How can a composer work effectively with a choreographer or a game designer? How can you research the function and value of the sound of a vacuum cleaner for consumers? And how can you use music design processes in music education? These are just a few of the research questions in the HKU Music Design research programme. The programme is about researching processes that are necessary in designing music or sound.


When designing music or sound, many factors have to be taken into account. For instance, the cultural setting in which the music or sound is created, how the music will be used, characteristics of the listeners or users, the processes and technology used in the design, and characteristics of the sound equipment or instruments used. HKU aims to make music designers aware of the influence and necessity of these factors and teach designers how to deal with them consciously.

Music design as a research programme

The Music Design research programme investigates the different creative processes involved in music design in the broadest sense of the word:  whether composing a piece of music or designing sounds. We gather specific knowledge about music design, the processes involved and the ways in which we can convey them within the whole professional field – in music education, for example. We also develop interactive and innovative applications of music design and help others to do so, for example in the gaming industry, healthcare and education. The programme can be summed up in three themes: Focus on the music design process, Music design and interaction, and Music design and education.

International Computer Music Conference 2016

The school of HKU Music and Technology (of which the Research Programme Music Design is part) organised the ICMC conference together with Gaudeamus Muziekweek in september 2016. ICMC stands for International Computer Music Conference and the programme offered installations, lectures, papers, discussion panels and workshops, as well as several exciting concerts.

The proceddings of the conference can be found here (PDF). Also, feel free to browse the programme guide (PDF) or visit the website.

Music Design Processes

The music and sound design process is not a standard process, but differs for each situation. For instance, designing film music is a different process to designing music for a game, if only because of the different forms of collaboration involved. Designing a system where digital samples of violin sounds adjust to the phase and context of the composition requires a different process than designing a particular sound to indicate whether a vacuum cleaner is full or empty. Each of these processes requires a different design strategy, technique and/or method. The programme researches and describes these processes as a basis for trying to create building blocks with a broader use.


Music design and interaction

Music and sound can be designed for interactive use. In the project ‘Klinken­de Pleinen’ (Sounding Squares), for example, research is done into the behaviour of sound on a town square if you place particular objects on it. Through this, you can consciously change the auditive and spatial experience of a square. Another project, carried out in an audiovisual treatment room, researches the influence of sounds and images on the behaviour of autistic children. In order to be able to experiment with interactive design processes, HKU has developed a laboratory that focuses specifically on interaction: the Sonic Interaction Lab (SiLab), which can be used by both researchers and students.


Music design and education

Music design processes are also used for educational purposes. For example, HKU has developed digital design products like and Luisterminuut, which are used in music education. In Tanzania and Zambia, students learn how they can use digital technology to produce contemporary hiphop or trance from traditional music patterns and sounds. This breathes new life into historical cultural values.



Would you like to know more about the research programme Music Design? Please send an email Martijn van Gessel or Rens Machielse.