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This website is dedicated to a special idea: Have you ever encountered a new instrument for the first time, or, say, a new sound on a synthesizer, and immediately experienced an unanticipated and strong burst of creativity in response? An experience that really amazed and surprised you, and made you wonder what just happened? A kind of “beginners mind” experience or state of heightened awareness wherein new music just flows from your fingers as if a magic door has somehow opened? If you haven’t, then I hope you will, and that this site can help get you there.
I like to call this the “Sonic Inspiration Phenomenon” or SIP for short. I’ve personally found it to be one of the most powerful sources of creative inspiration I’ve encountered, and yet one that people often don’t talk about very much in explicit terms. One tends to hears artists and composers comment more often about being inspired by emotion, or natural beauty, or other more noble sounding things as opposed to just the pure sound itself.
To be clear, I’ve likewise often experienced these other kinds of inspiration as well, and I certainly don’t want to discount those. They can be equally profound and compelling, and can have a great deal of meaning as well. The regularity though with which SIP has happened to me personally eventually led me to more deeply appreciate of sheer power of the “timbre” of an instrument, all by itself, to inspire. I also elevate this experience to the vaunted level of a “phenomenon” on this site, above and beyond just calling it an “effect,” to emphasize that I don’t think of it as a simple and easily explainable phenomenon, but rather a highly complex and convoluted process that involves real time feedback between different objectively measurable aspects of sound, psychoacoustic (subjective or perceptual) aspects of sound, the expressive capabilities of the instrument, and various high level aspects of our nervous systems emotional and intellectual response as well. The latter undoubtedly involves significant releases of various psychoactive chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones), without the need for external stimulants.
Complex phenomenon deserve in-depth exploration, and so this website is largely if not entirely dedicated then to the idea of, and of exploring, SIP. Beyond just SIP, I’m also now beginning to explore the use of sound to generate beautiful visual imagery, and then have that feed right back into the musical making process as well. You can read more about this new project here. And finally, there are other related topics addressed on this site, an overview of which you can find below.
I dedicate this project to my parents: First, to my late father, David A. Luce (“Dr. Dave”), who was a pioneering researcher of musical sound, and also analog synthesis, and to whom I’m eternally grateful for first providing me with ample opportunities to improvise with synthesizers and to thus have SIP type experiences in the first place (synthesizers are particularly well suited to eliciting SIP, although by no means the only or primary means), and who also first taught me about the science of sound as well. And second, to my mother, the painter MaryJane Luce, who exposed me to creative art making from an early age, and introduced me to the work of numerous artists in books and museums, and at the local art galleries she helped found and run.
To give you a sense of what SIP is about, at least for me, the video just below documents an improvisation I recorded one morning, while I was first exploring the sonic possibilities of a vintage Baldwin Electric Harpsichord while visiting the Electronic Music Education And Preservation Project in Harleysville, Pennsylvania in the summer of 2021 (to whom I’m also deeply indebted for many wonderful SIP type experiences in recent years). I just happened to record this event on video, which is not something I usually do, but was experimenting with at the time due to the well equipped studio there. I was in the throws of ecstatic discovery about the sound of this instrument at the time, and also the way it feels to play it. This particular experience in fact provided the final spark of inspiration for this project and this website, hence the piece’s name “Inspired by Sound.” You can find more information about my creative work overall during that short encounter with this little known but truly remarkable instrument, and more about the instrument itself, on the page found here:
Of course, there are myriad websites and books and videos one can find dedicated to various musical instruments, especially synthesizers, and the sounds they make. Perhaps it’s simply self-evident to many that interesting timbres possess great inspirational power, but I don’t actually see a great many examples or discussions about what specifically has been create directly in response to particular sounds per se, which is what SIP is really about.
There is also an even must vaster space to explore of how sound and other sources of inspiration work together synergistically. For example, how emotions or experiences with nature, or visual art, or interactions with other musicians, combine with the sonic characteristics of an instrument to inspire.
In any case, I approach SIP on this site in a number of different ways. First, I simply provide recordings and/or videos of my own experiences in this regard along with explanations and descriptions to illustrate the SIP connection explicitly. Links to pages for this are collected here:
As another inroad I provide some supporting information about various instruments that I would like to highlight in some depth, especially synthesizers, the pages which overlap to some extent with the above mentioned listing:
Related to the idea of sound as inspiration, I’d like to also promote the Art of Improvisation, which goes part and parcel with SIP. The following link provides a simple guide of sorts to improvising that I hope you will find useful:
In relation to SIP, this site is also dedicated to the rigorous scientific exploration of sound, something that my father, Dr. David A. Luce, dedicated the first part of his career too, and something that I’ve also spent many years myself researching and teaching about. A major goal of this research has been to determine what the objective attributes of musical tones actually are, and how these are produced physically:
And finally, this site is dedicated to preserving and educating about my father’s original work in musical acoustics and synthesizers, and the work of all those at the great and storied Moog Music Inc.:
In summary, I hope you find these resources interesting, enjoyable and useful for your own music making, and that they help you unleash your own creative power, so that music can fulfill its true promise for you as a celebration of life and being in all of its myriad forms and manifestations. Comments, suggestions, and requests for more information are welcome via the Contact Form.