Women & Mac: Music!

Lissa Meridan is Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. She also teaches instrumental composition, orchestration, counterpoint and acoustics. She is a committee member and webmaster for the Composers Assoc. of NZ and Vice President of the Australasian Computer Music Association.


Lissa Meridan, New Zealand

Hello Lissa, let´s talk a little first about you, please. Where are you from?

I grew up in Auckland, but am currently living in Wellington, New Zealand.

How old are you?


How long have you been involved in the computer music field?

I started composing in the Electronic Music Studios at Auckland University while I was studying composition during the early 90’s, and have become increasing more involved over the past five years.

Tell us about macintosh platform as used in the music scene, please. What kind of hardware & software are most used by professionals? What hardware and software have you used? Which are you using now?

Most professional musicians in New Zealand tend to use the Macintosh platform as it is a very stable environment in which to do sound work, All of the University Computer music studios and a large number of professional recording studios are equipped with macs, so it tends to be a standard here. There are too many various pieces of hardware and software available to name them all, but I particularly like to work with programs such as ProTools, which has some fantastic plug-ins for audio digital signal processing and effects, both in a studio situation and live. Some of my faviourite software tools are Spektral Delay, GRM Tools, Metasynth, Max/MSP, SampleTank and Audiosculpt. I also use Peak for quick edit jobs and recording basic setups. As far as hardware goes, in the studio, I run a G4 and use a ProTools Control24 with their TDM system, a DAT recorder or ADAT, a range of microphones, and a few bits of retro gear such as a Roland modular synth, a Synthi VCS3 and a DP4 effects processor. I tend mostly towards a software based studio environment these days. I’ve had a lot of fun making installation works and live interactive music with an iCube digitiser and Max/MSP. For my live shows, I simply work with a Digi002 ProTools control surface, a couple of turntables, DJ mixer, 16-channel Mackie desk, a MIDI keyboard and of course control the whole process via my iBook.

How do you use your computer as a part of your creative process?

In what areas of your composition work do you use technology? And the Mac, how is the computer involved?

My computer has become a central tool for me over the past five years or so, since I bought my first mac (which was a 7600). I still do a lot of composition for symphony orchestra and chamber ensembles, and I run both Sibelius and Finale notation software on my laptop, (as I still can’t make up my mind which I like better!) I love being able to scratch around on paper first of course, but I never write my music out fully any more – I just make rough sketches of mt ideas and then work directly in computer notation. I try to steer clear of the MIDI playback features in these programmes as I still find my listening imagination makes a more accurate image of what the real orchestral colour will sound like, and although the MIDI playback can be useful for checking out harmony and rhythmic material, I prefer the surprise of hearing the real life band rehearsing my work for the first time, as for me this is one of the most exhilarating experiences of being a composer.

Of course, it is an entirely different process when I am writing for electroacoustics, as I tend to audition recordings, process them, audition again and build up pieces track by track, often in quite small and detailed structures. I love the way I can instantly hear the results of each process, and experiment in real-time with spatial placement within any number of loudspeaker configurations in the studio.

About professional women in computing music, how do you think is the situation in New Zealand? Same as men?

I think that there are definitely equal opportunities for women working in this field in New Zealand, however, unfortunately at this point there are only a very small number of us actually doing it professionally. It is partly my goal to encourage more young women to consider a profession in sound work, and this year I have quite a number of female students in my classes – I have seen the situation improve slightly each year since I began teaching in Universities only five years ago. Hopefully in another five years there will be a better gender balance.

Lets talk about your piece “twitter tourniquet”, which was your idea making that music theme? How was it done?

This piece is based on an earlier instrumental micro-score written for 175 East, titled gash. The resulting electroacoustic piece, twitter tourniquet, is a sonic exploration which expands upon the structure, textural transformations and basic melodic gestures of gash, while at the same time magnifying the details intrinsic in the original sound material. It closely examines both the interior and exterior structures of the original, while maintaining an overview of these structures within its own temporal and timbral domains.

The opening material is a heavily filtered but otherwise complete iteration of the original 30 second piece. It is also present in its entirety during the middle section, which explores moments of the original as if each sonic event had been captured and closely examined, like an insect under glass. The resulting sonic images suggest the sounds of birds and insects, the movement of wings… reeling between shock and hypnotic fascination.

All of the material is derived either from the source recording of gash, or from gestural and timbral ideas present in the original score of this composition. This piece was realised in the computer music studio at the University of Waikato, 2000.

In the area of electronic music, do you work on real-time interactive computer music?

Yes, I do work with real-time interactive computer music. I really enjoy working with amplified live musicians and improvised signal processing and effects.

Can you explain your multi-media collaborations with video and dance, gallery installations and interactive performances?

Some examples:


An electro-acoustic/dance collaboration exploring mental health. 7:00mins.


Choreographer/Dancer: Wilhemeena Gordon.

Music/Camera: Lissa Meridan.

Video Production/Editor: Norm Skipp.

Costume/Design: Wilhemeena Gordon.


Pulse Field, Sound-Art/Electroaccoustic exhibition, School of Art and Design, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA – 12 Feb 2003.

AXESS Raising Fun, Moving Image Centre, Auckland – 21 September 2002.

34th New Zealand International Film Festival, Homegrown 3 -Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin -2002.

Scratch and Sniff Dance Shorts, Cloud 9, Auckland, New Zealand – 27 April 2002.

Tertiary Dance Festival 2001, Waikato University, Hamilton, NZ.

‘Rosebud…without clear intention’, a performance art event curated by Wilhemeena Gordon in Seattle, USA – September 2001.

Portland Institute of Contemporary Art – Informal performance video screening, Portland, USA – July 2001.

LIMINAL THEATRE workshop, Portland, Oregon, USA – July 2001.

University of Washington, Seattle, USA – Informal presentation – July 2001.

Music Woman Aotearoa Festival, Te Papa, Wellington, New Zealand – 1999.

Elastic horizon


Shifting between the familiar and the abstract, Elastic Horizon extends the boundaries of the known world into a fantastic ‘other’ – a labyrinth of visual and aural experience.

Elastic Horizon is an interactive audiovisual installation, which invites the visitor to manipulate and transform images and sounds from the natural environment. Participant’s actions within the space are interpreted, in real time, into a sequence of visual and aural effects. The number of people, their rate of movement and their location in the space all contribute to changes within the installation.

This project is the result of the collaborative work of Lissa Meridan (New Zealand) and Antonio Funiciello (Venezuela) and was supported by the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington, MagnumMac and B&H Visual Communication & Presentation Solutions.

I perform regularly at Wellington music festivals such as Bomb the Space and the Fringe Festival, as well as at national and international events and computer music conferences. Last year, I worked with a local vocalist Leila Adu, and cellist Francesca Mountfort and we presented a show at the Bomb the Space Festival, which involved live processing of turntables, cello (improvising with extended techniques) and vocal improvisations. We were aiming to create an evolving musical experience which moved from ambient soundscapes through to arresting noise-based electronica, while still maintaining a sense of musicality and beauty. I am particularly intrigued with using tools such as computers, effects and amplification to allow live acoustic musicians to work in a sound-world that is larger than life and allows communication of broader possibility of musical imagination.

Can you tell us about concept and research method, please? Which are your music projects actually?

Each specific project I work on, whether it be using electronics, computers, orchestras or a mixture, grows out of its own unique concept. I don’t have a specific formula for composing my music, but I try to approach each new project with a fresh idea, process or structural basis. I am currently interested in structures which can be drawn from spectral information and other facets of sound morphology. I like the idea of taking small musical details and expanding them into larger structures, like I did with twitter tourniquet, and more recently I have done this in blast, a piece for symphony orchestra, which is being perfomed by the Auckland Philharmonia on March 13 in Auckland.

blast is structurally based on a short digital video of an explosion while the musical parameters are defined by the results of a spectral analysis of the aftersound of a large gong. The piece is in essence a magnification of one sound event, with one attack, decay, sustain and release. Following the initial attack, various elements of the decay surface, hold our attention and then submerge into the texture again.

Splinters of light explode from a central point of combustion, sparks shoot out and follow spontaneous trajectories – each fragment transforming its momentum, propulsion, fragility. blast examines the detail of an explosive event, containing its complexities within a single envelope out of which many microscopic pieces take flight, dissolving into an edgeless ending, a release into silence.

Are there very many women at the Composers Assoc. of NZ and at the Australasian Computer Music Association?

The Composers Assoc. has a huge number of women members, who predominantly work with instrumental or acoustic composition. On the other hand, the Australasian Computer Music Association has very few women members, although hopefully this will change in future years.

Where can we find your music works?




New Zealand Sonic Art Vol. 1 and 2

Thank you very much. Best wishes and success for “blast” on next 13th March 2003, J.

Thank you for your interest in my work.

Lissa Meridan.

Related links: International : Women & Mac: Editorial.

Spanish version available here.

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