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Re: Octophonic sound system

James Hines's comments about octaphonic sound are reasonable in a 
general sense, but are to some extent arguable. Some of us ARE 
willing to accept the fact that most of the world's population will 
not be able to hear music composed for 8-channel playback, or even 
quad or 5.1, but will go ahead and create music for that format 
anyway. There are enough opportunities to play this music in what are 
sometimes called "specialist venues" to make it worth the effort. You 
just have to know where the audiences and playback infrastructure are.

For instance, I'm beginning work on an 8-channel tape piece that will 
be played along with several other composers' 8-channel pieces over a 
two-day period at a music festival next month. If my piece is well 
received I will probably be able to arrange additional performances 
at electronic music conferences and festivals, and at concerts on 
college campuses. Specifically, multichannel sound systems are now a 
regular feature at the annual International Computer Music Conference 
(ICMC) and  SEAMUS (Society for ElectroAcoustic Music in the United 
States) Conference. In Canada there is a traveling octaphonic music 
project called Sound Travels.

Granted, these particular venues are not mainstream, but I for one 
don't really care since I don't do mainstream music and I have no 
expectation of getting rich and famous from the peculiar music that I 
do. However, I'm realistic enough to also make 2-channel versions of 
any pieces that might go into commercial distribution or that I might 
just want to give away to friends. For instance, a few years ago I 
made a collaborative piece with my friend bassist Robert Black. The 
piece was for solo bass and a prerecorded orchestra of basses (all 
Robert), and the premiere used an 8-track backing tape and a 
12-channel speaker system. It was a dynamite performance and an 
amazing sonic experience, but the piece didn't get played again until 
Robert got a gig in France doing pieces for solo bass and tape. For 
that occasion he used a 2-track mixdown. It was fine.

At 11:59 PM -0600 7/11/01, James Hines wrote:
>      Not meaning to rain on anyone's parade, I would be careful
>investing too much energy or money into an octaphonic sound system. But
>let me explain.
>      If you only would intend to use such a system for live performance
>- then GREAT, by all means, go ahead.
>      As a recording medium, however, I would limit myself to either good
>old stereo - or at most - a five channel surround system.
>       There is no use MIXING music for a format that 99.999999% of the
>world's population CANNOT use.
>        In all reality, unless you listen to music sitting in the third
>point of an equilateral triangle with two stereo speakers, you are still
>better off listening to music in MONO.
>        Stereo is still the best medium because it is the medium most
>people are able to LISTEN to music on in their homes or (marginally) in
>their cars (because of the driver/passenger off axis position).
>        But if you MUST have more than stereo, many people ( Maybe a full
>5% of the population ?) in this country are now able to listen to music
>back on a five channel surround system.
>        With an eight channel system, you will probably have to provide
>NOT just the music - but the playback system itself for people to hear
>        The idea of a private language is absurd - and Music is not just
>for the musician. Let's not limit our potential audience to a percentage
>of the population equalling a fraction of 1% of a fraction of 1% of the
>James Hines


Richard Zvonar, PhD
(818) 788-2202