Developed from a series of lectures at the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), this book offers a coherent panorama of the field of psychoacoustics as it pertains to music and computerized sound. The authors-among them Max Mathews, Roger Shepard, John Chowning, and John Pierce-are recognized authorities in the field of computer synthesized sound and the nature of acoustical and musical perception. The CD-ROM contains audio samples for each chapter, plus source code for all the samples.
Although it is specifically intended as a course book for psychoacoustics, with a closing chapter on the effective design of experiments and an appendix of exercises, this book should prove valuable to a wide audience. Computers provide what seems the ultimate level of control over sound synthesis, but it is often hard to know where to begin. Anyone who has ever confronted the problem of determining which parameters of a synthesized sound are acoustically perceptible or meaningful will appreciate the clarity with which the introductory chapters distinguish the physical parameters of sound from the perception of sound. Building on established research into the fundamentals of acoustic perception, the book proceeds to more complex issues of voice articulation and synthesis, perceptual streaming, musical memory, and the haptics of sound production. Computer musicians will find material to suggest diverse directions for experimentation. Multimedia artists working with sound will discover new methods for generating sounds, with the potential for weaning themselves from straight playback of sampled sound and working with real time synthesis. Some of the perceptual effects documented in the text and audible on the CD are remarkable in themselves, such as Shepard and Risset tones, or the complex effects of perceptual streaming. The level of detail of many of the chapters is sufficient, particularly when supplemented by the source code, to get you started in a variety of sound synthesis techniques. The brief list of bibliographic references at the end of each chapter will lead you onwards.
While this book is most valuable as a guide to the uses of state-of-the-art technology for acoustic research, it also sheds light on how human cognitive abilities shape musical structures. Choices of rhythm, melodic variation, chord structure, timbre, orchestration, and even the evolution of musical styles over time have some of their reasons in the nature of the human auditory system. A welcome result of reading this book may be that the reader learns to hear natural and musical sounds with a new appreciation of the complex dynamics of sound production, sound perception, and the inner logic of music.
If you are interested in the signal processing end of psychoacoustics, I recommend you read "Signals, Sound, and Sensation" by Hartmann after you finish this book.