Published: Feb. 19, 2013

Nathan Wheeler

photo of Nathan Wheeler/ Photo by Marty Caivano

 At first, it is dark. Then, once my eyes begin to adjust, I notice the movement of tiny lights across the walls and ceiling. Disoriented, I make my way toward a dark enclosure in the center of the room and realize that what I had assumed were windows are actually video screens depicting a great, faceless crowd. The figures look like technological pilgrims advancing toward a digital Mecca. As I navigate the space, I begin to realize that I am being enveloped in a strange, organic sound that continuously changes and responds to the architecture. The experience is beautiful and terrifying.

"Men of God, Men of Nature," is a multimedia installation by the artist Laleh Mahren, currently on display at The Denver Art Museum. Nathan Wheeler, a 2010 graduate of CU Boulder's Music Composition and Music Technology Certificate Program, was the project's sound designer. "It was really fun," says Wheeler, describing his experience working with Mahren. "The room is acoustically very unorthodox-- there are no parallel surfaces. This made for some excellent opportunities to explore acoustic reflections and interference patterns. As you walk around the space, sonic spectra are constantly shifting and highlighting different elements of the textures."

Although the program is still small, many graduates of CU's Music Technology Certificate Program have already attained professional success. Ryan Cole, a recent graduate, went on to get his masters at NYU where he studied audio and sound design. As a graduate student, he built a hydrophone that he used to record whale sounds. He is also the proud designer of the Voccordion, a digital accordion that records and manipulates the human voice.

"Many of them incorporate what they have learned into their own music making and collaborative projects," says John Drumheller, director of the Music Technology Program. "Because our program has a creative/composition focus, the folks who earn the certificate generally do that kind of work, although many go on to work with recording studios and live music venues. A few have gone on to work in New York and Hollywood, as well."

Music technology students can often be found in the CRUNCH Lab, a music recording studio equipped with live interactive recording systems. There, students use applications like Abelton Live and programming languages like Max/MSP and Supercollider to create virtual synthesizers and compose algorithmic music. Students also gather in The ATLAS Physical Computing Lab, which is run by musician and instructor Michael Theodore. The Lab is designed to bring together students from a wide range of disciplines including engineering, physics, and studio art, in order to foster musical and multimedia collaborations.

"We have capped the enrollment at twenty-five students in the technology certificate, but there are many more that are involved with the courses," says Drumheller. "At first we offered just a few music technology courses, but with the advent of fast and powerful desktop computers and new technologies, the course offerings expanded. As the demand and interest rose, we saw a need for this kind of program and quickly implemented it."

"The music technology program shaped my career, not only as a student but after graduation," says Nathan Wheeler."Exposure to a diverse amount of technologies and disciplines, especially the Interdisciplinary Performance and Computer Composition classes, helped direct me to the work I am passionate about, and continue to shape how I work in the professional world."

Article by: Ashley E Williams