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Microsound Hardcover – 7 May 2002


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; Har/Com edition (7 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262182157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262182157
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,907,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Microsound is packed with insight and stimulating ideas. -- Douglas Geers Electronic Musician

About the Author

Curtis Roads is Associate Professor of Media Arts and Technology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Music, at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kirsty Beilharz on 20 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
Many approaches to computer-aided and generative music are written by computer scientists without experience crafting the artefact or are inundated with technical jargon assuming extensive pre-existing knowledge in the synthesis and computer music field or programming environments. Roads' book, on the other hand, serves as a thorough introduction to different scales of music composition especially the microsound level with sufficient gravitas to also be of interest to the established composer: though-provoking. I found it especially refreshing as a composer and technical scientist, that Curtis Reads speaks from experience, providing CD excerpts of music, of both aesthetic and technical devleopments in the field of microsound. To me, he encapsulates the intricate balance of artistic/aesthetic considerations and technical approaches that the composer must negotiate in this fascinating but still rather hermetic genre.
Roads' book extends from historic attitudes and approaches presented by Stockhausen, Xenakis, Varese and others, some the product of past technologies and many concepts which endure and benefit from the convenience of digital granular synthesis tools of today through to his own and other contemporary approaches substantiated by psychoacoustic research. The bibliography is especially thorough and helpful. I wish more audience-members could read and appreciate these new perspectives. This book is intended for a fairly specific audience, I think: student or serious composer integrating microsonic processes in electronic music. Despite its narrow field, I hope it does well because there far too few authoratative resources in this field in English.
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By antonio martin perez on 11 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Definitive guide to granular synthesis 24 Mar. 2006
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Many people today seem to be obsessed with recreating 'classic' sounds, whether it's Minimoogs, TB303s or even traditional orchestral instruments. So it's refreshing to find that there are still people out there intent on pushing the boundaries of synthesis further and creating new sounds. Curtis Roads has done more than most in this field, and this book on granular synthesis that he has authored is a fairly comprehensive guide to the subject.

Roads' involvement with granular synthesis began in 1972, and his research in the field has resulted in him eventually developing his own software. Granular synthesis deals with sound at a 'quantum' level: the sonic atom being the individual sample (any one of the 44100 taken in a second at the standard sampling rate). To be audible as anything other than a click, samples need to be grouped together to form grains of sound. These grains are typically anywhere between three and one hundred milliseconds in length. Granular synthesis is concerned with the organization and processing of both samples and grains to create sounds that are often far beyond the range of more traditional methods of synthesis.

The technology and software required to manipulate sound at this level is now commonly available. Popular programs like Chaosynth and Max/MSP offer in-depth granular facilities, and Roads' own programs, Pulsar Generator and Cloud Generator, are, as you might expect, specifically designed for this sort of application. Although this technology has made it possible, granular synthesis remains a complex process. Microsound is perhaps the best theoretical and practical guide to date, its 409 pages concisely and fluently written throughout. The first chapters outline basic time scales in musical structure and the history and theory of microsound. Chapters three to six deal with the theory and practice of granular synthesis, examining everything from the organisation and processing of grains to the implementation of micro-scale transformations. The later chapters explore the implications and aesthetics of composing with microsound. The book concludes with a brief chapter about the future of granular synthesis. If there is any fault with this book, it is that it may be rather academic in tone for some readers - it is not a 'how to' book. However, if you are seriously interested in exploring granular synthesis, and understanding the principles behind it, then this book is ideal.

For those readers who would like to get their hands dirty themselves and try programming granular synthesis compositions, you might want to look up Jass and jMusic on the web. Jass is a unit generator based audio synthesis programming environment written in pure Java. Jass requires Java 1.5. jMusic is a freeware API that supports both real-time and non-real-time granular synthesis. jMusic has extensive tutorials and example programs available online.

I notice that Amazon does not show the table of contents for this book, so I do that here:

Introduction **

Acknowledgments ix

Overview **

1. Time Scales of Music **

2. The History of Microsound from Antiquity to the Analog Era 43

3. Granular Synthesis 85

4. Varieties of Particle Synthesis 119

5. Transformation of Microsound 179

6. Windowed Analysis and Transformation 235

7. Microsound in Composition 301

8. Aesthetics of Composing with Microsound 325

9. Conclusion 349

References 353

Appendix A: The Cloud Generator Program 383

Appendix B: Sound Examples on the CD 389

NOTE: Sections marked by "**" have sample chapters available at the book's website at MIT Press.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Microsound - the ultimate guide in granular synthesis. 26 Jan. 2005
By Tim Opie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Curtis Roads has been working with Granular Synthesis since 1972, following the work of Iannis Xenakis and Dennis Gabor. His decades of research and computer programs in this field have educated and inspired all electronic musicians who work within the particle synthesis field. My first introduction to Granular synthesis was Roads' article from a 1978 issue of the Computer Music Journal entitled 'Automated Granular Synthesis of Sound'.

Microsound marks a milestone in granular synthesis and contains a huge amount of information, relating to it and other forms of particle synthesis, some of which were a direct result of Roads' own research (eg glisson synthesis). The book contains a full history of particle synthesis going back to the early philosophies aroused by the debate of whether sound is a particle or wave, right through to his own recent experiments and instruments. It gives full details on how to work with granular synthesis and also contains a CD full of examples, including some very historically significant pieces of music.

The writing style is easy to follow, including a few humourous anecdotes - well I found them humourous, Roads probably found them frustrating at the time, although I am sure he smiles about it now :)

There are a couple of minor quoting errors, but they do not misconstrue the meaning and are not noticeable unless you are going through the book with a fine tooth comb (like I did).

For anyone interested in working with sound at a low (microsound) level, this is a MUST READ book!

To any reviewers who do not understand all of the terms used, perhaps you should re-read Microsound and also any literature written on this topic in the last 30 years.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Microsound 9 Sept. 2005
By Dr. Sylvia Pengilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A really excellent book. It is highly scholarly, yet easy to understand. He articulates concepts I have thought about for years, but was never able to express adequately. Roads has a talent for organizing very complex material within a perspective-oriented framework making the macro concept very easy to grasp.

It would be extremely helpful to all serious composers of electronic/computer music.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Not as good as Computer Music Tutorial 25 Feb. 2005
By 6.00 AM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Firstly I would like to disagree with the reviewer who said granular synthesis was not musical. I use it a musical way quite often. It can make very interesting sounds if you give it a go. I was hoping for a guide to granular syntheis, its implementation in some kind of program like Max or SynthEdit or Reaktor but this is not the book for that. Basically it covers a wide range of slightly different types of Granular Synthesis. Approx 2-5 pages are spent on each type. But as the tpyes are so similar bar the size of the windows or perhaps how the windows are selected it makes the book feel very same throughout. The intro chapter covers the history which is informative and interesting. Although the book covers a lot of ground nothing is covered in terms of practical application. No real reference to use is covered, no real description of how to create granular synth modules and no real description of musically useful approaches. He does let you hear some of his composition that he used for public performances but he doesn't really explain why he thought that particular type f synthesis worked well for that performance. I learned a little more about GS from Microsound but to be honest his Computer Music Tutorial is much better and the description of GS in the CMT is almost a good. Save your sheckles and buy the big brother Computer Music Tutorial.
Seminal Work but missing pages?? 21 Jan. 2013
By Schanq - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have no qualms with the text itself. The quality of information is staggering as is the way its presented.
My issue is with the copy I received which on the 181st page jumped to the 202nd page then repeated then back to the 202nd 20 pages later when it should first get to the 202nd.
I reccomend this text but the sellers need to make sure that the version they are selling is correct!!!1
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