Those who embrace and seek a master’s degree in audio technology at American University join an elite group of sound professionals who don’t just thrive in their industry. They enjoy it.
Anyone willing to invest the time and effort it takes to earn a graduate degree focused on sound design, music production, or computer music undoubtedly finds the coursework fascinating—something everyone in the program has in common from day one. Of course, that’s if you can even really refer to shoulder-to-shoulder learning with nationally recognized audio engineers and faculty—in state-of-the-art facilities—as “coursework.” Somehow that word doesn’t do this justice.
For our students, it’s not simply about working toward future paychecks and accolades. They are passionate about the art and science of high-quality, impactful sound. Thus, they find the intricacies of the history and future of music technology fascinating.
Here are three topics our audio technology MA students are currently discussing:
Compressors and Modern Music
The history of—and science behind—compressors is an integral part of the modern-day music we listen to on a daily basis. Audio technology wouldn’t exist without the important nuances of compression, peak reduction, threshold, input gain, and more.
As most music industry professionals would attest, the difference between a tight, modern album and a forgettable track often rests squarely on the shoulders of the audio technology expert behind the glass.
The precise, subtle sound differences that live within the complex world of compression likely seem mundane to the layperson, but they are the lifeblood of clear, impactful live or recorded music.
Sampling is Here to Stay
There are two unshakeable truths about sampling in modern-day music:
- Music sampling is here to stay.
- Music sampling presents unique challenges.
Some of the most popular, innovative performances of the past 20 years have been rooted in innovative music sampling. It’s partly because it becomes more and more difficult to create a brand-new sound that’s fresh and exciting. It’s also because artists and producers are forever shaped by the sounds they grew up listening to.
We see it in hip hop constantly: from Sean Combs using The Police to memorialize The Notorious B.I.G., to Jay Z forever changing the way we listen to “Hard Knock Life,” to Pit Bull making “Take On Me” sound new again.
While sampling undoubtedly opens up a huge world of artistic possibilities, it’s also a tricky, challenging practice. Lawsuits by artists are common. Many have no interest in seeing their classic songs reinvented or “stolen from.” On the flip side, powerhouse producers such as Mark Ronson have become advocates for responsible, forward-thinking sampling.
It’s a delicate topic in the music industry—one that won’t go away anytime soon.
Foundations of Sound Will Never Change Acoustics
Some aspects of music and sound production have yet to change—and never will. Factors such as acoustics, ambience, and reverberation are affected as new technologies and applications come and go, but the foundational truths about them are unwavering.
It’s the fundamentals of sound that provide common ground between modern-day students with sound boards and high-end headphones and early humans cupping their hands and listening to reverberations through a towering canyon.
A millennium from now, people may be navigating flying cars in roadways 10,000 feet up in the air. Even then, variables such as acoustics and ambience will remain the linchpins of audio production.
To that end, there will always be a need for audio technology professionals who are excited about and well-trained on the nuances of sound.
Is your goal to become a practitioner of the sound engineering that you’re so passionate about? Learn about a master’s degree in audio technology from American University.