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Nick_Virzi2 wild sounds

Wild Sound Explorers: Digital Storytelling at Jasper Ridge

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This course is an interdisciplinary workshop which explores the intersection between music, technology, and the natural sciences. Students will develop an essential understanding of the use of natural sound in art, including its origins, types, manifestations, and aesthetic concerns as they have appeared throughout the Western musical canon and through to our modern era. Working closely with a master composer and field recording artist, students will learn to apply relevant practical skills, theoretical knowledge, and philosophical wisdom in the pursuit of meaningful artistic and academic endeavors.

Through a mixture of lectures, field recording sessions, hands-on training, and reading, writing and listening assignments, students will gain skills in (1) listening to, understanding, analyzing, and discussing natural sound, (2) field recording – including an introduction to portable recording devices and mobile recording techniques, and (3) compositional techniques. Field sessions will take place at nearby locations, ripe with a diverse reservoir of natural sound, including Stanford University’s Lake Lagunita and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Each student should develop a personal approach to the use of natural sound in art, by making original field recordings from which to creatively respond.

This course fulfills the Creative Expression (CE) requirement.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Nicholas Virzi

Temp Lecturer


Dr. Nick Virzi (b. 1991) is a composer from New York City living in Woodside, California. His recent work explores the mystical nature of music through imagistic representation, orchestration of complex numerical systems, and use of original natural sound recordings. In addition to composing, he is a field recording artist, guitarist, and teacher, and hosts the international composer interview series Composer OverTime. Dr. Virzi completed his D.M.A. in Music Composition at Stanford University, where he studied with Mark Applebaum and Brian Ferneyhough. He also received his Bachelor of Music from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Du Yun, Huang Ruo, and Suzanne Farrin. 

Nick’s music has been performed both throughout the USA and internationally by artists such as cellist Séverine Ballon (France), soprano Tony Arnold, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, the JACK Quartet, the Spektral Quartet, Splinter Reeds, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Ensemble Liminar (Mexico), Distractfold (United Kingdom), the Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble, the TAK Ensemble, and Ensemble Dal Niente. His work has been featured at such venues as the Center for New Music in San Francisco, the Julliard School at Lincoln Center, and the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark. 

Nick has participated in several international festivals such as Impuls (Austria) and Gaudeamus Muziekweek (The Netherlands), and has received fellowships from the Cortona Sessions for New Music (Italy), the soundSCAPE Composition and Performance Exchange (Italy), the New Music for Strings Festival (Denmark), and the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival (NYC). He has also presented his work at universities such as UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, as well as the California Interdisciplinary Consortium for Italian Studies at the Italy’s Centers and Peripheries Conference.

As a field recording artist specializing in natural sound, Nick has held artist and research residencies at wilderness locations throughout California, such as Sagehen Experimental Forest, the Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur, and the Poto Festival in Grass Valley. He has presented his research in bioacoustics and sound ecology at NYU’s Steinhardt School at the Precarious Sounds/Sounding Sanctuary Conference, in New York City, The Catholic University of America at the Eleventh International Conference on Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Washington, D.C, and the Centro Cultural Vila Flor at the Ninth International Conference on the Constructed Environment in Guimarães, Portugal.