Looking for the next big thing on the Billboard charts? With the right technology, the next big thing could be you. New recording techniques are changing the musical landscape both aesthetically and commercially, and Scott Douglas is demonstrating the connection between the arts and engineering through his work at Southern Methodist University.
MP3 sound files (contact Meredith Dickenson in News and Communications, 214-768-7650, if you have a slow connection or cannot play these clips):
|Soft rock --
after digital manipulation (2MB)
|Soft rock --
a cappella solo (1MB)
after digital manipulation (1.50MB)
a cappella solo (750KB)
after digital manipulation (1.25MB)
a cappella solo (825KB)
Scott Douglas tells you how here.
Will microchips kill the video star? Is technology becoming a substitute for ability? According to Douglas, professor of electrical engineering at the SMU School of Engineering, unique artistic expression hasn’t changed, only the tools. "In today's world, all artists need to be technologically savvy," says Douglas. "A good ear is still required, but now technology enhances and is an enabler to the singer."
Douglas says today's musical artists now must concentrate on the physical aspects of live performance to make an impact in the marketplace. Vocalists have been able to perfect their takes in the studio for decades, but new technology allows them to "fix" a performance even in real time. Is it live, or is it high tech?
Artists in today's recording studios never have to sing off-key again: Real-time manipulation can correct pitch-poor takes and even create a chorus of backup singers using only the lead vocalist's original track. In addition, the physical ability to play an instrument is being replaced by the capabilities of technology. Through signal processing, musicians can mimic the authentic sound of an electric guitar, saxophone, trumpet, flute or any instrument using specially equipped versions of any other instrument.
Several SMU classes focus on the relationship between the arts and engineering; in the near future, the School of Engineering and SMU's Meadows School of the Arts plan to forge a new degree program to merge the two fields. (Since the early '90s, the University has offered a dual-degree program in music and computer science, the first of its kind in the Southwest.)
"Artists need the technical education, and engineers need the artistic education," says Douglas. "We're moving toward a future in which we can clean up old recordings, separate voices in recordings, and synthesize voices, making the physical presence of the artist at a recording studio unnecessary."
To interview Douglas or to arrange a live demonstration, contact the SMU Office of News and Communications, 214-768-7650.