Wieslaw Woszczyk

  Michael Vorländer (left) and Wieslaw Woszczyk Copyright: Christin Wannagat  
Research Stay at RWTH Aachen University

Guest Professor and Kármán Fellow in the program ERS International from April 1 until April 17, 2014

Information about our Alumnus

Wieslaw Woszczyk is an internationally recognized audio researcher and educator with leading expertise in emerging technology trends in audio. He holds the James McGill Professor Research Chair position and a full professorship at McGill University, and is the founding director of the Graduate Program in Sound Recording (1978) as well as founding director of the CIRMMT Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, an inter-university, inter-faculty, interdisciplinary research center established at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 2001. Woszczyk also served as president of the Audio Engineering Society (2007-2008) and as head of its Technical Council (1996-2006).

His current work centers on the development of Space Builder, Virtual Acoustics
Technology, and Open Orchestra systems. In April 2014 he came to RWTH Aachen University for a research stay at the Institute of Technical Acoustics (ITA) at the invitation of Michael Vorländer, the director of ITA, for the Kármán Fellowship. During his 18-day research stay in Aachen, Woszczyk presented his “Virtual Haydn” project to the public in collaboration with the Music School in Aachen, thus bringing the arts to the university of technology. The development of a new rehearsal system for performing music in virtual chambers is a point of interest for a future collaboration between him and Michael Vorländer. The experiment on both sides is now creating a more compelling and more stimulating acoustic space where musicians can perform and record music for the best experience for both the musician and the audience.

 

It is an honor for me to be recognized for the Kármán Fellowship and to be invited to an experience like this. The Exploratory Research Space, as well, has been very helpful and kind. I wanted to thank them again.

Someone said that a good conversation is the beginning of innovation. With this discussion we have an idea together. We invent something new and useful for humanity.

 

Interview with Wieslaw Woszczyk and Michael Vorländer

Your project “the Virtual Haydn” gives an example of these different acoustic spaces for performing music. The outcome is a CD and a Blue-Ray of 14 hours of music.

We presented the virtual acoustic set up of “The Virtual Haydn” for the public at the music school in Aachen. This performance for “RWTHextern” was one of my activities during my research stay here. The basis was laid in our first research project in the new building in Montreal, in the new laboratory. I collaborated with two colleagues from McGill University, Professor Tom Beghin, who is a musicologist and a wonderful performer of keyboard Haydn music, and Professor Martha de Francisco, who is a producer.

What were the specific reasons which led to your research stay at RWTH Aachen University?

The Institute of Technical Acoustics, of which Professor Michael Vorländer is the director, is well renowned for virtual acoustics in our relation of model spaces. So basically our realization means being able to hear and engage in an interactive manner with spaces which have been virtual spaces modelled on a computer with certain architectural details, architectural certifications and then complex calculations of the structure of the actual physical spaces. By using the models, one is able to use the techniques developed here to explore them both in an auditory and a visual manner, a multi-modal way to enter and navigate through these spaces, hearing sounds and the reflections of boundaries and the presence of rooms in headphones or with loudspeaker systems.

Our research is not involved in modelling spaces; we simply measure these spaces which already exist. Michael’s group’s research focus is acoustic modeling, using sophisticated architectural models and then transferring specific details into acoustic simulations. By working together, we are interested in seeing how well the simulations can match the actual measurement of this space. If you have a simulation from the model, you can generate many different responses for musicians performing in a space. You can make it adjustable to reflect where the listener is sitting.
Before, all the building and calculation in German sound modeling was difficult because it is a very complex process. But now, especially at the ITA, they have the ability to generate it in real time using very powerful architectures in CPUs and computers, using special segmentation of input response and resolution. There is now the possibility of enjoying the two sides and seeing how we can make model measurements of performing musicians. And moreover, here at RWTH Aachen University there is no connection to musicians because this is a technical university. We, on the other side, have this fortunate version with a music school. Our musicians are in abundance, so it is very easy to engage them in the technical research.

  A violinist plays within a virtual orchestra Copyright: Wieslaw Woszczyk

Another discussion we have is testing the technology of headphones corresponding to head movements. So even though your headphones are always on your head, the sounds that you hear at a certain angle will remain locational even if you move your head. We at McGill don’t have the technology for our open orchestra system to move around while you are performing with a virtual ensemble. The system at ITA however would allow the task to keep the sound in the ear of the musician steady corresponding to the visual location. So I think this would ensure for a much more realistic sensation for the optimum use of instruments. This is the area where we can collaborate.
On the other hand there is also the possibility of setting up the same kind of environment of an orchestra or a jazz band that we have here at the ITA and in the CAVE. A CAVE is a big cube with walls and floors that completely recreates the pure imaging of an orchestra along with 3D-technology of images. Imagine what we can display in the CAVE, classical music with a very solid location of sound that remains associated with the image even though you move your head around. This would also be very interesting to test.

What was your most rewarding experience at RWTH?

I am still floating on many experiences that are crushing at me like I am on a boat in waves. It is fantastic. The most fun was the first day when we went to see the CAVE and Frank Wefers and Torsten Kuhlen set it up for us. The video part was being installed in 3-D. You are moving through spaces being totally consumed by this. This is just amazing. It was also great talking to all those involved, e.g. when we talked to Michael Vorländer and his students at the Colloquium. They are all doing this fantastic work and have exciting developments.

Michael Vorländer suggested starting in Berlin with a symposium within the context of a European network not only focused in Aachen. This conference was beautifully organized by Michael at the Museum of Historical Instruments in Berlin. We could see the exhibition of instruments including Haydn instruments as well. A lot of students presented their research papers there and Michael’s doctoral assistants set up 16 to 25 loudspeakers in a lecture room to demonstrate 3-D sound.

It is an honor for me to be recognized for the Kármán Fellowship and to be invited to an experience like this. The Exploratory Research Space has been very helpful and kind as well. I wanted to thank them again.

Michael Vorländer on the idea of inviting Prof. Dr. Wieslaw Woszczyk

Wieslaw and I met in Stanford when I had a “Forschungssemester” about a year ago. We had lunch together and talked about implementing virtual acoustics in various scenarios of speech and music perception. At that time there was the call for proposals for Kármán Fellowships, which was a perfect match with our intention to go into a close collaboration and exchange of experience. Anyway I was curious about what was going on in CIRMMT where they focus on music perception much more we than we do here. Another reason for the invitation was to let Wieslaw see what we do here in the research area of virtual acoustics and in providing a CAVE technology like we have at RWTH Aachen University.

What are your future plans for collaboration, Mr. Vorländer?

I see two points of interest, such as a new rehearsal system - the open orchestra -, to make it even more realistic and attractive. Also we can create RAVEN environments – Room Acoustics for Virtual ENvironments. In Virtual Haydn and the Hagia Sophia project Wieslaw made a great step already. But in the future we can share some points in optimizing the microphone array for recording or the loudspeaker array for reproduction. That can have a scientific dimension in order to generate settings for the loudspeaker system of various orchestra groups rather than to have the same setting for all, for all chamber, solo, and instrument- settings. You can play around with our software system RAVEN experimentally before an actual recording in a historic room is planned. RAVEN is the room acoustic simulation system at ITA which is precise and extremely flexible in changing any parameter of measurement which perfectly corresponds to the open orchestra of McGill University. It could be done with a Master’s project from RWTH or via internships at CIRMMT in Montreal.

Our main goal of the collaboration is finding the criteria which characterize the quality of a room. These criteria can help the architects to design rooms in a better way, in order to avoid controversial discussions like the one on the “Elbe Philharmonic Hall”, an arena-type hall with a very high ceiling compared with the classical shoebox approach. There are always two sides: how to make it great for the musicians to play there and how to make it great for the audience.

A last question, Mr. Woszczyk. What is your favorite acoustic space?

It is the cathedral Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was built in the sixth century, because it is immensely huge and has great acoustics. We were lucky to measure this acoustic space, which we presented here at RWTH at the ITA colloquium.

We haven’t measured anything in Aachen yet. But we like the Cathedral as well…

Thank you, Mr. Woszczyk, for the interview. You made us curious about the open orchestra system at McGill and the CAVE at RWTH. Please inform us of your next visit!