The UC Davis Sound Lab is a place where students and faculty come together to make electronic music and sonic art. The Lab’s co-organizers are Bob Ostertag from the Cinema and Digital Media department and Sam Nichols from the Department of Music. Since the early 2000s we’ve been teaching a variety of classes on the creation of electronic music and sonic art. In 2015 we began teaching these classes in a new space, a converted warehouse located in the Art Annex. Our teaching covers the history of electronic sound, and features a variety of topics, including modular synths, musique concrète, hardware hacking, and computer music. Whatever the specific focus of a given course, our fundamental goal as teachers is to help our students make fresh work. We believe that generic tools and traditional habits of thought can limit creativity, and so we challenge our students to learn new ways to organize electronic sound.
The Sound Lab has tools from different eras of sound production and reproduction. We have legacy gear, including a Victrola, a player piano, a two-track 1/4″ tape machine, and a baby grand set aside for prepared piano projects. We also have a number of more up-to-date tools, such as a ROLI Seaboard Rise keyboard, and a wide variety of controllers, microphones, and other assorted gear. The Lab also houses several modular synths, most notably a MakeNoise Shared System and a Buchla. We have JBL speakers and subs set up in a four-channel configuration, but also have near-field monitors and a variety of smaller speakers for installations. A number of handheld recording devices enable our students to gather field recordings. We use a number of software tools, including Logic, Max, Live, SPEAR, and others.