Internal Projects


This project aims to develop several taxonomies related to the practice, perception, and discussion of orchestration, with the long-term aim of each taxonomy being useful as a tool for analysis and teaching. The taxonomies currently being developed include:

  1. Perceptual effects of orchestration related to auditory grouping principles (led by Prof. Stephen McAdams)

  2. Orchestration techniques discussed in treatises and taught in orchestration classes (led by Prof. Denys Bouliane)

Future taxonomies will include:

  1. Emergent perceptual and affective qualities of instrumental combinations or sound-processing techniques and their cultural associations

  2. Instrumental playing techniques, particularly extended techniques used in the contemporary music repertoire

  3. Functional orchestration related to musical aims of composers ( Prof. Fabien Lévy)

  4. The aural sonology approach to sound-based (as opposed to interval-based) music (Prof. Lasse Thoresen)

and further explorations of the role of timbre in formal and harmonic analysis, text analysis of treatises and transcribed interviews with composers, orchestrators and conductors, and audio signal analyses of timbre.


Composer-performer Research Ensembles will be established as graduate seminars at five partner institutions: McGill University (Profs. Guillaume Bourgogne & Stephen McAdams), Université de Montréal (Profs. Jean-Michaël Lavoie, Caroline Traube, & Pierre Michaud), University of British Columbia (Profs. Keith Hamel & Bob Pritchard), University of California at San Diego (Profs. Rand Steiger & Roger Reynolds), University of Toronto (Prof. Eliot Britton and Norbert Palej). The aim is for composers and performers to work together to solve specific problems of orchestration for a given instrumentation, to track their problem-solving trajectory and reflect on the interaction between them, to compose études and to perform them. All scores and recordings of performances will become material for further analysis, complemented by documentation of the creative problem-solving process.


ODESSA is a collaborative project between the Université de Montréal, McGill University and Detmold University of Music, realized in the context of the ACTOR partnership. With the aim to study orchestral blending effects, a joint music production and evaluation of an orchestral recording were realized at Salle Claude-Champagne on September 29-30, 2018, with the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM) under the direction of conductor Jean-Francois Rivest and Tonmeister Prof. Martha de Francisco, with a team of students from Detmold and Montreal realizing a multimicrophone recording, as well as acoustical characterization of the hall and performance by Prof. Malte Kob.

Partner Projects


Multimodal analysis and knowledge inference for musical orchestration (MAKIMOno) [NSERC (Canada), ANR (France)]

This project brings together IRCAM-CNRS-Sorbonne Université, McGill University, and OrchPlayMusic, Inc. to address scientifically one of the most complex aspects of music: the use of timbre—the complex set of tone colours that distinguish sounds emanating from different instruments or their blended combinations—to shape music through various modes of orchestration. This first-of-its-kind project will lead to the creation of information technologies for human interaction with digital media that will radically change orchestration pedagogy, provide better tools for the computer-aided interactive creation of musical content, and lead to a better understanding of perceptual principles underlying orchestration practice. 

Research into orchestration at the Haute école de musique Genève – Neuchâtel:

L’orchestration peut être décrite selon plusieurs angles : elle est principalement représentée comme l’art d’écrire, à partir de données symboliques, des pièces musicales pour des effectifs comportant plusieurs instruments, en les combinant entre eux, la taille de ces effectifs pouvant être variable. On peut donc en déduire qu’elle utilise des timbres instrumentaux dans le but de produire des effets orchestraux ; or l’acte même de mélanger les propriétés timbrales et acoustiques des instruments relève également du domaine du traitement de signal. Ce double regard symbolique/signal n’est pas à voir comme une opposition, mais comme représentatif à lui seul de la complexité de cette pratique ; elle se situe au cœur de la relation entre art et science, deux disciplines dont le croisement est particulièrement d’actualité .
Read more…

Projects with external collaborators


What causes one timbre to be perceived as "crystalline" while another is "volatile"? ACTOR researchers Jason Noble and Zachary Wallmark are partnering with Muvik Labs to develop new ways to study timbre semantics. Building on corpus analyses of terms used to describe timbre in orchestration treatises (Wallmark, 2017) and perceptual studies of metaphorical associations in contemporary music (Noble, 2018), the present study gives participants the power to create their own timbres in response to semantic prompts. Read more…