Thrum (1998)

stereo sound

Finalist Prize, Bourges 26th International Electroacoustic Music Competition, 1999

Available on CDCM, Vol. 29, Music from the Virginia Center for Computer Music, released by Centaur Records (CRC 2454)


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I began work on Thrum by recording a wide range of sounds played on my acoustic guitar. As I worked with this material, I started to explore a continuum between natural plucks and their radical transformations and synthetic counterparts. I shaped these sounds into contrasting scenes. The first establishes a brisk pulse that forges ahead until it suddenly collapses. The focus shifts to a sustained, raspy bass — a magnified image of the lowest guitar string. A dreamy, swirling texture eventually washes over this. The initial pulse then returns with a percussive twist, and the piece ends with memories of the opening, submerged by a relentless low roar.

Many of the guitar textures were created by a virtual player implemented in RTcmix, a scriptable package of programs for processing and synthesizing audio in real time. The virtual player reads short guitar samples and sprays them across the stereo field to create a pulsed repetitive texture. The player program incorporates probabilities that govern sample selection, attack timing, pitch bending and mixing. The result sounds almost like a real guitar player, but certain compositional decisions intentionally work against this impression. My aim is to create a music that balances human qualities against the regularity of machines.


  • RTcmix Festival 2014, CCM Center for Computer Music, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati, Ohio, 3/7/2014
  • BEAMS Electronic Music Half Marathon, Brandeis University, Boston, 4/24/2009
  • University of Texas, San Antonio, 11/3/2003
  • Electronic Music Midwest, University of Missouri, Kansas City, 11/1/2003
  • SEAMUS at Bourges, 33rd Bourges Synthèse Festival, France, 6/7/2003
  • Paris 8 University, France, 5/22/2003
  • Pulse Field, Georgia State University, Atlanta, 1/21/2003
  • Arts Now Series, North Carolina State University, 9/10/2002
  • Keio University, Fujisawa, Japan, 6/25/2002
  • Faculty Recital, Indiana University School of Music, 2/12/2002
  • Virginia Film Festival, “Fringe Festival,” Charlottesville, 10/26/2001
  • Tenth Annual Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival, University of Florida, 3/30/2001
  • 8th Biennial Symposium for Arts and Technology, Connecticut College, 3/2/2001
  • VII Brazilian Symposium on Computer Music, Curitiba, Brazil, 7/19/2000
  • Musica Electronica, University of Glasgow, Scotland, 3/14/2000
  • SEAMUS National Conference, University of North Texas, 3/9/2000
  • International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), Beijing, 10/22/1999
  • Olin Arts Center, Bates College, Maine, 1998
  • SEAMUS Electro-Acoustic Music Week Concert, University of Virginia, 12/8/1998