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Acadia University opens cutting-edge sound studio

The Acadia Electroacoustic Music Studio is equipped with 18 speakers. The construction of the recently opened facility at Acadia University wrapped up in July.
The Acadia Electroacoustic Music Studio is equipped with 18 speakers. The construction of the recently opened facility at Acadia University wrapped up in July. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed

Things are sounding good at Acadia University.

Its new sound facility, the Acadia Electroacoustic Music Studio (AEMS), is open and ready for work.

“It’s cutting edge in an area that people are very interested in,” said Derek Charke, professor of composition and theory at the Acadia University School of Music.

Charke, creator and director of the AEMS, is enthusiastic about the possibilities in the opening new facility, noting the technology will expand the range of what students can be taught.

“It’s been a long-time coming. I’ve been here since 2005 and I’ve done a lot of work in that time with electronic sound and spatialized sound,” Charke said Aug. 19. “We’re thrilled to have it here, and to be able to go down and introduce students to it, to have them work on it.”

Charke, in consultation with other faculty in the School of Music, designed the studio.


The AEMS, a multi-channel, spatialized studio, is to music what 3D goggles are to conventional screen technology – something far more immersive and nuanced.

“When you move your head around, the sound changes, depending on whether you look up or down,” Charke said. “When you listen to an ambulance approach, and pass you, that’s three-dimensional sound.”
That three-dimensional type sound is exceptionally difficult to recreate with technology – and the ability to work with that sound is exactly what the AEMS offers.
“There is no other studio like this, at least within the Maritimes,” Charke said. “I know no studio has 18 speakers all set up in a specialized kind of setting.”

The studio is the ultimate form of surround-sound. Specifically, when in the studio, a person will be literally surrounded at ear-level by eight speakers. Above that are eight more speakers, aimed downward in a similar configuration – all of that is enhanced by two subwoofers.
“The studio is set up to create almost 360-degree sound, so you can have it pan around you, go up, around or above you,” Charke said. “You can experiment with sound in space.”

According to information released from Acadia University, the studio was designed to support three main areas of innovation in music research; the motion of sound through space (spatialized research); the creation of original soundtracks with acoustic and electronic sounds (acousmatic research) and for electroacoustic research (live music, transformed through digital equipment).


Suffice to say, the studio will be a boon to musicians and sound artists across the world who are writing and experimenting with music and sound, Charke said.

“We have world-class musicians in Nova Scotia already. But to have a focal point, to have one place where all researchers and independent composers can come and fully develop, test or work on their pieces is really important.”

Although most of the use of the new studio will be high-level research by professionals and students with advanced degrees, Charke maintained, “that doesn’t preclude students.”
“We’ve had some other professors and musicians from the region already, and we’re absolutely going to have classes in there.”

Safety, he noted, will be a priority with mostly third and fourth-year students using the studio after thorough training.

“You can imagine, in a small space with 18 speakers, you can quite easily overload the system and hurt your hearing, if you’re not using it properly,” Charke said. “There’ll be quite a bit of training; it’s set up to train people as well.”
The construction phase for the studio finished up in July.

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