Wednesday Jan 29

Here is the link for the Stockhausen.

Today we have two main objectives.  The first is to continue our discussion of timbre through the process of additive synthesis.  The second is to challenge the precision of both our aural memory, and our ability to describe sound with words.  We will do this by revisiting our previous ‘reduced listening’ exercises, this time in Max/MSP.

First, divide into the following groups:

Ruby, David, Miles / Caroline, Adam, Allyson / Lazae, John, Mitsuko / Ziyun, Michael /Keith, Jorge, Jake

For these two exercises, begin by letting whoever is newest to Max/MSP do all the patching (with guidance, of course).  If your group has multiple newbies, take turns!  It’s important that everyone has a sense for what is going on, and it’s harder to lose track if you are making the connections yourself.

Additive Synthesis: (about 40 minutes)

*If you do not finish this exercise in class, that is fine.  Be sure everyone in your group a copy of what you complete in class, and the rest will be homework.

  1. Begin by going through the additive synthesis tutorial together as a group.  Make sure everyone can explain the idea of abstraction in Max/MSP, as well as the function object, and the elements that are changing with the different presets.
  2. Once you have a good feel for the tutorial patch, you are going to begin to customize it, to make the famous (infamous?) bell tone a la Jean-Claude Risset.  Begin by studying his diagram, below. (Click for a larger image.)

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 7.28.00 AM

3. Using the example patch as a guide, along with this amp/dur/freq data, begin to construct a bell tone using additive synthesis.  You will need to make some changes to the example patch, including, but not limited to:

  • Adding more partials
  • Creating a ‘detuning’ option for frequencies that indicate + 1, + 1.7 and etc.
  • Finding a way to specify relative durations of different partials
  • Changing all envelopes to an exponential decay.

After copying the example patch into a new patcher, consider starting small.  You will need to make some changes to ‘partial~’ (you will have to make a new file to do this, and be sure to put it in the same folder with your new bell synthesis patch).  Before making all of your partials, test one to make sure everything is working.

Part 2: Reduced Listening – Let’s begin by discussing a work-flow briefly together as a class.

Now for the fun part (I think).  Also, the really hard part.  Technically what I’m asking you to do is impossible–but don’t let that discourage you.  Although you will be synthesizing/composing by hand, this is really a *listening* exercise.

  1. Begin by going to the class blog and choosing one of your classmates’ ‘reduced listening’ exercises to try to recreate in Max/MSP.  It should be by someone who is *not* in your group.
  2. If possible, pick an example in which the sound source was not revealed. Write on the board or announce to the class which example you are doing, so that we don’t all choose the same one.
  3. Begin by creating a sonic prototype based solely on the description provided by your classmate, without asking for any clarification.  If something is not clear, do your best to fill in the blanks from their description.  But keep a list of questions for the next part.
  4. Next part: find your classmate, play your prototype, and solicit feedback on your prototype to see how accurate it is.  Ask them clarifying questions (only about the sound, not the source).
  5. Go back to work with your edits.  Rinse, wash, and repeat.  Once you’ve got it perfectly, you can move on to a new example.
  6. Eventually, the goal is to listen to a bunch of examples as a class and try to determine the source from the synthesized sounds.  It’s very possible this will fail miserably.  But it is worth trying, anyway.  This exercise is about learning how to describe sound with precision, about exploring the accuracy of aural memory, and about trying to learn to get what we’re hearing out of our heads into the real world.  Of course, it’s also about seeing how well we can identify a sound that has been separated from its source.

Part 3: Other stuff

  1. Once we’ve had enough reduced listening, if there is time remaining, we will move to an open lab session.  This would be a good opportunity to follow up with anyone from the conversations that began on the blog.  You could also spend the time doing some research on the tools you will need to realize your project, continue working through Max/MSP tutorials, synthesizing sounds or working on the bell.  I’d also love to chat with you about  your projects, so I will circulate and say hello. 🙂

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