitting in a room playing an acoustic instrument while wearing headphones, but the headphones do not block room sounds much at all (in fact I like to use them outside to superimpose the sounds of the neighborhood birds on music I'm listening to sometimes), so when I am playing I hear a much higher ratio of dry-to-wet, and less feedback, and hence more foreground in this piece, than what comes out of loudspeakers.


This is a classic problem and seems like you should work on improving the monitoring. Very Happy
If the artist ( you ) needs a wet mix in order to perform well, then obviously the engineer ( you ) must fix this in the monitoring mix.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
This is a classic problem and seems like you should work on improving the monitoring. Very Happy
If the artist ( you ) needs a wet mix in order to perform well, then obviously the engineer ( you ) must fix this in the monitoring mix.

Yep. Got a decent pair of isolating headphones since that post. Problem solved. Now the problem is that I can't hear my wife calling to me. Guess now I need to rig up a light bulb.

This is my first time picking banjo into an electro vortex. Setup is at least an order of magnitude more complicated than acoustic playing, but it sure is a lot of fun so far. Finished the Reich book and there is a lot of stuff there that applies. At performance time it's almost like having a couple or three split personalities being time shared at 8th or 16th note multiplexing intervals. 36 years of finger picking pays off! It's tempting to get lost listening while playing. Don't know if anybody's seriously applied finger picked arpeggio patterns to superimposed modulo delay stages before. It's like walking into a house of mirrors.

Have a good weekend.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Just finished Steve Recih's *Writings on Music 1965-2000*, and decided to quote one final passage before putting it on the shelf, a passage that touches on electro-as-folk-music (a recurring discussion at EM in Philly) and "pop music - composing" relationship under discussion in another thread here. Book was very helpful in thinking about how to process rapidly finger-arpeggiated banjo music.
46. Jonathan Cott Interviews Beryl Korot and Steve Reich (1993) wrote:
You can get a good hit on what folk music is today by simply looking in the window of any music store. What do you see? Samplers, amplifiers, electric guitars and keyboards -- all kinds of electronics. These are street instruments . . .
Historically, composers have always been interested in folk music and the popular music of their day as well. You have dance forms used in Bach's suites, before him you have popular tunes like L'Homme Arme` being used for the basis of large mass settings in the Renaissance, and more recently you have Bartok using Hungarian folk tunes in many of his compositions . . . It seems to me when composers look down on all the popular music around them, they are generally suffering from some sort of emotional disorder.

Miles Davis used to say that hus music reflected the sounds he heard walking down the street. As the sounds changed over time, so did his music.
Acoustic Interloper wrote:
Problem solved. Now the problem is that I can't hear my wife calling to me.

Well, she put the headphones on last night and ran her lap dulcimer through some effects chains for the very first time, and it took a while until she gave me the machine back. Gives new meanimg to the word "laptop." I need some drones in a raga. May have to buy another mic and set of headphones.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

banjo4thdelay.mp3

I like this.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
banjo4thdelay.mp3

I like this.

Thanks, Howard. I am glad you like it. That banjo is the long necked Tubaphone that you liked best when Jeremy & I visited the other year. It gives clean hammers at and above the 12th fret, at the cost of high action and somewhat difficult fingering.

The laptop with Live is being fixed now -- Linda says some of the emusic experiments probably broke it -- can't wait to get back to this. There are some very promising nascent techniques. String slides have a lot of promise. Found that if I use parallel 1/4 and 3/8 note delays with medium feedback in the delay units, which borders between a *discrete fine grain polyrhythm* and a *finely distributed musical dust*, and then pick melodies-over-chords by sliding my left hand for all the changes, it gives this very continuous glassy sound, somewhat like a synthesized slide guitar. When transitioning from a piece with the delay setup of that mp3 file, it sounds like like a completely different 'synth patch.' It's facsinating what can be done with temporal cut-copy-paste of an acoustic audio signal.

Thanks for getting me looking closer at this stuff, due to that visit to your house and also Cheltenham Very Happy After we get our 2 out-of-state college visits done in September, I'll stop by with some gear when you have time. Gotta show you that new banjo, too.

Take care.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Nicholas Slonimsky once told me it was like listening to a washing machine or an air conditioner. I've always loved old washing machines. Wink

Have an update on *Ordinary Machinery* at http://www.virb.com/dparson , at least 3 washing machine samples in the middle.

I like the fingers squeaking on banjo strings at 6:20.

Had a punker throw me the between 10:30 and 11:30 (a section inspired by Bjork dancing to factory machines in her movie "Dancing in the Dark"), bobbing his head to the music while sitting in traffic the other day. Never had that for the banjo before.

Words by Sierra Parson, Tune by Yours Truly.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Acoustic Interloper wrote:

Have an update on *Ordinary Machinery* at http://www.virb.com/dparson , at least 3 washing machine samples in the middle.


listening now, I like it Very Happy btw, I sent you a friend request Exclamation
the real fun starts 12 minutes into the piece Cool
wow!

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
listening now, I like it Very Happy btw, I sent you a friend request Exclamation
the real fun starts 12 minutes into the piece Cool
wow!

Thanks! Yeah, I just opened the Virb account, gotta dress it up a little when I get time.

The recording is a little rough because my son was packing his ProTools LE machine for the move to Canada, so we just did one unedited take. But, I have fun listening to it, too!

The goal for that section at 12 minutes is to have it sound like an old 'fun house' or 'haunted house' ride at an amusement park, where the little car you sit in bangs around into different rooms where strange noisy shit jumps out at you. The sounds are ordered roughly EARTH (machine) hit by AIR (wind) creates FIRE (engine) which is doused by WATER. Three of us had a fun day finding those samples, discarded a lot more than we used, although I did break a 30 year old chainsaw in the process. It never made the piece.

My daughter had written a short story at college about a girl going a little crazy listening to the machinery in her house, that fit with the Steve Reich stuff I was reading and also Howard's washing machine comment, so that's how the piece came together. It's a little disjointed like a patchwork, but it works on a sort of 'fall from one state of consciousness into another, all day long' kind of level.

Glad you liked it. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Like it too, had expected maybe a banjo sound explosion or something at around 12:00 after reading Carlo, but not words. Nice construction.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Blue Hell wrote:
Nice construction.
Thank you. My daughter Sierra hasn't heard the final structure yet, taking a copy to her in New Mexico during a visit later this week. She's looking at grad schools for a master's in creative writing with a focus on poetry, and I'm trying to get her interested in possible work on non-deterministic poetry structures. This is a little piece of bait.

I've started chanting "Absurd Amount of Space" when I get stuck in traffic now.

I think there may be a new subgenre here, electro jug band music. In addition to found household instruments like gut buckets, washboards and jugs, add found household samples. The thing I always liked about jug band music is turning whatever's around the house or barn into a musical instrument. It's a good idea.

Take care. Smile

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Acoustic Interloper wrote:

Going back to the 'taking a walk' metaphor, it seems like good minimalism would entrain attention on the little steps being taken, only to reveal surprise when looking back over terrain (mountains, forests) crossed.


i've had exactly this feeling when i was going through a kraftwerky phase and was listening to "europe endless" on repeat on a long train ride --- when it got to the end of the song and started over, i realized that the ending was in a slightly higher octave or key (i don't know music terminology at all) or what-have-you than the beginning of the song, even though if i had only listened beginning-to-end without hearing it jump back to the beginning i could have sworn it didn't change. seems like a small difference to notice, but on a very simple song like that it really stands out. the "looking over terrain" feeling definitely occurred to me, too.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Over time, I've come to almost a complete reversal on my response to ambient music. In the old days, the 1970s, we called it steady-state music. Many people, including me, called it boring music. This is because there is very little change and it is hard to keep your mind on it. It's not all the interesting.

In the last few years, I've been practicing mindfulness, or mindful meditation. At least in my environs, when I listen to ambient sounds (not talking music here, just the sounds of the neighborhood), I hear nothing at all that is steady-state. Dogs bark, motorcycles, planes fly buy, the fridge, cars and trucks, birds chirp and skwak, kids scream, mowers, saws, helicopters going to the local hospital emergency room, trains, etc. If you listen, there is always some "event" to attract your attention. There is rarely any silence. I live in a relatively rural suburban area, BTW.

Maybe centuries ago, you could go for a short walk and get to some place where there was an eventless soundscape. I'm sure today you can find it if you travel to an isolated region. Ambient music, or steady-state, or maybe another term; eventless music, provides this missing peaceful sonic environment that we (at least I) lack in modern life.

So, lately, I appreciate greatly this kind of musical experience. Maybe it's not musical like Beethoven of Squarepusher, but whatever you call it, I'm more and more appreciative of it.

I don't appreciate the other kind of music less, but eventless music actually had increase my appreciation for eventful music.

What this has to do with electronics, I don't know.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Picked up another lesson in this study yesterday, Bang on a Can's performance of Philip Glass' 'Music in Fifths' and 'Two Pages.' My wife and daughter couldn't stand to hear it in the car Razz Laughing Twisted Evil , my daughter's boyfriend started humming and whistling the opening bars of 'Music in Fifths' for the next hour, which I enjoyed and they ignored. I think Bang on a Can's performance of Riley's 'In C' is better, but I just got thru a full listen of the new one with headphones, and it ain't half bad.

In terms of composition I often think in terms of foreground & background. Finger picking guitar or banjo emphasizes a foreground / background orientation, because some subset of the finger action is accented and brings out a foreground (possibly a melody, possibly just a shifting pattern of accented notes), and some subset sets up a (possibly shifting) background. I've heard people describe some of my tunes as listening to multiple instruments, and its becasue of this shifting fg/bg interaction, along with instrument propeties such as a sustaining tone ring that puts more flesh on the background.

Some ambient pieces strike me as all background with no foreground, which is OK, and is in fact almost a definition of the word 'ambient.' The listener supplies the foreground, or perhaps other activities in the environment. What I find in the minimalist pieces that I enjoy, is that the foreground is emergent and in places ambiguous. It's like looking into a fog, and the fog begins to show interlocking patterns of light and dark, and then actual figures emerge and recede.

I like that emergent aspect, find it magical. In some Buddhist literature they talk a lot about great potentiality. On kind of great potentiality is that of the subconscious, and to me the better minimalist pieces are like doors into the subconscious. They speak to the great potentiality there.
mosc wrote:
What this has to do with electronics, I don't know.

Well, there are definite mechanical aspects to this music of the 'Ordinary Machinery.' I guess Reich's early tape pieces would have been impossible to do without electronics, along with some of the time stretching approaches he proposed decades before they could be done, at least in real time. This Bang on a Can arrangement is all acoustic instruments, but the actual playing is so mechanically precise - without inflection on individual notes or phrases, the inflection all being in how two or more parts/sets-of-instruments change their juxtaposition over time -- that it might be easier to program a machine to play the parts than to play them. This is one of the problems I have had with using the String Studio softsynth for instruments like violin, getting the inflection. But with this music you don't need inflection on individual notes, don't want it in fact. This latest piece has given me ideas for phasing sets of different argeggiators across a piece. I am usually not a big fan of synth arpeggios because I play arpeggios so much and vary them so much in finger picking, but I am hearing how to use concurrent mechanical arpeggios as building blocks, with their interference patterns supplying the expressiveness. More work to do . . .

So, maybe electronic instruments would be better at supplying more mechanical aspects of these pieces than strictly human/acoustic performers. But Bang on a Can does a bang up job on nailing the mechanics of this stuff!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I finally got an afternoon to work on some processed banjo, fairly minimal if not minimalist. When I wrote "49th Winter" in March, 2003, after some solitary cross-country skiing in a snowstorm in a forest, I figured it was a candidate for rounds. The only processing here is looping the first chorus as a round via Ableton Live.

Question for loopers: When you capture your sample and set it in motion, how do you get the launch times to be predictable? Live seems not to be entirely predictable, regardless of how I quantize "launch time," my preference being None. I am triggering with a MIDI foot controller, but I don't seem to get consistent delays for starting & stopping the loop. Is it Live or Me? You'll hear my ugly edits for this in the recording. Is it just that I need practice?

My gut feeling is just to use *really long delays* in software I write and forget about using a looping tool. Typical programmer.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

lovely to listen to it after midnight thumb up well done
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The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; the motions of his spirit are dull as night and his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted. - W. Shakespeare
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Acoustic Interloper



Joined: Jul 07, 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
lovely to listen to it after midnight thumb up well done

Glad you like it. It's captures the mood of that day.

I often play banjo for my 93 year old Mother, who can't hold up her end of a conversation so much anymore, but who still likes music. She appreciates all the tunes, and expresses disappointment if I don't bring an instrument with me on visits. But no matter what she says about any other tune, she always says, "That's really pretty" after that one.

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Acoustic Interloper



Joined: Jul 07, 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I was describing some of the Minimalist-related approaches to using delays, and the problems of entraining one's listening/playing with an interactively delayed audio stream, to my nephew last night. Another engineer. His mother is a speech therapist, and he told me about this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-stuttering_devices
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Delayed auditory feedback (DAF) was first used to reduce stuttering in 1964. A DAF user hears his or her voice in headphones, delayed a fraction of a second. Typical delays are in the 50 millisecond to 200 millisecond range (one-twentieth to one-fifth of a second). DAF was believed to reduce stuttering by slowing the speaking rate of users. For example, a 195 millisecond delay reduced stuttering 85% while also slowing speaking rate 60%.1 DAF was used in fluency shaping stuttering treatment programs to induce a slow speech rate. Speech-language pathologists then trained stutterers to use fluent speech motor skills such as relaxing their breathing, vocal folds, and lips, jaw, and tongue during speech. After stutterers mastered these fluent speech motor skills at slow speaking rates, speech-language pathologiusts trained stutterers to increase their speaking rate while maintaining these fluent speech motor skills. Eventually the stutterers were trained to speak fluently at normal speaking rates. Such stuttering treatment programs did not encourage stutterers to use DAF devices outside of the speech clinics. The result, unfortuneatly, was that some stutterers learned to speak fluently in low-stress conversations in a speech clinic but were unable to transfer their fluent speech motor skills to normal stress conversations outside of the speech clinic.

In 1993, a study found that DAF reduced stuttering at both normal speaking rates and at slower speaking rates.2 This study also found that a new type of altered auditory feedback called frequency-altered auditory feedback (FAF) also reduced stuttering at normal speaking rates, as well as at slower speaking rates. A user of FAF hears his or her voice in headphones shifted higher or lower in pitch, typically one-half octave. Many studies found that DAF and FAF reduce stuttering in the 60-80% range, at normal speaking rates, without the users' speech sounding abnormal, without training or speech therapy, typically while reading aloud in a speech clinic. Combining DAF and FAF is generally more effective than DAF or FAF alone. 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 These studies led to the current trend of using anti-stuttering devices prosthetically, that is, without speech therapy.

Playing music against one's own near-past audio stream is certainly an interesting way to focus consciousness.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

YES. This is a great technique. I do it a lot. I delay what I hear by several seconds, sometimes up to 1/2 minute, when playing on my keyboard. This is my favorite way to improvise. Maybe I'm a musical stutterer.
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