Generating Sound and Organizing Time

    by Graham Wakefield & Gregory Taylor

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    Generating Sound & Organizing Time is about the astonishing things you can do—and the insights you can find—when you work at the atomic sample-by-sample structure of digital audio.

    Whether you are a musician, sound designer, composer, or an experimentalist interested in creating music and tools to generate and modulate audio, our aim is to reveal how working at the sample level is not only easier to reason about, but also far more open to demystify and unleash the immense possibilities of digital audio signal processing.

    To do this we use gen~, which lets us work directly at the sample level through visual patching (or by coding if you prefer) and hear results immediately after every edit. That means you can crack open the algorithms of oscillators, filters, audio effects and so on that are inaccessibly black-boxed in most music software, and explore your own variations through experimentation and hybridization.

    This book is also about developing useful things to think with: design patterns, techniques and subcircuits to help you bring new musical signal processes to life. Starting from the simplest beginnings we’ll see how very many seemingly unrelated synthesis and sound processing algorithms come down to a pretty small number of common circuits and patterns reapplied in a few different ways (without needing much math or code), as we develop:

    • algorithmic rhythm generators, beat slicers, Euclidean sequencers,
    • morphing LFOs, wave shapers, bit-crushers and gliding quantizers,
    • chaotic systems, stepped and smoothed noise and chance operations,
    • a wide palette of filters and delay effects,
    • a plethora of phase and frequency modulation algorithms,
    • formant, pulsar and polyphonic granular synthesizers of various kinds,
    • bandlimited virtual analog and wavetable oscillators capable of intensive modulation,

    …and more in the large collection of patching examples provided with the book.

    Click here to see the book's Table of Contents

    Praise and Kind Words

    This book unlocks—for composers, musicians, sound designers, and experimentalists at every level—a very smart exploration and demystification of computer music techniques, and a beautifully concise, unpretentious and accessible introduction to low-level signal processing. Graham and Gregory's book will not only give you insight into how to work with audio all the way down to its elemental sample-by-sample number streams; it will also inspire you to want to work this way all the time.

    R. Luke DuBois, Associate Professor of Integrated Design & Media New York University Tandon School of Engineering

    This book invites you to a fascinating journey through concepts, ideas, and ready-to-use practical gems, developed and brought to you by two people who combine deep technical knowledge with artistic mastery. It will show you how much is possible with gen~, the hidden secret weapon inside Max. Whatever you think you need to invent, it might simply be in here.

    Robert Henke

    This book clearly and insightfully illuminates the possibilities of per-sample digital signal processing. The depths the book reaches and the arrows of thought that it shoots in all directions expand both the microscopic and the macroscopic, not only for programming, but for ideas for and approaches to creating all elements of music. It is indispensable for all Max users and those interested in better understanding digital signal processing.

    Jim O'Rourke

    Author Information

    Graham Wakefield was the primary author of gen~ while a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara. Now an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, he directs the Alice Lab at York University and publishes research in journals and conferences spanning computer music, live coding, electronic arts, and mixed reality. With Haru Ji he also creates immersive bio-inspired Artificial Nature artworks, exhibited at venues such as the ZKM, Karlsruhe and la Gaîté Lyrique, Paris.

    Gregory Taylor is the author of Step by Step: Adventures in Sequencing with Max/MSP. He creates and edits content for Cycling ’74. He was trained as a visual artist, has studied central
    Javanese gamelan and electroacoustic music in the U.S. and the Netherlands, and hosts a radio program of contemporary audio on WORT-FM. His recordings are available on the Palace of Lights, c74, Clang, Nachtstück, Flood, Spectropol, Stasisfield, and ARTlevel labels.