Physical Modeling & Modular Syntheses


you screen
a diagram:

an abstract elastic triangle to tell the history of a vanishing object

dedication is not found represented
freedom does not find itself represented
(the flavor of concrete is still missing)

projection of what is not yet part of an operation of apparitions

forgotten dream until persistent coordinates

disappearing acts

brick hod

A brick hod is a three-sided open-ended box used for carrying building materials like mortar and bricks.

construction surveying

See Wikipedia.


Drawing from Coppice’s glossary of study in Bellows & Electronics between 2009–2014, Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom marked an intention towards reengineering a practice of composition and still images into one of sound design and moving images.

Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom

The title functioned as a framework for cross-modal projects developed through live presentations, images (online “content”), and recorded music. The array of projects displays a perspective on music under construction (and demolition).

a proposed excavation (to tell the history of a vanishing object)

The music evolved from the pairing of physical modeling and modular syntheses, which was then supplemented with actual and simulated effects. These included actual and falsified perceptual compression artifacts, actual and simulated spaces and devices, actual and emulated amplifiers, convolution effects and field recordings. 

Eventually the syntheses pairing and the pairings of effects were accompanied with musical instruments such as Rhodes Bass Piano, Korg drawbar organ, Wurlitzer electric piano (each of which was then matched with their emulators).

degrees of freedom

The musical spectrum spanned improvisation restraints, effects-based music, electroacoustic composition with narrative arch, and songwriting found in versions (i.e., compositional mix variations, stereo vs. multi-channel mixes). Musically the works evolved from abstract impromptus, to more thematic pieces, to songs with melodies, rhythms, voices and lyrics.


The music progressed at the exclusion of duo-signal processing, a central characteristic of the study in Bellows & Electronics. Instead, signals were treated independently, generating a different set of duo dynamics, live performance strategies, spatialization, amplification and studio techniques centered on digital audio.

physical modeling synthesis and aftertouch

Physical modeling synthesis is a form of digital synthesis that uses mathematical models to describe the physical characteristics of the materials of a certain musical instrument and their behavior. It differs from other forms of synthesis in that it functions by modeling the sound mechanism as well as the sound.

Whereas prepared pump organs made full use of the characteristics of each key (each with differing responses to air pressure and effects on individual reed features), physical modeling synthesis was programmed in relationship to aftertouch (effects from pressure sensitivity on keys) across the range of each model.

impossible objects and air conditioning

The characteristics of Coppice’s collection of physical modeling models (“impossible objects”) were inspired by spark-ignition-combustion-exhaust, cooling/heating, air/fire. Other models include an emulation of a prepared pump organ, simulating previous work with actual prepared pump organs.


In continuation of the bellows-sourced study of air, and as a paradox to the objectives of physical modeling synthesis as a technique, emulations of elemental phenomena were designed to create audio illusions of Fake Air and Fake Fire. Rather than sampling specific phenomenal behavior or recordings, the sonic models evolved from mental projections and fictions of each.

These “impossible objects” explore incongruous, abstract questions of non-existent edges against which fictional air would brush across Dense Day Cooling (2018) and Fake Memories Object (2018), and undisclosed eliminations from fictional burning in Memory on Fake Fire Screen (POV) (2017), Sweaters (2017) and Here (2017).

Fake Air explores self-referential relationships between sound and air, the medium that propagates it. It is a sound transmission in air found by its listener who renders it as such, and as partly imaginary.

superficial music

The superficial aspects of Fake Air and Fake Fire and their relationship to loudspeaker placement in installations supported illusions of identity, source, and physiological effect.

The concept of the “acoustic isolate” describe how despite the fact that the reproduced sound is isolated from the circumstances and feelings with which it was originally (i.e. thermal, tactile, and visual sensations), and even if the recording and reproduction are in high definition, it can “nonetheless partially awaken in the body of the listener, thanks to conditioned reflexes, feelings that were originally global.” (Chion 2016, p. 141)


Pump organs were replaced by the electromechanical Fender Rhodes Piano Bass (cir. 1970), which was then paired with its digital emulator. Derivative instrumentation included a Korg CX-3 drawbar organ and its digital emulator. Guitar amps were also used in pairs with their emulators, offering detailed experiences of differences, similarities and fusions of original sounds and their simulations.


Following a sustained interest in spatialized and decentralized multi-channel systems of multiple speaker types in performed installations, Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom unfolded over site-responsive presentations that invited listeners to consider their own vantage point (point of audition) and change it if possible or desired.

search image

A mental image of desired prey that assists animals in detecting their food and cryptic prey (Breed 2003).

occluded music

In auditory perception, an occluding effect occurs when an object fills the outer portion of a person’s ear canal, perceived as a hollow or booming, echo-like sounds of their own voice (Ross 2004).

In computer graphics, occlusion culling is a feature that disables rendering of objects when they are not seen by the camera because they are obscured by other objects (Unity User Manual 2017).

In meteorology, occluded fronts contain the characteristics of both cold and warm fronts.

Between 2014-2017 Coppice produced Open On Occluded Conditions (2017), for falsified perceptual compression artifacts from spectral processors, and convolution effects that falsify spaces and devices.


A clearing in the woods. 

a lenseless situation

Jean-François Augoyard and Henry Torgue define the metabolic effect is “[a] perceptive effect describing the unstable and changing relations between elements of a sound ensemble. A classic figure of rhetoric, metamorphosis characterizes the instability present in structural relations that link parts of an ensemble and the resulting possibility to switch elementary components of a totality, so it is perceived as being in perpetual transition. The ancient Greek word metabolos (in French “métabole”) means that which is variable – something that is in metamorphosis. Our considered modification here involves the relation between elements that compose the sound environment, defined as addition and superimposition of multiple sources heard simultaneously. […] The metamorphosis effect has two fundamental criteria: the instability of the structure perceived in time; and the distinctiveness of the parts or ensemble in a given sound composition.” (2005, pp. 73-4)

From a semantic point of view, Björn Hellström describes sounds within the metabolic effect as “impersonal (which produce a feeling of euphoria), whereas the sounds in regard to ubiquity effect are anonymous (which produces a feeling of malaise).” (2003, p. 223)

vehicle (concrete car sparks dialogue)

Dramaturgical/figurative concepts to musical narrative emerged upon the introduction of field recording. The synopsis of Green Flame (2018) reads “music for driverless dream cars on their self-driven way to the junkyard (its windshield screens movies that no one watches).“ It opens on an exterior scene and closes on an interior, Ground (2016) and Emanations (2015), respectively.

polarity and diametric ignition

A uniform melody may be found in contrasting musical arrangements corresponding to opposing temperaments (the way the same vehicle may be found driving into a tunnel and cul-de-sacs.)

See Salvador Dalí’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937).

parallel motion and doubling

Melodies appear as doubled octaves, or suggested by the intervals between bichords (as doubled chords.)


In visual effects and post-production, chroma key green (an alternative to chroma key blue) stands as a color-to-be-made-transparent and replaced with other content. Chroma key green and a green flame can be brought into direct visual contact by igniting copper sulfate (blue crystals) close to a green screen.

transparency and fullness

“Transparent digital applications seek to get to the real by bravely denying the fact of mediation; digital hypermedia seek the real by multiplying mediation so as to create a feeling of fullness, a satiety of experience, which can be taken as reality.” (Bolter & Grusin 1999, p. 53)

an apparent alloy

The sonic composition effect of coupling describes the “[i]nteraction between two sound phenomena that seem to be distinct yet connected, without being necessarily engaged in a causal relationship. In architecture, for example, we can observe the reciprocal influences of different reverberations of two adjacent spaces.” (Augoyard & Torgue 2005, p. 29). 

The coupling effect is explored in Emanations (2015) for Korg CX-3 drawbar organ and its emulator, which together form an apparent alloy recorded simultaneously inside and outside a room. The coupling effect was also explored at the Coppice Turning Concert, which took place in and in-between two adjacent spaces at once, as the audience flowed between them.  

Turning Concert

Turning Concert took place as part of a residency at Silent Funny in Chicago on August 26 and 27 2016, to develop staging and spatialization of selections from Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom. The performance and audience areas flowed between each other, marked by two rooms of Cold Light and Fake Fire. The audience was invited to change places throughout the concert. The music happened in varying degrees of performance and reproduction (shifting between live playing and listening to studio pieces played back), over a decentralized arrangement of multiple speakers and speaker types.

Coppice was joined by special guests: sound artists Lou Mallozzi and Peter Speer. A fire-based dual-projection installation by Phil Peters filled one of the rooms with dim flickering and impressions of warmth.

Lou Mallozzi conceived and performed two improvisations with Coppice. The first consisted of two 20-foot pieces of .75-inch diameter steel conduit connected to Mallozzi’s ears as he sat between the two different rooms. Coppice performed very delicate, quiet sounds using mouth-blown Capillaries (collections of tubes of different lengths) at the two separate spaces into Mallozzi’s tubes. While Coppice couldn’t hear each other, Mallozzi heard them both in separate ears, and in response improvised vocal sounds with two microphones very close to his mouth, amplified over two loudspeakers placed in each of the separate spaces. The second improvisation used two microphones in and around Mallozzi’s mouth to create controlled feedback in a pair of drones that shifted pitches and beating patterns, combining and colliding in the bifurcated architecture. In response, Coppice performed with their custom Multi-Material Filter, plastic tubing, and a Rhodes Piano Bass, while Peter Speer joined with modular synthesizer.

In response to the Coppice Turning Concert, which included oppositional light installations by Phil Peters and Coppice, architect Linda Just wrote “This place is sepulchral — dimly lit and heavy with the scent of its constituent parts and the ghosts of its repair shop functions. Bricks and concrete. Oil and fuel. But the quiet is not there; the hypnotic tones are of a place in motion. Kinetic. Dynamic. A train on wet tracks, a heavy downpour. This is truly a strange juxtaposition that encourages a further consideration of what one thinks one has perceived. So we relish the visceral, moving through the two chambers, which work in opposition, in counterpoint, like valves of a heart. The blue holds in steady presence – a lighthouse beacon to the eye… In the small silences, one notes the shadow movements as a rippling effect. Again, the visual dissonance jars the aural comprehension. For this reads like a well, but the aged masonry collects and damps the sound instead of echoing and focusing. And so your senses build a second architecture within the armature of this first. Down Carroll’s rabbit hole you further fall, then, until those last dying resonances cease.”

psychogeography of place

flood blowing

A user’s off-screen soliloquy in the summer of 2016 (a concrete epitaph for browsers). 


Obsolescence–as distinguished from disappearance or destruction–describes “the persistence of the thing in a straitened or muted role, not its vanishing.” (Durham Peters 2015, p. 90)


“Medieval-style fortifications were largely made obsolete by the arrival of cannons in the 14th century battlefield. Fortifications in the age of black powder evolved into much lower structures with greater use of ditches and earth ramparts that would absorb and disperse the energy of cannon fire. Walls exposed to direct cannon fire were very vulnerable, so were sunk into ditches fronted by earth slopes. This placed a heavy emphasis on the geometry of the fortification to allow defensive cannonry interlocking fields of fire to cover all approaches to the lower and thus more vulnerable walls.” (Phifer 2012, pp. 112-3)

vanishing techniques

A prisoner paints a landscape on the wall of his cell showing a miniature train entering a tunnel. When his jailers come to get him, he asks them “politely to wait a moment to allow me to verify something in the little train in my picture. As usual, they started to laugh, because they considered me to be weak-minded. I made myself very tiny, entered into my picture and climbed into the little train, which started moving, then disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel. For a few seconds longer, a bit of flaky smoke could be seen coming out of the round hole. Then this smoke blew away, and with it the picture, and with the picture, my person.” (Hesse cited in Bachelard 1969, p. 150)


“True freedom will be transmutation
or then nothing but agitation
from cage to cage.” (Luca 2012, p. 79)


A three-dimensional structure. A chiral object of memory.


“The universe is itself incomplete, and blessed with blurs of etcetera (faces, license plates, and other sensitive items.” (Durham Peters 2016, p. 351)

sphere eversion

The turning number defines happiness.


The after-picture.