Dr  Nicole Carroll

Dr Nicole Carroll

Lecturer

School of Humanities, Creative Ind and Social Sci

Building sounds from scratch

Dr Nicole Carroll is a composer and performer who builds her own electronic instruments that merge analogue and digital technologies to create musical performance systems from non-musical sources.

Nicole Carroll

Dr Nicole Carroll has a love for building things. It’s not surprising given that her family are skilled craftspeople, however Nicole isn’t producing your common woodwork items. She is an instrument builder of the 21st century, creating pieces that combine digital technology with the esoteric to produce ‘noise music’.

A new addition to the University of Newcastle in 2020, Nicole came from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, a place known as a historical hot bed for noise music.

“The music I produce is experimental noise music. If you are into that niche of music you know what it is and are familiar with that sound world, but if not, you might think it is just cacophonous noise. But at the heart of my music there is a lot of structure,” Nicole said.

To produce her unique sound, Nicole builds instruments using sensors which pick up changes in light, touch, movement and magnetic fields. One of those instruments is the Orrery Arcana which she created having drawn inspiration from the mechanical designs of astronomical clocks and models of the solar system.

“The foundation of Orrery Arcana is a planetary gear train. I use gear movements as a sequencer to determine when sounds are created, so that aspect functions like a drum sequencer. The plates on top of the ‘candles’ (they are actually lights) have light, magnetic, and touch sensors. The gear rotations and the sensors are the elements played during performance,” she said.

“I’ve programed many different options depending on what’s happening in the system but there are lot of controls and parameters I don’t have access to during performance. I’ve been performing with it for several years now so I have a good idea of what it can do but never know for sure and that’s the whole point, to produce unpredictable sound.”

The Orrery Arcana looks like a mystical candelabra, a purposeful design as Nicole works within the themes of tarot cards and magic.

“I design instruments to visually invoke the connotation of an oracle, which aesthetically supports my performance practice of automatic music and writing. I’ve always had an interest in the esoteric. To me the instruments are tools that facilitate communication with the subconscious, external energies, or “whatever is out there,” allowing those entities to tap into my body to create music. I think of my instruments and performance practice as a system of divination, or as a means to communicate with something outside of myself.”

Before she performs Nicole goes through a specific trance process to get into the required mindset.

“During the performance I’m totally checked out and in trance. Afterwards I don’t know what has happened in the moment but have videos to review the performances, which I rely on for further development of the system.”

Nicole spent years prototyping gears, then 6 months designing and building the Orrery Arcana.

“I really love to build things and enjoy finding something like old astronomical clock schematics and crafting them into a musical interface, bringing something old back to life within a contemporary object,” Nicole said.

The end product is a performance system that has thousands of options and incorporates chance procedures which make each performance unique.

“Within the system there are other smaller systems, which include NASA data that is being fed into audio processors. I also use tarot cards to drive the chance procedures and randomness of the sounds. To do this I took a deck of tarot cards and made a data string for each card using elements of patterns, colours, and symbolic connotations–essentially boiling the cards down to a series of numbers–which collectively controls elements of sound production and processing in the system.”

Other instruments Nicole has created include an augmented bassoon to which she has added sensors to detect movement.

“If you watch a bassoonist play you can see they have some range of movement in the torso. The sensors I’ve placed on my bassoon use that movement to control audio effects  and musical parameters. I’ve also added touch sensors which sense pressure on a gradient to map to dynamics and effects such as pitch shifting. There is also a condenser microphone mounted on my bocal that is great for picking up vibrations to produce noise textures,” she said.

“When I perform with my augmented bassoon it’s pretty loud and crunchy, it’s nothing like Bach or Beethoven. It’s like playing through a guitar pedal board with a looper, where new layers of sound accumulate through the performance.”

Nicole is teaching software programming in the School of Creative Industries and will also be teaching physical computing and electronic instrument design.

“What I’m doing is fairly unique. I hope it inspires other people to make their own gear. It doesn’t have to be nearly as complicated as what I do. In terms of the academic world I hope to motivate people to bring back a level of craftmanship that seems to be rare today, even amongst electronic instrument builders. There is a large focus on producing industry ready instruments with universal functionality, whereas my focus is one-off custom controllers. I want to remind people that form is really important and as valid as the music itself.”

Recording aquatic noise pollution

Nicole’s work in acoustic ecology is also helping to shine a light on how noise is impacting the environment. She records noises found in the environment and turns them into music.

“Over the last five years I’ve been recording in aquatic environments such as waterways and have been hearing lots of noise pollution from vessels, generators and other types of engines,” she said. “I do this type of work to shed some light on the environment for people who wouldn’t normally be tuned into these spaces.”

Our human bodies aren’t equipped to listen to these aquatic spaces so she uses special technology, including hydrophones, or underwater microphones, to make the sound available to the public.

“When people hear these noisy sources they often find them overpowering. When you think about it in the context of tiny aquatic organisms that live in these environments, they are bombarded with vibration constantly. I hope it makes us rethink what we are doing to the world in terms of sound pollution.”

Building sounds from scratch

Dr Nicole Carroll is a composer and performer who builds her own electronic instruments that merge analogue and digital technologies to create musical performance systems from non-musical sources.

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Career Summary

Biography

Nicole Carroll is a composer, performer, sound designer, and builder working with audio, video, and tangible objects. Her work spans installation, improvisation, and fixed media performance, across noise, soundscape, and acousmatic genres. She is active as a sound designer and composer in theatre, performs electronic music under the alias “n0izmkr,” and builds custom synthesisers, controllers, and performance sensor systems. Her research focuses on generative systems that merge analog and digital technologies to create musical performance systems from non-musical sources. Additional interests include soft circuits and wearable sensors, augmented acoustic instruments, and AV synthesis on mobile devices and embedded systems. 

Nicole’s works have been performed internationally in USA, Mexico, Wales, Germany, Greece, Australia, and China, including at SEAMUS, ICMC, and NIME conferences. Nicole holds an M.M. and B.M. in Composition from Bowling Green State University and Arkansas State University, respectively. During the 2017-18 academic year, she was an Adjunct Research Fellow at QCGU in Brisbane, Australia. She received a Ph.D. in Computer Music and Multimedia from Brown University in Providence, RI, USA and is currently Lecturer in Digital Composition at the University of Newcastle in Australia.  www.nicolecarrollmusic.com


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Brown University
  • Master of Computer Music and Multimedia, Brown University

Keywords

  • acoustic ecology
  • improvisation
  • instrument design
  • interactive music
  • music composition
  • sound design

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
360305 Music technology and recording 33
360304 Music performance 33
360302 Music composition and improvisation 34

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Creative Industries
Australia
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Journal article (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Carroll N, 'Everything in its Place: A Conceptual Framework For Anti-Music', Sound Scripts, 6 (2019)

Conference (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2022 Egglestone P, Minichiello M, Drummond J, Kenke R, McGrath J, Scott N, et al., 'The House We Build: Games and Gamification', The University of Newcastle (Online) (2022)
Co-authors Jon Drummond, Paul Egglestone, Rewa Wright, Ralph Kenke, Mario Minichiello, Nathan Scott
2021 Minski K, Egglestone P, Saunders C, Chand A, Drummond J, Carroll N, Kenke R, 'Ars Electronica Garden: NEWCASTLE GARDEN - Singleton Laneways Panel', Newcastle (2021)
Co-authors Paul Egglestone, Ari Chand, Jon Drummond, Kristefan Minski, Ralph Kenke
2021 Carroll N, 'Orrery Arcana: An Esoteric System for Improvisational Performance', 15th ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) 2021, University of Salzburg, online (2021)

Creative Work (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2021 Carroll N, Orrery Arcana: An Esoteric System for Improvisational Performance, 15th ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) 2021, University of Salzburg, online, Salzburg, Austria, University of Salzburg, online (2021)
2020 Carroll N, Orrery Arcana: Musical Materiality through Esoteric Devices, Seamus, TEI, and ICMC conferences, SEAMUS-USA, TEI-Salzburg, ICMC-Chile (2020)
2020 Kenke R, Anelli L, Wright R, Minichiello M, Drummond J, O'Donnell L, et al., The House We Build, Newcastle City Council and GPT Group (AU) (2020)
Co-authors Paul Egglestone, Mario Minichiello, Jon Drummond, Rewa Wright, Ralph Kenke, Thomas Studley, Zisiang See, Nathan Scott, Jack Mcgrath

Other (9 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2020 Carroll N, 'Orrery Arcana, on Music from SEAMUS CD vol. 29', (2020)
2018 Carroll N, 'Orrery Arcana', (2018)
2018 Carroll N, 'OH-2', (2018)
2017 Carroll N, 'Moon in Scorpio', (2017)
2017 Carroll N, 'Nhoj Elocin', (2017)
2017 Carroll N, 'OnlyHuman', (2017)
2016 Carroll N, 'Of the Moon, Under the Moon, for trumpet, live electronics and video', (2016)
2015 Carroll N, 'Rome Point: Becoming Dusk', (2015)
2015 Carroll N, 'Everything in its Place', (2015)
Show 6 more others
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 5
Total funding $153,756

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20212 grants / $9,996

Transdisciplinary Research Network in Art and Interface Technology (TRAIT)$5,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr Rewa Wright (Lead); Dr Andrea Cassin; A/Prof Jon Drummond; Dr Ralph Kenke; Prof Mario Minichiello; Dr Nicole Carroll.

Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2021
Funding Finish 2021
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

2021 Faculty of Education and Arts New Start Grant$4,996

Biosphere Listening

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2021
Funding Finish 2021
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20203 grants / $143,760

Singleton Laneways Activation$140,000

Funding body: Singleton Council

Funding body Singleton Council
Project Team Professor Paul Egglestone, Professor Mario Minichiello, Doctor Andrew Howells, Doctor Kristefan Minski, Associate Professor Jon Drummond, Doctor Nicole Carroll, Doctor Jane Shadbolt, Doctor Ralph Kenke, Dr ZI SIANG See, Doctor Ari Chand
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2021
GNo G2001494
Type Of Funding C2300 – Aust StateTerritoryLocal – Own Purpose
Category 2300
UON Y

2020 FEDUA 'Finish that Output' scheme funding$2,500

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr N Carroll

Scheme FEDUA 'Finish that Output' scheme
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

2020 Faculty of Education and Arts Strategic Early Advice and Feedback Scheme$1,260

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr Nicole Carroll

Scheme 2020 FEDUA Strategic Early Advice and Feedback Scheme
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current2

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2021 PhD Important Considerations and Strategic Approaches to Effective Audition Practice and Performance: An Examination in the Context of Popular Australian Audition Repertoire PhD (Music), College of Human and Social Futures, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2021 PhD Multimodal Feedback as a Means for Improving Accessibility for Blind and Visually Impaired Users of Digital Music and Audio Software PhD (Music), College of Human and Social Futures, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
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Dr Nicole Carroll

Position

Lecturer
School of Humanities, Creative Ind and Social Sci
College of Human and Social Futures

Contact Details

Email nicole.carroll@newcastle.edu.au
Phone 0426 375 980
Links Personal webpage
YouTube
SoundCloud

Office

Room NeW Space, Level 4
Location City Campus

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