Inside SCI-Arc


02.11.09 | W. M. Keck Lecture Hall l 7pm
Curtis Roads: Microsound

This lecture presents an overview of several projects pursued over the past five years in laboratories at UC, Santa Barbara. All this research is based on a scientific model of sound initially proposed by Dennis Gabor (1946), and soon afterward extended to music by Iannis Xenakis (1960). Granular analysis (also called atomic decomposition) and granular synthesis has evolved over more than five decades from a paper theory into a broad range of applied techniques. Specific to the granular model is its focus on the microsonic time scale (typically 1 to 100 ms). Granular methods treat sound as a stream of acoustic particles in both the time domain and the time- frequency (TF) domain.

Curtis Roads (Doctorat, Université Paris 8) teaches and pursues research in the interdisciplinary territory spanning music and technology. He was Editor and Associate Editor of Computer Music Journal (The MIT Press) from 1978 to 2000, and cofounded the International Computer Music Association in 1979. A researcher in computer music at MIT (1980-1986), he also worked in the computer industry for a decade. He was invited to teach electronic music composition at Harvard University, and sound synthesis techniques at the University of Naples. He was appointed Director of Pedagogy at Les Ateliers UPIC (later CCMIX) and Lecturer in the Music Department of the University of Paris VIII. He is currently Professor of Media Arts and Technology + Music, University of California Santa Barbara.

Among his books are the anthologies Foundations of Computer Music (1985, The MIT Press) and The Music Machine (1989, The MIT Press). His textbook The Computer Music Tutorial (1996, The MIT Press) is widely adopted as a standard classroom text and has been published in French (1999, second edition 2007), Japanese (2001), and Chinese (2008) editions. He edited the anthology Musical Signal Processing in 1997. His book, Microsound (2002, The MIT Press) presents the techniques and aesthetics of composition with sound particles. Certain of his compositions feature granular and pulsar synthesis, methods he developed for generating sound from acoustical particles. He developed the Creatophone, a system for spatial projection of sound in concert. Another invention is the Creatovox, an expressive new instrument for virtuoso performance that is based on the synthesis of sound particles. The Creatovox, developed in collaboration with Alberto de Campo, was first demonstrated to the public in March 2000.

His composition Clang-tint (1994) was commissioned by the Japan Ministry of Culture (Bunka-cho) and the Kunitachi College of Music, Tokyo. His music is available on compact discs produced by the MIT Media Laboratory, Wergo, OR, Mode, and Asphodel. Roads's new book is Composing Electronic Music (forthcoming) Oxford University Press. A new revised edition of The Computer Music Tutorial by The MIT Press is also forthcoming. He is keenly interested in the integration of electronic music with visual and spatial media. Since 2004, he has been researching a new method of sound analysis that is the analytical counterpart of granular synthesis called dictionary-based methods (DBMs). This research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Microsound by Curtis Roads at Google Books