Over four decades, the University of Huddersfield has established itself as a global leader in contemporary music. Wide-ranging impacts in culture, education and commercial applications have grown from investment in world-class facilities and staff, and music inspired by the University’s leadership in this area has reached new audiences, developed generations of creative artists, and contributed to the vitality of cultural life in the UK and internationally. The University’s name is synonymous with excellence in contemporary music, and its distinctive legacy was recognised in 2015 with the award of the Queens Anniversary Prize.
CeReNeM was a key contributor to Huddersfield’s 90% score on Impact in REF2014, providing two 4* impact case studies. CeReNeM’s research and impact strategies are designed to encourage staff to produce world-leading research and, from this original work, to contribute significantly to both the academic and wider communities. Developing impact is not a separate goal in itself but arises from core research projects within the department.
The impact of CeReNeM’s research can be demonstrated in the development of new commercial software technologies; mobile applications; practice-led research in composition and performance disseminated internationally via concerts, recordings and broadcasts; and the rediscovery of a composer’s electronic music archive. The beneficiaries of this research represent a broad demographic reach, ranging from commercial musicians via Alex Harker’s convolution reverb plug-in for Ableton Live, to 5–18 year olds via outreach projects carried out by Monty Adkins and Philip Thomas in collaboration with hcmf// or the Australian Music Centre’s focus on Liza Lim’s work within the national curriculum framework in Australia, to audiences of the wider cultural industries, museums, heritage and arts organisations.
CeReNeM operates within a highly international framework supporting our staff and students to participate in a global knowledge community. Our work gains international visibility and impact through:
- Strategic partnerships with outstanding studios, other research centres and key industry and cultural partners
- Research exchange schemes that facilitate student and staff mobility with a particular focus on early career researcher development
- Public engagement in the form of festivals, residencies and a robust publications programme
Selected Impact Projects
HISSTools & Ableton Live digital audio workstation
Prof Pierre Alexandre Tremblay and Dr Alex Harker
Research by the University of Huddersfield has made a significant contribution through the development of state-of-the-art, modular, open-source software used in the creation and enhancement of electronic music. The HISSTools Impulse Response Toolbox allows users to deploy custom convolution-related solutions specific to their needs rather than having to rely on fixed and therefore inherently limited options, as was commonly the case previously. Its deliberately musician-centric approach has been acknowledged via international commercial adoption, including integration into a world-leading product with a user base of 1.7m and a crucial role in the design of concert halls by a global firm of engineering consultants.
Prof Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s research since 2005 into the performance practice of interactive instrumental music resulted in SRIF funding for the Huddersfield Immersive Sound System (HISS), which he designed and implemented in 2008. In 2011 Dr Alex Harker joined Huddersfield to work on the HISSTools project and released a package of 82 Max externals. These addressed a range of creative and technical problems in a modular fashion. Several of Dr Harker’s externals were based on innovative spectral processing techniques, including convolution. Rather than limiting the use of convolution techniques to emulating reverb, Dr Harker’s approach allows a more open set of applications. This research project included the development of the HIRT (Huddersfield Impulse Response Toolkit), software that offers encapsulated objects (or modules), each dealing with a specific convolution-related task or problem. Many are relevant to speaker/mic/room correction, while others have more general applications. The toolbox brings together a core set of pre-existing algorithms in a single package that has been practically evaluated for musical use. It is the modularity and flexibility of the toolbox that has allowed for its deployment in a range of musical applications and allows users to tailor solutions to context- specific needs.
The HISSTools Impulse Response Toolbox has helped make high-level technology available to mid-level practitioners and has become an integral component of the work of major international companies, organisations and independent research centres involved in the creation and reproduction of state-of-the-art sound. The flexibility and modularity of the Toolbox has been demonstrated by its uptake in a range of commercial and artistic contexts. These range from music production for new musical compositions at SudWestDeutscherRundfunk to the architectural consultants ARUP.
In 2012 Berlin-based software company Ableton, a world leader in its field, approached Dr Harker to develop a new convolution reverb device for the Max for Live environment to run within the firm’s flagship Live 9 software, which has an international user base of approximately 1.7m. This collaboration was initiated on the basis of an early version of the HISSTools Impulse Response Toolbox that was presented at both the Cycling ‘74 Expo 2011 and an event staged by NK (an artist- run, independent, non-profit organisation) in Berlin in early 2012.
Intercultural Research in the Arts
Prof Liza Lim
Prof Liza Lim’s research on musical intertextuality and the formation of cultural identity is central to her compositional practice and curatorial work.
As a result of her research, Prof Lim was invited to be one of 13 founding members of the Akademie der Künste der Welt, an international think-tank focused on intercultural dialogue based in Cologne and officially launched in October 2012. Lim’s specific contribution to the Akademie’s framework policy discussion on transcultural exchange and Indigenous culture has led to wider participation from cultural/demographic groups that have typically not accessed funding from grant bodies in Cologne and Germany’s North-Rhine-Westphalia region (population: 18m). Her curatorial work has directly brokered new partnerships between international and local artists and arts organisations in Cologne.
Lim’s work has also contributed to shifting attitudes to Indigenous culture in Australia. Writing in 2012, Dr Timothy McKenry, a music researcher at Australian Catholic University, described her as “one of the first music practitioners to set out what can be described as an ethical framework to govern the interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous music and musicians”.
This framework, which posits the need for collaboration as the basis for intercultural exchange, is at the heart of a resource kit, The Music of Liza Lim (Australian Music Centre, 2012), created for use within the music curriculum in Australia (upper secondary to A-levels). The kit focuses on the work related to Australian Aboriginal culture, comprising background cultural information, score excerpts, audio and video materials, analyses and related composition exercises. The resource was used in the teaching of the Higher School Certificate/Victorian Certificate of Education curriculum in New South Wales and Victoria in 2012 and 2013, reaching 47% of A-level music students in New South Wales and 27% in Victoria (20% of the AMC’s national school network overall).
Huddersfield Contemporary Records/NMC Recordings
“Huddersfield Contemporary Records are fast becoming guilty of releasing more excellent discs than one can possibly keep up with.”
– Tim Rutherford-Johnson (music critic and author)
Since its formation in 2009 HCR has released 16 recordings, which have included 72 artists and 132 unique works, nearly all of which are world premiere recordings. These albums are notable for their international and aesthetic diversity and, in particular, for their ability to bring together contributors from a wide range of institutional affiliations.
In 2015, HCR entered into a new print/distribution agreement with NMC Recordings, the UK’s largest record label devoted to contemporary music, enabling the work of the University and its affiliated artists to come to the attention of a global audience. Work created by CeReNeM staff and by advanced postgraduate students across multiple institutions is presented alongside work by leading international figures in recording productions of the highest quality. This combined platform provides a unique springboard for professional development for emerging composers and performers, enabling a commercial context that would otherwise be difficult to access.
HCR’s innovative funding model relies on a careful balance between the needs and aims of academic and industry partners, bringing together performers, electronic music studios, arts organisations, radio stations, research funding bodies, publishers, government initiatives, and philanthropic organisations, alongside the resources of CeReNeM and the University of Huddersfield, combining a unique mix of long-term investment, project-based support, and in-kind contributions. These interrelated industry and educational partnerships enable networked funding schemes that lead to outputs that are more significant and ambitious than could be possible from single funding sources or less explicitly networked industry models.
External partners and individual recording project funders have included ZKM, Radio Bremen, hcmf//, PRS for Music Foundation, London Cultural Olympiad 2012, BBC Radio 3, Musicians Benevolent Fund, Studio for Electronic Music and Audio Communication Group, Technische Universität Berlin, Komponistenes Verglagsfond Fund (Norway), NoTAM (Norway), Britten-Pears Foundation, Australia Council for the Arts, RMIT Gallery (Australia), Kairos Production (Austria), and Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik – IEM (Austria).
The composers and performers associated with HCR’s recordings mirror the international diversity of CeReNeM staff and students and clearly represent the uniquely varied networks of international partnerships constructed and supported through the ongoing relationship between hcmf// and CeReNeM.
HCR’s innovative partnership with NMC has created a significant economic and cultural impact. Since the formation of the NMC partnership, annual average sales of CDs have increased 405%, and digital streaming/downloads now reach many thousands of listeners each year. Reviewers have praised HCR’s recordings as ‘An explosion of modernismus’ (Sunday Times), ‘superbly played’ (Guardian) and ‘by far the most radical disc of vocal music I’ve encountered in a long time’ (5:4).
HCR is committed to achieving a 50/50 gender balance of composers across its CD releases, and has plans in place to meet that goal by 2022.