Thomas Nagl

Music & Sound Designer/Shaper/Engineer.

Starting off by learning to play instruments in a classical sense (such as jazz trumpet & keys), the world of electronic music production quickly pulled me into its orbit and by the age of about 15, my first DAW helped me put a lot of (more or less) musical data onto my parents computer.

From that moment on, homework and studying became non-priorities, as I was constantly chasing new ideas and techniques. I continuously try to improve the “auditory stamp” I try to shape onto this world full of ears, hearts and brains while also attempting to help others to do so.

Years passed by, projects got finished, collaborations started, awards won, internships passed, and eventually, I was able to combine my passion with studying and graduated as a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (even passing with honors, who would have thought?!).

Over the years I have developed new skills such as mixing and recording and improved my production and sound design assets. As of right now I am studying to get my Master’s Degree in Audio Design.

However, the journey has only just begun as I am working on many interesting projects besides my master’s projects (which can be seen below) as I am writing these lines.

Semester 1 – „Schall gegen Rauch“

“Schall gegen Rauch” is a reactive outdoors sound installation, based on 14 loudspeakers that are placed in one of the smoking areas at our University.

The goal is to stop smokers from smoking, even in dedicated smoking areas. (`Cause it’s unhealthy!)

To help them stop I created a (hopefully) even more uncomfortable version of Chopin’s “Funeral March” which is played on said 14 loudspeakers. I also implemented a “beeping sound” every time a smoker dies (statistically) and designed a bell sound that functions as a signal tone and reminder of certain death.

For the reactive character of the installation, I used smoke sensors, going into an Arduino, eventually controlling Ableton.

Mascot that contains said sensors.
Sensors & Arduino in detail.

Semester 2 – „Spinning Gates“

The goal of „Spinning Gates“ was to build a Step Sequencer based on a turntable.

The sequencer contains 6 contact microphones in 3 radii, every time a „sequence stone“ that is mounted on a slipmat via velcro passes by, the signal is passed to the separate solo outputs (mini-jack and jack) of that mic and a sum output of each radius. Before that, it can be switched on or off via flip switches that also communicate their state via LED.

The signal can then either be used to trigger analog synths but I also patched Max4Live devices that let the „stones“ trigger MIDI. (and eventually, for example, Ableton Drumracks.)

The biggest fun and USP of this sequencer is that it’s not based on a mathematical grid and that there is no quantization involved, a feature that is rarely seen, be it in todays DAWs, but also in older chaser light sequencers.

Semester 3 – „Expansion“

In the third semester of our studies, the main topic was spatial audio/3D audio/360° audio. That’s why I created a 4-piece EP in the ambisonics format, called „Expansion“.

In a total length of about 20 minutes, a sonic travel through different eras of electronic music, such as musique concrète, ambient, cosmic music, electro punk, electronic body music, electro, techno, jungle or IDM can be experienced.
Not only is this EP about the „lifespan“ of electronic music (up to a certain point), it also sets the average expectancy of a human being as its framework and is based around different periods, not only genre-wise, but also human-life-wise.

The 4 tracks are:

  • Fundament & Init (prenatal phase & birth)
  • Quantize & Revolt (childhood, adolescence, early adulthood)
  • Sustain & Crisis (adulthood)
  • Decay & Release (seniority & death)

The goal was to capture certain aspects of those periods in terms of external influences, perception and emotions, using production techniques and aesthetics of the corresponding musical eras in a spatial audio context. Human-based data, such as pulse rate, serves as the basis for the EPs beats per minute.