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ATS/Sound 3052:  Programming for Sound: Synthesis

Rough Syllabus

Below is a ROUGH syllabus for the class (subject to change once we are underway and I have a better sense of the learning speed / background / needs of the class members):

Week 1:


Class Overview – syllabus, reading , assignments, etc.

Class Survey

Studio Access, software, etc.

Reading for Week 2:

Backus, “Simple Vibrating Systems”

Backus, “Complex Vibrations and Resonance”

Week 2:

Introduction/Review of Physical Acoustics

Representation of Sound

Physical Parameters

The Digital Representation of Sound

History of Computer Music Languages

Reading for Week 3:

Backus, “The Ear: Intensity and Loudness Levels”

Backus, “Tone Quality”

Week 3:

Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Sound

Pitch – Physical and Psychoacoustic parameters/perception

Amplitude – Physical and Psychoacoustic parameters/perception

Digitization of Sound

A/D – D/A process

Sampling Rate


Internal Representation

Introduction to the inner life of the Max/MSP Audio Objects

Reading for Week 4:

Dodge, Fundamentals of Computer Music

Week 4:

(Decker out of town – Robb Drinkwater sub.)

Max/MSP bootcamp with Robb

Reading for Week 5:

Dodge, “Synthesis Fundamentals”

Week 5:

Audio Synthesis Fundamentals

The Unit Generator Structure

How Oscillators work

Generating time-variable functions (envelopes)

Sampling Rate vs. Control Rate issues


Randomness and Noise

Additive Synthesis

Download examples used in class

Week 6:

Additive Synthesis  – implementing a basic audio synthesis strategy

Oscillator / Envelope generator pairings

Signal Summing

Control parameter linking and interdependencies

Assignment for Week 7:

Project 1: Building a simple patch – Wavetable Instrument

Week 7:

Project 1: Building a simple patch – Wavetable Instrument due

Analysis / Resynthesis techniques

Additive Synthesis – adding additional parameters


Frequency glide

Detuning of overtones

Using tables as raw data for envelope information

The Phase Vocoder

Reading for week 8:

Dodge:  “Synthesis using Distortion Techniques”

Assignment for week 8:

Project 2:  Additive Bell instrument (a la Risset)

Week 8:

Project 2:  Additive Bell instrument (a la Risset) due

Basic Modulation techniques

Ring Modulation

Amplitude Modulation

Frequency Modulation

History of FM

Simulating Dynamic Spectra using FM

Bessell Functions and other inner-sanctum stuff

Mod Index – what does it do

Basic FM patch

Multiple Carrier/Modulator configurations

Reading for Week 9:

Risset: “Digital Techniques and Sound Structure in Music”

Assignment for Week 9:

Project 3:  Basic FM synthesis

Begin working on Mid-Term Project (short performance or composition)

Download Examples used in class

Week 9:

Project 3:  Basic FM synthesis due

Advanced Modulation and Distortion Techniques

Elaborations on the basic FM instrument:

Multiple Carriers

Multiple Modulators

Cascaded modulators

Additional Paramters: Vibrato, frequency and amplitude envelopes

Using Synthesis Techniques in composition/performance

Sample playback techniques

Approaches to building “instruments”

Using multiple techniques together


Assignment for Week 10:

Mid Term Projects – short performance or composition

Week 10:

Mid-term Projects due (2-3 minute composition) / presented in class

Reading for Week 11:

Week 11:

Basic Granular Synthesis

Overview and basic concepts/history

Generating random control over parameters

additional control parameters

practical approaches using Max/MSP for real-time use

Other modern uses of granular synthesis – duration and pitch shifting, etc.

download granular synthesis examples from class

Assignment  for Week 12:

Project #4: Granular Synthesis patch

Week 12:

Project #4: Granular Synthesis patch due

Digital Filters

Basic Filter Types, Theory, and Usage.

Comb Filters, Allpass Filters

Averaging Lowpass and Highpass filters,

The BiQuad filter.

Assignment  for week 13:

Project #5: Filters

Processing examples download:

Week 13:

Project #5: Filters due

Introduction to Signal Processing

Dynamic Range Processing


Delay Line Effects



Assignment for Week 14:

Begin working on Final Projects

Week 14

Project #6: Signal Processing due

Fourier-based synthesis techniques

The Fourier transform

time-domain vs frequency domain

additive synthesis using ftt

analysis/synthesis using fft

filtering with frequency-domain transforms


Assignment for Week 15:

continue working on Final Projects

Week 15

Present Final Projects in Class (5-8 minute composition/performance)

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