NESS (standing for Next Generation Sound Synthesis) is an exploratory five-year project funded through the Computer Science panel of the European Research Council.
The project addresses the challenges and opportunities associated with synthetic sound technology using modern parallel hardware.
NESS builds on the huge potential for improvement in sound quality through interdisciplinary research combining acoustics, physics and high performance computing.
The team brings together eight engineers and numerical methods specialists from two research centres at the University of Edinburgh: the Acoustics and Audio Group (a collaboration between the Reid School of Music and the Schools of Physics and Engineering); and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre.
NESS researchers share a keen interest in musical acoustics, digital audio synthesis and parallel computing.
The project goals are wide ranging.
The key aim is to explore numerical simulation techniques for physical modelling sound synthesis, with a focus on modern simulation techniques such as finite difference time domain methods for the simulation of a variety of instrument families.
As such methods are numerically intensive, part of NESS is devoted to looking at implementations on parallel architectures (multicore processors and general purpose graphics processing units).
Engaging leading musicians
The Principal Investigator of the NESS project is Dr Stefan Bilbao, a Reader in the Reid School of Music with a background in physical sciences and electrical engineering.
Stefan has worked directly with a number of leading musicians and, through NESS, is engaging with a range of technically-minded composers.
Over the period 2012-2017, they are being invited to Edinburgh to create original, entirely synthetic, compositions: demonstrating how to get the most out of synthetic sound, musically.
As of summer 2015, visitors have included Professor Chris Chafe, director of Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music Acoustics, Dr Gordon Delap of the National University of Ireland Maynooth, and acclaimed English composer, Trevor Wishart.