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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 time.

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 several.

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)