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Eric Lyon

Eric Lyon, Professor of Practice

Eric Lyon, Professor of Practice
Eric Lyon, Professor of Practice

School of Performing Arts
242-P Squires
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-5335 |

Eric Lyon is a composer, computer musician, spatial music researcher, audio software developer, and curator. In the 1980s, Lyon developed a wide range of new signal processing strategies for modifying both synthetic and acoustic sounds, including a wide range of spectral processors based on Fourier analysis. In the 1990s, he developed algorithmic approaches to sound design that resulted in increasingly complex and unpredictable timbres. In parallel, he began working with live processing of acoustic sounds, first with the Kyma system, and next with Max/MSP, ultimately writing a large collection of his own Max/MSP audio plugins (also called “externals”). 

In the first decade of the 21st century, Lyon has continued developing interactive computer chamber music, with precise DSP designs integrated into instrumental counterpoint. He also began developing strategies for creating multichannel music. In the second decade of the 21st century, Lyon has focused on creating immersive music for massively multichannel systems, also known as high-density loudspeaker arrays (HDLAs). He has increasingly automated live DSP processing in his works for acoustic instruments and electronics, drawing on the sequencing capabilities of Ableton Live in tandem with its internal DSP plug-in design platform Max for Live.

Lyon’s publicly available software includes FFTease (with Christopher Penrose) and LyonPotpourri, collections of externals written for Max/MSP and Pd. Lyon is the author of the book “Designing Audio Objects for Max/MSP and Pd”, which explicates the process of designing and implementing audio DSP externals. In 2016, Lyon was guest editor of the Computer Music Journal, editing two issues (CMJ 40:4 and 41:1) dedicated to the subject of HDLAs. Lyon also curated the 2016 Computer Music Journal Sound Anthology, which was the first binaural anthology published by the CMJ.

In 2011, Lyon was awarded a Giga-Hertz prize from ZKM, resulting in the creation of the 43-channel computer music composition Spirits. His 124-channel composition “The Cascades” was premiered in the Cube at the Virginia Tech Center for the Arts, and performed on the BEAST system at BEAST FEaST 2015 in Birmingham, and at the SARC Sonic Lab in Belfast at Sonorities/Speculations 2016. His multichannel composition "Spaced Images with Noise and Lines" was selected for multiple performances in the 2015 MUSLAB competition, and his computer music composition "Light Rain, Laganside" was selected for performance at the International Society for Contemporary Music’s 2016 World Music Days festival. In 2018, Lyon was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition. His music is commercially available on Ash International, Bohn Media, Everglade, Capstone Records, Centaur Records, EMF, Innova, Isospin Labs Records, New Focus Records, Northern Spy Recordings, Ravello Records, Smart Noise Records, and Sound’s Bounty.    

Current projects include co-artistic directorship (with Tyechia Thompson) of Cube Fest 2021 centering Afrofuturist immersive music, co-architecting the I4 community at Virginia Tech (with Anthony Kwame Harrison, Matthew Holt, Aki Ishida, Sylvester Johnson, Benjamin Knapp, Lisa McNair, Todd Ogle, Leo Piilonen, and Menah Pratt-Clarke), creating an evening-long dance suite for String Noise with live electronics, creating a new piece for sound and movement with Scotty Hardwig and Kyle Hutchins, and writing a book on algorithmic sound design.

  • Music Technology and Composition
  • Production /Research Areas: ICAT
  • Teaching Areas: Orchestration & Digital Sound
  • PhD, UC San Diego
  • MM, Eastman School of Music
  • BM, Princeton University
  • Featured composer, International Electroacoustic Music Festival at Brooklyn Conservatory, 2007.
  • Director, Sonorities 2007 Festival of Contemporary Music.
  • Director, Dartmouth Symposium on the Future of Music Software, 2001.
What is the most satisfying or rewarding moment of your artistic process?
Moving a musical idea from the improbable to the inevitable.
What gives you the most satisfaction as a teacher?
Seeing my students develop their curiosity and creativity to a level of intensity at which they no longer need me as a teacher and can move forward entirely on their own initiative.
What is the most important quality for any student in the performing arts to cultivate?
The ability to view art from multiple perspectives, without prejudgement.
Something Unexpected:
I enjoy folding origami.