Music 206/267 : Audio synthesis and processing techniques
fall quarter 2021, University of California, San Diego

Time and location: Mondays and Wednesdays, 5-6:20PM, on Zoom
Instructor: Professor Miller Puckette,
CPMC 251,,

This will be more a lecture topics class than a seminar. The overall plan is to present approaches to audio synthesis and processing that are sufficiently outside the mainstream that they are hard to find information about. In a few cases I'll be able to point to written literature but much of the material is only available as folk knowledge.

The course should be comprehensible to anyone familiar with audio synthesis in any of the audio programming environments such as Csound, Max/MSP, Pd, or SuperCollider. The examples shown in class will be in Pd; if you're new to Pd you can look through the examples in to get an overview.

The assignments for the course will be three sonic challenges (thanks to alumna Momilani Ramstrum for first suggesting this modality to me). It won't matter how well or badly you pull them off as long as you can learn something from them. The first sonic challenge is to imitate the repeating synth ostinato in On the Run from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon - I've extracted some of it here. Here's my attempt.

Second sonic challenge: Imitate the opening bell sound from Michael Jackson, Beat It. Here's my attempt.

Alternative second sonic challenge: maybe this is a bit easier: try to imitate this bell (the Pd help file bell, lifted from Jonathan Harvey's piece Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco). Here's my attempt.

Third sonic challenge: The wonderful cheap synth sound in Kradtwerk, Pocket Calculator. This phrase from the original ends in 3 synthetic beeping sounds. I was able to partly extract them. Here's my imitation.

Here are the patches and videos from class.

Outline (reorganized Oct 13):

------- PART 1 - feedback as audio source -----------

oscillators as dynamic systems.  The state space.  Periodic and chaotic
behaviors. examples: coupled oscillator pairs; quaternion flows;
paths on pool tables

feedback control structures: z12; sample and hold in feedback systems

zero-delay feedback.  The Moog ladder filter; PAF and FM from zero-delay

historical examples: Henri Pousseur; Salvator Martirano; Gordon Mumma

------- PART 2 - modulation ------------

phase quadrature, single-sideband modulation, and waveform grafting

audio-rate filter modulation

manipulating FM and AM sidebands

rampdown and punch-in

nonlinear one-pole filter and dynamics processing

VCAs, vactrols, and Buchla's gate module

------- PART 3 - phase -------------------

classic phaser effect

single-sideband modulation using Hilbert transform. Combination with pitch

linear and nonlinear feedback delay networks (FDNs), and other,
non-FDN reverberators

time-varying delay effects

------- PART 4 - additive synthesis and linear resonance models ---------

control strategies for sinusoidal oscillator banks

resonant filterbanks as generator and processor. Couplings between

generating frequency sets: analysis/synthesis; 3F technique

Altering spectra to elide sour intervals in tempered musical scales

Examples: Steiger; Boulez

------- PART 5 - frequency domain techniques ------------

vocoders and phase vocoders

phase bashing

impulse response estimation: swept sinusoids, maximum-length sequences;
complementary sequences

------- PART 6 - audio analysis and resynthesis ------------

linear prediction and nonlinear lattice filters

voice- (and other audio-) driven electronic instruments

database search by audio characteristics