Interdisciplinary Centre for Composition and Technology

Our Research

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Composition and Technology (ICCaT), based in the Department of Music at the University of Liverpool, investigates how music composition and sonic artforms intersect with new technology, performance and perception. ICCaT\'s research is focussed both on musical practice as well as developing technological resources and software-based tools for creative practitioners and analyists. This work falls into three main themes: Data-Driven Composition, Interactivity in A/V Composition and Performance, and Sound and Agency.

Data-Driven Composition

Data-Driven Composition explores the application of low-level technologies to help music practitioners comprehend, explore, model, and creatively manipulate digital resources.

One strand of this research involves employing a variety of computer algorithms to analyze sounds in order to elucidate their similarities and differences. Here, such models are employed to make large collections of sound browsable as well as offer insight into structural organization and stylistic features.

A second area of focus is on creating tools to help creative practitioners work with large collections of digital materials, enabling a fluid sense of musical expression when working with sound resources that might otherwise be prohibitively large. The ultimate goal is to create new and viable modes of digital authorship across a variety of practices, including electronic music and sound art as well as developing tools for computer assisted acoustic composition and mixed media composition.

A third strand focuses on the development of automated/assisted music composition systems using technologies such as machine learning, neural networks, and concatenative synthesis as well as developing metrics for computational assessment of the quality of the generated music.

Lead Members: Ben Hackbarth, Eduardo Coutinho

Example Projects: AudioGuide, DSCOM, Deep Recurrent Music Writer


Interactivity in A/V Composition and Performance

Interactivity in A/V Composition and Performance involves the use of digital technologies to facilitate the design and creation of interactive musical compositions and their realization in performance.

A central aspect of this practice is the consideration of composition and improvisation as defining a continuum for all musical practices. This is sometimes referred to as \'comprovisation\' (cf. Sandeep Bhagwati, Richard Dudas).

A major strand of this theme is the creation of game-based or \'gamified\' works, which draw upon pre-existing fields of inquiry such as game design theory and animated/screen-based scores (cf. Cat Hope, Lindsay Vickery, Ryan Ross Smith).

  • Composition-improvisation as a dynamic continuum
  • Musical representation with digital media
  • Principles of game design
  • Interpretation and esthesis; immersion, flow, learning, accessibility, etc.
  • Digital interfaces in musical performance

Lead Member: Paul Turowski

Example Project: Embodied Musicking Dataset


Sound and Agency

As practitioners, we are passionate about developing innovative musical works that shed new light on aspects of Sound and Agency. Some key questions for our creative processes include: how timbres may be modified; how what we are doing is affected by the conceptual frames that we devise; and how sounds may carry traces and resonances that are musical and contextual. We are interested in the practical and aesthetic matters pertaining to embodied sound, as well as in music producing and the effects of production. Our work features detailed consideration of interpretative and performance matters, often in the context of non-traditional collaborative workflows.

One strand of our research explores acousmatic composition – more specifically studio-based composition that explores links between both sound and spatial morphology, gesture and implied agency. Approaches focus on an interplay between the intrinsic (abstract inner characteristics of sound) and the extrinsic (those aspects of sound that may be anecdotal or reference broader aspects of the human experience). Such approaches raise interesting questions about sound and source identification from the point of view of the listener.

A further strand of research focuses on fluid compositional and performance processes, specifically in the context of music that may be considered ‘hybrid’ or ‘on a cusp’. The work involves blending different approaches to performance, and addressing the challenge of how to distribute authorial responsibility amongst creative agents. Outcomes from such research include the creation of new poetic texts on the basis of resonance potential; here, phonological knowledge is used to create layers of meaning, and the processes of album production enable the technical, musical and narrative characteristics of new poetry to grow within a complex system.

In performance and in production, the kinds of modifications to sound quality that occur in our work can help us to express particular psychological or spiritual states, to distinguish between internal and external worlds, or to experience the beauties of liminal spaces. When harnessed in a particular frame or context, we as musical creators may use sound’s inherent and transformative aspects to communicate distinctive and powerful ideas that operate concurrently within different domains, musical and beyond.

Lead Members: Lee Tsang, Oliver Carman


The centre curates and contextualises the performance of new music by presenting and promoting a diverse set of public musical activities which are linked to various types of cutting-edge technology and research. Our main platform is the Open Circuit Festival, which began in 2014 and has hosted nearly two dozen events at the University of Liverpool since its inception. The festival not only offers a series of free contemporary music events in Liverpool, but also provides academic context on the future of music making and technology, including panel discussions, artist talks and public demonstrations. The festival is made possible through funding from the School of the Arts.