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Johannes Goebel - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Troy, NY, US

Johannes Goebel Johannes Goebel

Founding Director, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Serves as founding director of one of the country’s most invigorating hubs for performance

Areas of Expertise (8)


Sound Installations

Interactive Operas

Interactive Electronics

Music and Technology

Music and Acoustics

Pure Sound Synthesis



Johannes Goebel joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as founding director of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in July 2002. He holds a tenured position as professor in the Arts Department and in the School of Architecture. He came to Rensselaer at the beginning of the design process for EMPAC to ensure architects and consultants would meet the vision of the building as an optimal bridge between the physical world of human experience and interaction and the potential of the digital domain. Parallel to the design and construction of the building, he developed the program of EMPAC by building the technical, curatorial, and operational teams, and initializing the artistic and research productions, residencies, and events.

Between 1990 and 2002, Goebel served as founding director of the Institute for Music and Acoustics at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. With its studios, artist-in-residence program, productions, commissions, and festivals, ZKM is one of the leading production environments worldwide for music and technology. For ZKM’s new building, which opened in 1996 and comprises two museums, two research and production institutes, studios, and performance venues, Goebel coordinated the overall demands and specified the requirements and infrastructure of its performance spaces and the Institute for Music and Acoustics. Under his directorship, more than 90 international artists produced roughly 200 works, ranging from compositions with live and interactive electronics to pure sound synthesis, interactive operas, and radio plays, sound installations, ballet music, and music films with live orchestras. A continuous performance program and co-productions with other festivals established ZKM as a center for new practices in music.

During his tenure at ZKM, Goebel lectured and published internationally on aesthetics, technology, and music, co-directed 1996 Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), taught a summer course at the Catholic University Porto, Portugal in 2000, and was a guest professor at the Music Academy Graz, Austria in 1992. His lectures, essays, and radio broadcasts from 1979 to 2001 on aesthetics, music, and technology were published in a collection as part of the edition ZKM with Schott publishers.



Johannes Goebel Publication




Johannes Goebel: The Computer as Time Machine | EMPAC ART!??!!!  A Discussion with EMPAC Director Johannes Goebel Johannes Goebel: Language and Art and Language


Media Appearances (3)

EMPAC to celebrate 10th birthday with 3-day festival

Albany Times Union  online


Yara Travieso is a choreographer, director and filmmaker whose work is so broad-based and all-encompassing that she's been called a "maker of worlds." Since midsummer the New York-based Travieso has made repeated and extended visits to the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, RPI's massive glass and steel building on the hill above downtown Troy, which is commonly known as EMPAC and is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

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10 YEARS Celebration At EMPAC

WAMC  online


The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York is where the arts, sciences, and technology meet under one roof.

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How Rensselaer recruited him from Germany to lead a performing arts center

Albany Business Review  online


Johannes Goebel is the founding director of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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Articles (5)

A Cinematic Spatial Sound Display for Panorama Video Applications

Organized Sound

Jonas Braasch, Johannes Goebel

2010 This paper describes a new sound spatialisation system which is an integral part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). The Cinematic Spatial Sound Display (CSSD) was originally conceived for interactive panorama video installations, but the architecture goes beyond this particular application. The CSSD is characterised by its scalability to various loudspeaker configurations. It spatialises sound from dry sound files or live sources using control data that describe the spatial scenes. The time lines for source positions and other experimental parameters can be stored and edited in the CSSD, and the system can also process live user input to control selected parameters. The CSSD is more than just a sound positioning tool, and the underlying Virtual Microphone Control (ViMiC) technology was developed to support artists in designing new forms of spatial imagery. The software enables the user to create computer-generated rooms with virtual microphones and sound sources. The algorithm uses physical laws to auralise acoustic scenes – allowing realistic effects such as the Doppler shift and the simulation of various classical microphone techniques. Various parameters of ViMiC can be adjusted in real time, including the directivity patterns and orientations of both the microphones and sound sources as well as their precise locations. Surreal scenes can be created by assigning artificial directivity patterns to microphones or changing the laws of physics in the model. An algorithm to extract the sound-source positions in recordings using a microphone array is also part of the CSSD. The algorithm was specifically designed to operate in multiple sound-source scenarios and can also be used for telematic music applications.

The ZKM Institute for Music and Acoustics up to 2002: Politics, context and foundations

Organized Sound

Johannes Goebel

2009 The overall concept for a Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe positioned music as integral part of it from the very beginning in 1985. The following text does not list accomplishments by discussing individual works, productions and research projects; this report describes and contextualises what happened and how it happened, it talks of people and concepts, of politics and ideas. It tries to illuminate the complex path between politics and technology, individual interests and cultural perspectives that led to and shaped ZKM. The uniqueness of ZKM is not only that it comprises museums as well as institutes, which actively produce art. The uniqneness of ZKM also lies in that music was planned as an equally important partner in the original concept, and that the Institute for Music and Acoustics still holds a major position in the institution today even though ZKM as a whole shifted towards the dominance of visual media. The focus of this text is on how the Institute for Music and Acoustics forms an integral part of ZKM as a whole while evolving its own inner direction and dynamics.

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IDEAMA – The International Digital Electroacoustic Music Archive

Journal of New Music Research

Johannes Goebel

2010 IDEAMA – The International Digital Electroacoustic Music Archive was founded by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Stanford University, and the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe in 1990. IDEAMA was conceived as an “all-digital” archive preserving electroacoustic music composed up to about 1970. The target collection of 569 compositions was completed in 1996 and is currently accessible at 23 institutions worldwide. Since then, ZKM has been responsible for the collection. The main issues during the process of establishing the collection were the criteria for the selection of the pieces to be archived, the question of acoustical restoration, the solutions for storage and access, the legal issues – and, last but not least, “money.”

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The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic...

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Johannes Goebel

2009 This paper discusses studios and performance spaces built for multi‐modal production, presentation, and research without compromises. Hearing, seeing, and moving in space were treated as equal in the definition of the physical properties of all spaces. Special diffusive acoustics were developed for a concert hall, a theater, and studios to be able to support any instrumental, vocal, or electronic sound from anywhere. The noise floor of the theater is as low as in the concert hall as in a studio used for video (NR 15). Only sine‐wave dimmers are allowed. The integrated digital technology allows creating, recording, and projecting sound,images, and movement through thousands of audio channels, hundreds of high definition video channels, and with computer controlled rigging and flying. The world of the human senses is bridged with the digital world of technology. All noisy equipment is banned from any venue. All venues are acoustically extremely separated with one studio resting on springs, the other studio having a separate foundation, and acoustical joints everywhere. The team comprises artistic curators as well as engineers and researchers; artists and scholars are in residence; the task is to span arts, science, and technology. The center opened 2008.

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Experiment Media Art

Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik

Johannes Goebel


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