The Electro-Acoustic Research Space (EARS)

Room 2411, Humanities, 455 North Park Street

Experimenting with the Reactable at EARS’ first open house, September 2017.

What Is Electro-Acoustic Music?

Electro-acoustic music is a broad category, involving the interaction of acoustic instruments with amplification or alteration by electrical or computer processing. A clarinet, for instance, is an acoustic instrument. Play the clarinet into a microphone, and process the sound using a delay pedal, and you have electro-acoustic music. Sound processing can be done electrically, using pedals (also called stomp boxes), or via the computer. In order to make sound waves understood by the computer, sound must be transformed into digital information by means of an interface, or audio to digital converter. Whether a player uses pedals or the computer (or both), the processed sound is then sent to a speaker.

The computer uses a language called MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) in order to communicate with instruments. MIDI has been a remarkably stable platform, and has changed little since its standardization in 1983. There are many instruments which are built to communicate directly with the computer via MIDI – in this case, the instrument provides pitch and dynamic information, and the computer supplies the sound via samples stored in the computer’s memory. Other electronic instruments create or synthesize their own sound. Examples in EARS include a Moog synthesizer, a Reactable, and an Eigenharp.

The Electro-Acoustic Research Space, founded in 2017, is directed by Daniel Grabois, associate professor of horn. Funding for the space was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with additional funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Read this story in the Wisconsin State Journal about the inauguration of EARS.

Facts about EARS


  • When Is EARS open?

We offer open houses for students on Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 7:00-9:00 PM. You must have a Wiscard to enter. There will be a monitor at every session. Monitors may organize activities or learning sessions, or they may simply make the equipment available. Students with specialized knowledge are encouraged to come to these sessions and teach what they know to whoever is in the room. Feel free to bring an instrument.

  • Rules for open house nights

⇒Positively NO food or drink (including water) is allowed in the studio.

⇒Monitors are authorized to remove any student who is behaving inappropriately.

⇒No one will be admitted without a Wiscard.

⇒The equipment must be treated with respect.

  • How can I become more involved?

Stay tuned for more opportunities, including the possibility of one or more courses being offered.

  • Might I check out microphones and other equipment to make my audition tape?

At this time, it is NOT possible for students to check equipment out.



For more information about EARS, click here to contact Prof. Daniel Grabois via email.

Equipment in EARS

  • Three Macintosh computers, one desktop and two laptops
  • Three digital interfaces (two Apollo 16s and one Apogee Symphony I/O)
  • Microphones for recording and amplifying, along with mic stands
  • Two Behringer X32 digital mixing boards
  • 20 terabytes of computer storage
  • Two Ableton Pushes
  • Eight Bose L2 tower speakers
  • One Reactable synthesizer
  • One Minimoog Performers Edition synthesizer
  • One Eigenharp
  • Software, including Ableton Live and Protools
  • One Moog “Theremini” Theremin
  • One full size Haken Continuum Fingerboard
  • One large format inkjet printer

… and much more.

Fun with the theremin at EARS Open House. 9.15.2017.

Friday's open house at the new Electro-Acoustic Research Space a/k/a EARS was filled to capacity. We are quite excited about all the excitement! Here we see student Yasha Hoffman communicating with spirits on the theremin.

Posted by University of Wisconsin - Madison Mead Witter School of Music on Monday, September 18, 2017