Things Get ‘Loud’ at University of Alberta: New Sound Lab Created on Campus

Researchers at the University of Alberta are in the process of developing a brand new sound lab to help develop various audio research projects.

Referred to as the Sound3 Lab, it is expected to cover various projects related to the fields of art, health and community, including music therapy, video games and even the digitization of moments in history.

Scott Smallwood, director of the U of A’s Sound Studies Institute (SSI) and one of three researchers leading the sound lab project, said the university was running out of space for audio recording.

“The University does not have any type of recording studio on campus and part of that is to fill a gap in research resources on campus and support those specific research projects that we are working on… for them. next few years, ”he said.

With a project worth $ 500.00 Smallwood and his team, ethnomusicologists and music teachers Julia Byl and Micheal Frishkopf, were able to recoup 20 percent of the university’s funding, 40 percent of a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and are still waiting for another 40 percent grant from the provincial government.

“Now we just have to wait and find out if this will go ahead and if [the government] don’t approve it, that doesn’t mean the project will die, it just means we’ll have to scale it back, but hopefully the province will, ”Smallwood said.

Despite the University of Alberta’s sprawling campus, finding a quiet, empty space to develop this project was one of the challenges Smallwood and his team faced on their journey through the sound lab.

“One of the biggest challenges was really finding a space that we could requisition,” Smallwood said. “We found a space in the Old Arts Building in the basement and it’s quite small. In fact, we asked the provincial acoustician to come and help us… and she was the one who convinced me that it could be done.

Although an acceptable space has been found, Smallwood hopes to be able to install SoundLab3 in this space with the right equipment.

Smallwood plans to use the lab to innovate in its video game research, specifically composing sound puzzles and multi-channel sound installations in video games and creating interactive compositions that can be manipulated in the gaming world.

The Sound3 Lab should also be used to develop music therapy, a project led by Frishkopf. He hopes to use relaxing sounds to help critically ill patients.

“[Frishkopf] is interested in seeing whether certain types of soundscapes recordings like nature recordings, ambient music, or various other types of textured soundscapes can be useful for people to induce relaxation, especially for people with problems with intensive care, ”Smallwood explained.

Byl hopes to preserve history through Sound3 Lab and use this feature to digitize recordings of events that have happened in the past. Part of Byle’s research includes recordings from Edmonton’s South Asian community.

“She also wants to interview people who are still there and have memories of a lot of things that happened in the past,” Smallwood explained. “They can come in and add their voices to the archive by actually coming in to talk to her and making recordings so that there can be more commentary involved.”

Although the lab is aimed at researchers, Smallwood says students involved in research are always welcome. He actually hopes the new Sound Lab will help students launch their careers in the future. For example, he mentioned that students who take the Computer Game Development Certificate can work with him in the lab to learn more about recording sound design.

“Like all research that takes place at university, we always involve students in the research,” Smallwood said.

“Students who take the gambling certificate and learn how to do so can get involved in some research projects at an institution like this where they can get their hands dirty, which would increase their ability to find a job. “

While the U of A is enriched with many cutting-edge science labs, Smallwood suggests that owning a unique sound lab will further enhance the profile of the U of A.

“I also think having a facility like this at the university will raise the profile of the university… because there are a lot of people doing things with sound. I know this because I run the Sound Studies Institute and one of my roles is to try to bring together researchers from across campus who work with sound in various ways to communicate and collaborate with each other. To have a facility like this where really excellent sound recordings can be made as well as critical listening experiences would be huge for us. ”


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