Thrum (1998)

stereo sound

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

Available on John Gibson: Traces (innova 896).


Also 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