The NTONYX Computer Laboratory (NCL) was established in 1984 as the
Novosibirsk Computer Laboratory by research collaborators of the Computer
Department of the Novosibirsk State Conservatory, including engineers,
programmers, acousticians, psychologists and musicians who specialized in the
development and application of software and hardware for electronic music.
Before 1990, the NCL's primary activities involved performing projects to
order for industrial enterprises. During that time, it developed several
products, including Data Filer for musical instruments, Car Sound Processor,
Telegraph Adapter and the Music Computer, which was the first computer based on
Apple II to be produced in the Soviet Union.
At present, the NCL is known in Russia as a scientific-industrial firm with
limited production of equipment using updated components. Scientific research
forms a considerable part of the laboratory's work. Particular focus is on the
fundamental question of the expressiveness of electronic music. According to the
NCL specialists' opinions, the main point of the problem lies not so much in the
improvement of sound-synthesis technology and the stability of tempo, pitch and
timbre - whose recent developments are widely regarded as signs of progress -
but in the lack of effective methods of influencing and controlling synthesis.
In many respects, the expressive characteristics of electronic music are
predetermined by synthesis, and the laboratory's specialists see their search in
this direction as a fruitful one. This suggests that the next step in the
development of electronic means of producing music will involve transferring the
sound extraction laws and norms of expressive intonation that function in music
as an art form.
In their attempts to solve this problem, the NCL specialists have created the
Integral Controller for solo synthesizer; the Tone Generator, which is based on
a concept of "family voices"; and the Style Enhancer (SE system), a program for
modeling performance and automatic processing of an electronic score to produce
a given form of expressiveness.
Rather than making use of the traditional wheels and joystick, the original
structure of the Integral Controller has six independent parameters, that give
the musician free rein to influence performance and control synthesis in real
A concept of "family voices" forms the basis for the Tone Generator, which
was realized with the help of a timbre-morphing method. In this case, one
synthesis channel for reproducing an expressive musical part - which includes
different methods of sound extraction and timbre shading - is used instead of
The main purpose of the SE System program is to model the rendering process
with due regard for instrument structure, performer physiology, sound extraction
technology and standard laws of intonation. The program algorithm includes the
analysis and transformation of musical data in accordance with a set of
regulated rules. In the course of modeling, a number of transforming functions
such as frequency, time and amplitude influence the initial data. As compared to
the traditional method of editing scores by hand, the program reduces the
composer's expenditure of time in the creation and arrangement of a musical
composition. It can also prove useful in the research activities of
musicologists and practical work of teachers, because its modeling methods allow
one to examine concealed mechanisms of the performance process.
The creation and approval of a practical version of the SE System spurred the
organization of the new Laboratory for the Modeling of Performance at the
Novosibirsk State Conservatory.
Alexei Ustinov, an educator at the Computer Department, is the organizer of
the NCL and the chief manager of its research projects...
Leonardo Music Journal (Special Issue, 1996, V.6, p.65)