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3 CD Box Set: L'Oeuvre Musicale The complete works of Pierre Schaeffer, re-digitised and re-issued with newly discovered tracks.
Book and 3 x CDs: Solfege de l'Objet Sonore This book, accompanied by 285 tracks on 3 CDs of examples is a unique and indispensable resource work for all those interested in electroacoustic music. Examples by Parmegiani, Henry, Bayle, Xenakis, Luc Ferrari etc. illustrate Pierre Schaeffer's text.
Book: Audible Design by Trevor Wishart
5 CD Box Set: GRM Archive 5 CD Boxed Set containing music spanning half a century of GRM inspired compositions
12 CD Box Set: Parmegiani: l'Oeuvre Musicale The complete works of Bernard Parmegiani on 12 CDs

Trevor Wishart - Globalalia/Imago

Trevor wishart - Globalalia/ImagoA re-issue of Globalalia which explores human speech and the syllables common to all, and Imago, which is constructed entirely out of the sound of 2 whiskey glasses being clinked together. Classic Wishart at his best!

Wishart writes: "In Globalalia, I wanted to use human speech, but focus on what we hold in common as human beings. Although the world’s languages contain many millions of words, these are constructed from a much smaller set of sounds, the syllables. I wrote to several friends asking them to collect voices from their local radio stations, and also recorded voices from TV stations via satellite dish, assembling sounds from 134 voices in 26 different languages. I then edited these into their syllables, ending with more than 8300 sources."

Francis Dhomont - Etudes Pour Kafka

Francis Dhomont - Etudes Pour KafkaA new release from Francis Dhomont, who in the opinion of many is the greatest living composer of electroacoustic music. This CD contains 3 studies which were the seeds from which many of his other works grew. Behind major works of the scope of … mourir un peu, Sous le regard d’un soleil noir, and Forêt profonde, in these studies Dhomont experiments with the themes, tries out sound materials, and unveils glimpses of the final work. Dhomont at his best!

Denis Smalley - Sources - Scénes

Denis Smalley - Sources - ScénesrOne of our most popular titles is back in stock. Denis Smalley is one of the UK's best known composers of electroacoustic music, and this CD is a personal favourite of ours - definitely a desert island disc. The music is simply stunningly beautiful, the production and sound quality are as good as it gets. If you don't already have this CD, don't put it off any longer.
Parmegiani: l'Oeuvre MusicaleWe are fans of Bernard Parmegiani and so we now have all of his CDs in stock, including the newly released l'Oeuvre Musicale. If you don't know his music, we recommend that you make an acqaintence with it by listening to some clips and reading the comprehensive notes which we have on the site. Click here for links to his biography and all his CDs.
Pierre Hanry: Labyrinthe We now stock a selection of the best electroacoustic CDs from the GRM Catalog, both historic and new - Electroacoustic Classics from Pierre SchaefferPierre Henry Luc Ferrari and  Jean-Claude Risset are just some of the new offerings.

One of our most popular GRM titles is Pierre Henry's Labyrinthe - Pierre Henry says of Labyrinthe - "For the first time during my journey and ventures into the world of creation, I dreamt of a breath of fresh air deriving from the electronic realm." This CD is a real retrospective of this pioneer of electronic music.
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Book Details for Trevor Wishart: Audible Design

Audible Design Trevor Wishart
Trevor Wishart is an internationally reknowned composer of electroacoustic music. In this groundbreaking book he reveals the secrets of sound design. An accompanying CD contains hundreds of audio examples linked to the text. Scroll down for Ch. 3 in full
Out of print
 Customer Reviews 
 Other Titles by Trevor Wishart 
 Sleeve Notes 

Our principal metaphor for musical composition must change from one of architecture to one of chemistry..... We may imagine a new personality combing the beach of sonic possibilities, not someone who selects, rejects, classifies and measures the acceptable, but a chemist who can take any pebble, and, by numerical sorcery, separate its constituents, merge the constituents from two quite different pebbles and, in fact, transform black pebbles into gold pebbles.

AUDIBLE DESIGN takes a completely fresh look at the craft of musical composition, for an age when all imaginable sounds have become accessible to us, and the computer allows us to transform these in any way we desire.

Compositional techniques are discussed in detail, with applications to radically different kinds of sound material and each is illustrated by appropriate sound examples.

The text concludes with an extensive appendix in which all processes described in the text are laid bare in diagrammatic form, avoiding mathematical or technical language.

The accompanying CD of music examples, illustrates each point in the text.

Below is Chapter 3 from 'Audible Design' in full with RealAudio excerpts from the CD.


What is timbre?
Harmonicity - Inharmonicity
Formant structure
Noise, "Noisy Noise" & Complex Strata
Spectral Enhancement
Spectral Banding
Spectral Fission and Constructive Distortion

Spectral manipulation in the frequency domain
Spectral manipulation in the time domain


The spectral characteristics of sounds have, for so long, been inaccessible to the composer that we have become accustomed to lumping together all aspects of the spectral structure under the catch-all term "timbre" and regarding it as an elementary, if unquantifiable, property of sounds. Most musicians with a traditional background almost equate "timbre" with instrument type (some instruments producing a variety of "timbres" e.g. pizz, arco, legno, etc). Similarly, in the earliest analogue studios, composers came into contact with oscillators producing featureless pitches, noise generators, producing featureless noise bands, and "envelope generators" which added simple loudness trajectories to these elementary sources. This gave no insight into the subtlety and multidimensionality of sound spectra.

However, a whole book could be devoted to the spectral characteristics of sounds. The most important feature to note is that all sound spectra of musical interest are time-varying, either in micro-articulation or large-scale motion.


As discussed in Chapter 2, if the partials which make up a sound have frequencies which are exact multiples of some frequency in the audible range (known as the fundamental) and, provided this relationship persists for at least a grain-size time-frame, the spectrum fuses and we hear a specific (possibly gliding) pitch. If the partials are not in this relationship, and provided the relationships (from window to window) remain relatively stable, the ear's attempts to extract harmonicity (whole number) relationships amongst the partials will result in our hearing several pitches in the sound. These several pitches will trace out the same micro-articulations and hence will be fused into a single percept (as in a bell sound). The one exception to this is that certain partials may decay more quickly than others without destroying this perceived fusion (as in sustained acoustic bell sounds).

In Sound example 3.1 we hear the syllable "ko->u" being gradually spectrally stretched : Appendix p19). This means that the partials are moved upwards in such a way that their whole number relationships are preserved less and less exactly and eventually lost. (See Diagram 1). Initially, the sound appears to have an indefinable "aura" around it, akin to phasing, but gradually becomes more and more bell-like.

It is important to understand that this transformation "works" due to a number of factors apart from the harmonic\inharmonic transition. As the process proceeds, the tail of the sound is gradually time-stretched to give it the longer decay time we would expect from an acoustic bell. More importantly, the morphology (changing shape) of the spectrum is already bell-like. The syllable "ko->u" begins with a very short broad band spectrum with lots of high-frequency information ("k") corresponding to the initial clang of a bell. This leads immediately into a steady pitch, but the vowel formant is varied from "o" to "u", a process which gradually fades out the higher partials leaving the lower to continue. Bell sounds have this similar property, the lower partials, and hence the lower heard pitches, persisting longer than the higher components. A different initial morphology would have produced a less bell-like result.

This example (used in the composition of Vox 5) illustrates the importance of the time-varying structure of the spectrum (not simply its loudness trajectory).

We may vary this spectral stretching process by changing the overall stretch (i.e. the top of the spectrum moves further up or further down from its initial position) and we may vary the type of stretching involved. (Appendix p19). (Sound example 3.2).

Different types of stretching will produce different relationships between the pitches heard within the sounds.

Note that, small stretches produce an ambiguous area in which the original sound appears " coloured" in some way rather than genuinely multi-pitched. (Sound example 3.3). Inharmonicity does not therefore necessarily mean multipitchedness. Nor (as we have seen from the "ko->u" example), does it mean bell sounds. Very short inharmonic sounds will sound percussive, like drums, strangely coloured drums, or akin to wood-blocks (Sound example 3.4). These inharmonic sounds can be transposed and caused to move (subtle or complex pitch-gliding) just like pitched sounds (also see Chapter 5 on Continuation).

Proceeding further, the spectrum can be made to vary, either slowly or quickly, between the harmonic and the inharmonic creating a dynamic interpolation between a harmonic and an inharmonic state (or between any state and something more inharmonic) so that a sound changes its spectral character as it unfolds. We can also imagine a kind of harmonic to inharmonic vibrato-like fluctuation within a sound. (Sound example 3.5).

Once we vary the spectrum too quickly, and especially if we do so irregularly, we no longer perceive individual moments or grains with specific spectral qualities. We reach the area of noise (see below).

When transforming the harmonicity of the spectrum, we run into problems about the position of formants akin to those encountered when pitch-changing (see Chapter 2) and to preserve the formant characteristics of the source we need to preserve the spectral contour of the source and apply it to the resulting spectrum (see formant preserving spectral manipulation : Appendix p17).


In any window, the contour of the spectrum will have peaks and troughs. The peaks, known as formants, are responsible for such features as the vowel-state of a sung note. For a vowel to persist, the spectral contour (and therefore the position of the peaks and troughs) must remain where it is even if the partials themselves move. (See Appendix p10).

As we know from singing, and as we can deduce from this diagram, the frequencies of the partials in the spectrum (determining pitch(es), harmonicity-inharmonicity, noisiness) and the position of the spectral peaks, can be varied independently of each other. This is why we can produce coherent speech while singing or whispering. (Sound example 3.6).

Because most conventional acoustic instruments have no articulate time-varying control over spectral contour (one of the few examples is hand manipulable brass mutes), the concept of formant control is less familiar as a musical concept to traditional composers. However, we all use articulate formant control when speaking.

It is possible to extract the (time varying) spectral contour from one signal and impose it on another, a process originally developed in the analogue studios and known as vocoding (no connection with the phase vocoder). For this to work effectively, the sound to be vocoded must have energy distributed over the whole spectrum so that the spectral contour to be imposed has something to work on. Vocoding hence works well on noisy sounds (e.g. the sea) or on sounds which are artificially prewhitened by adding broad band noise, or subjected to some noise producing distortion process. (Sound example 3.7).

It is also possible to normalise the spectrum before imposing the new contour. This process is described in Chapter 2, and in the under formant preserving spectral manipulation in Appendix p17.

Formant-variation of the spectrum does not need to be speech-related and, in complex signals, is often more significant than spectral change. We can use spectral freezing to freeze certain aspects of the spectrum at a particular moment. We hold the frequencies of the partials, allowing their loudnesses to vary as originally. Or we can hold their amplitudes stationary, allowing the frequencies to vary as originally. In a complex signal, it is often holding steady the amplitudes, and hence the spectral contour, which produces a sense of "freezing" the spectrum when we might have anticipated that holding the frequencies would create this percept more directly. (Sound example 3.8).


Once the spectrum begins to change so rapidly and irregularly that we cannot perceive the spectral quality of any particular grain, we hear "noise". Noise spectra are not, however, a uniform grey area of musical options (or even a few shades of pink and blue) which the name (and past experience with noise generators) might suggest. The subtle differences between unvoiced staccato "t", "d", "p", "k", "s", "sh", "f", the variety amongst cymbals and unpitched gongs give the lie to this.
Noisiness can be a matter of degree, particularly as the number of heard out components in an inharmonic spectrum increases gradually to the point of noise saturation. It can, of course, vary formant-wise in time: whispered speech is the ideal example. It can be more or less focused towards static or moving pitches, using band-pass filters or delay (see Chapter 2), and it can have its own complex internal structure. In Sound example 3.9 we hear portamentoing inharmonic spectra created by filtering noise. This filtering is gradually removed and the bands become more noise-like.

A good example of the complexity of noise itself is "noisy noise", the type of crackling signal one gets from very poor radio reception tuned to no particular station, from masses of broad-band click-like sounds (either in regular layers - cicadas - or irregular - masses of breaking twigs or pebbles falling onto tiles - or semi-regular - the gritty vocal sounds produced by water between the tongue and palate in e.g. Dutch "gh") or from extremely time-contracted speech streams. There are also fluid noises produced by portamentoing components, e.g. the sound of water falling in a wide stream around many small rocks. These shade off into the area of "Texture" which we will discuss in Chapter 8. (Sound example 3.10).

These examples illustrate that the rather dull sounding word "noise" hides whole worlds of rich sonic material largely unexplored in detail by composers in the past.

Two processes are worth mentioning in this respect. Noise with transient pitch content like water falling in a stream (rather than dripping, flowing or bubbling), might be pitch-enhanced by spectral tracing (see below). (Sound example 3.11). Conversely, all sounds can be amassed to create a sound with a noise-spectrum if superimposed randomly in a sufficiently frequency-dense and time-dense way. At the end of Sound example 3.9 the noise band finally resolves into the sound of voices. The noise band was in fact simply a very dense superimposition of many vocal sounds.

Different sounds (with or without harmonicity, soft or hard-edged, spectrally bright or dull, grain-like, sustained, evolving, iterated or sequenced) may produce different qualities of noise (see Chapter 8 on Texture). There are also undoubtedly vast areas to be explored at the boundaries of inharmonicity/noise and time-fluctuating-spectrum/noise. (Sound example 3.12).

A fruitful approach to this territory might be through spectral focusing, described in Chapter 2 (and Appendix p20). This allows us to extract, from a pitched sound, either the spectral contour only, or the true partials, and to then use this data to filter a noise source. The filtered result can vary from articulated noise formants (like unvoiced speech) following just the formant articulation of the original source, to a reconstitution of the partials of the the original sound (and hence of the original sound itself). We can also move fluidly between these two states by varying the analysis window size through time. This technique can be applied to any source, whether it be spectrally pitched (harmonic), or inharmonic, and gives us a means of passing from articulate noise to articulate not-noise spectra in a seamless fashion.

Many of the sound phenomena we have discussed in this section are complex concatenations of simpler units. It is therefore worthwhile to note that any arbitrary collection of sounds, especially mixed in mono, has a well-defined time-varying spectrum - a massed group of talkers at a party; a whole orchestra individually, but simultaneously, practising their difficult passages before a concert. At each moment there is a composite spectrum for these events and any portion of it could be grist for the mill of sound composition.


The already existing structure of a spectrum can be utilised to enhance the original sound. This is particularly important with respect to the onset portion of a sound and we will leave discussion of this until Chapter 4. We may reinforce the total spectral structure, adding additional partials by spectral shifting the sound (without changing its duration) (Appendix p18) and mixing the shifted spectrum on the original. As the digital signal will retain its duration precisely, all the components in the shifted signal will line up precisely with their non-shifted sources and the spectrum will be thickened while retaining its (fused) integrity. Octave enhancement is the most obvious approach but any interval of transposition (e.g. the tritone) might be chosen. The process might be repeated and the relative balance of the components adjusted as desired. (Appendix p48). (Sound example 3.13).

A further enrichment may be achieved by mixing an already stereo spectrum with a pitch-shifted version which is left-right inverted. Theoretically this produces merely a stage-centre resultant spectrum but in practice there appear to be frequency dependent effects which lend the resultant sound a new and richer spatial "fullness". (Sound example 3.14).

Finally, we can introduce a sense of multiple-sourcedness (!) to a sound (e.g. make a single voice appear crowd-like) by adding small random time-changing perturbations to the loudnesses of the spectral components (spectral shaking).This mimics part of the effect of several voices attempting to deliver the same information. (Sound example 3.15). We may also perturb the partial frequencies (Sound example 3.16).


Once we understand that a spectrum contains many separate components, we can imagine processing the sound to isolate or separate these components. Filters, by permitting components in some frequency bands to pass and rejecting others, allow us to select parts of the spectrum for closer observation. With dense or complex spectra the results of filtering can be relatively unexpected revealing aspects of the sound material not previously appreciated. A not-too-narrow and static band pass filter will transform a complex sound-source (usually) retaining its morphology (time-varying shape) so that the resulting sound will relate to the source sound through its articulation in time. (Sound example 3.17).

A filter may also be used to isolate some static or moving feature of a sound. In a crude way, filters may be used to eliminate unwanted noise or hums in recorded sounds, especially as digital filters can be very precisely tuned. In the frequency domain, spectral components can be eliminated on a channel-by-channel basis, either in terms of their frequency location (using spectral splitting to define a frequency band and setting the band loudness to zero) or in terms of their timevarying relative loudness (spectral tracing will eliminate the N least significant, i.e. quietest, channel components, window by window. At an elementary level this can be used for signal-dependent noise reduction. But see also "Spectral Fission" below). More radically, sets of narrow band pass filters can be used to force a complex spectrum onto any desired Hpitch set (HArmonic field in the traditional sense). (Sound example 3.18).

In a more signal sensitive sense a filter or a frequency-domain channel selector can be used to separate some desired feature of a sound, e.g. a moving high frequency component in the onset, a particular strong middle partial etc, for further compositional development. In particular, we can separate the spectrum into parts (using band pass filters or spectral splitting) and apply processes to the N separated parts (e.g. pitch-shift, add vibrato) and then recombine the two parts perhaps reconstituting the spectrum in a new form. However, if the spectral parts are changed too radically e.g. adding completely different vibrato to each part, they will not fuse when remixed, but we may be interested in the gradual dissociation of the spectrum. This leads us into the next area.

Ultimately we may use a procedure which follows the partials themselves, separating the signal into its component partials (partial tracking). This is quite a complex task which will involve pitch tracking and pattern-matching (to estimate where the partials might lie) on a window by window basis. Ideally it must deal in some way with inharmonic sounds (where the form of the spectrum is not known in advance) and noise sources (where there are, in effect, no partials). This technique is however particularly powerful as it allows us to set up an additive synthesis model of our analysed sound and thereby provides a bridge between unique recorded sound-events and the control available through synthesis.


We have mentioned several times the idea of spectral fusion where the parallel micro-articulation of the many components of a spectrum causes us to perceive it as a unified entity - in the case of a harmonic spectrum, as a single pitch. The opposite process, whereby the spectral components seem to split apart, we will describe as spectral fission. Adding two different sets of vibrato to two different groups of partials within the same spectrum will cause the two sets of partials to be perceived independently - the single aural stream will split into two. (Sound example 3.19).

Spectral fission can be achieved in a number of quite different ways in the frequency domain. Spectral arpeggiation is a process that draws our attention to the individual spectral components by isolating, or emphasising, each in sequence. This can be achieved purely vocally over a drone pitch by using appropriate vowel formants to emphasise partials above the fundamental. The computer can apply this process to any sound-source, even whilst it is in motion. (Sound example 3.20).

Spectral tracing strips away the spectral components in order of increasing loudness (Appendix p25). When only a few components are left, any sound is reduced to a delicate tracery of (shifting) sine-wave constituents. Complexly varying sources produce the most fascinating results as those partials which are at any moment in the permitted group (the loudest) change from window to window. We hear new partials entering (while others leave) producing "melodies" internal to the source sound. This feature can often be enhanced by time-stretching so that the rate of partial change is slowed down. Spectral tracing can also be done in a time-variable manner so that a sound gradually dissolves into its internal sine-wave tracery. (Sound example 3.21).

Spectral time-stretching, which we will deal with more fully in Chapter 11, can produce unexpected spectral consequences when applied to noisy sounds. In a noisy sound the spectrum is changing too quickly for us to gain any pitch or inharmonic multi-pitched percept from any particular time-window. Once, however, we slow down the rate of change the spectrum becomes stable or stable-in-motion for long enough for us to hear out the originally instantaneous window values. In general, these are inharmonic and hence we produce a "metallic" inharmonic (usually moving) ringing percept. By making perceptible what was not previously perceptible we effect a "magical" transformation of the sonic material. Again, this can be effected in a time-varying manner so that the inharmonicity emerges gradually from within the stretching sound. (Sound example 3.22).

Alternatively we may elaborate the spectrum in the time-domain by a process of constructive distortion. By searching for wavesets (zero-crossing pairs: Appendix p50) and then repeating the wavesets before proceeding to the next (Waveset time-stretching) we may time stretch the source without altering its pitch (see elsewhere for the limitations on this process). (Appendix p55). Wavesets correspond to wavecycles in many pitched sounds, but not always (Appendix p50). Their advantage in the context of constructive distortion is that very noisy sounds, having no pitch, have no true wavecycles - but we can still segment them into wavesets (Appendix p50).

In a very simple sound source (e.g. a steady waveform, from any oscillator) waveset time-stretching produces no artefacts. In a complexly evolving signal (especially a noisy one) each waveset will be different, often radically different, to the previous one, but we will not perceptually register the content of that waveset in its own right (see the discussion of time-frames in Chapter 1). It merely contributes to the more general percept of noisiness. The more we repeat each waveset however, the closer it comes to the grain threshold where we can hear out the implied pitch and the spectral quality implicit in its waveform. With a 5 or 6 fold repetition therefore, the source sound begins to reveal a lightning fast stream of pitched beads, all of a slightly different spectral quality. A 32 fold repetition produces a clear "random melody" apparently quite divorced from the source. A three or four fold repetition produces a "phasing"-like aura around the sound in which a glimmer of the bead stream is beginning to be apparent. (Sound example 3.23).

Again, we have a compositional process which makes perceptible aspects of the signal which were not perceptible. But in this case, the aural result is entirely different. The new sounds are time-domain artefacts consistent with the original signal, rather than revelations of an intrinsic internal structure. For this reason I refer to these processes as constructive distortion.


There are many other processes of spectral manipulation we can apply to signals in the frequency domain. Most of these are only interesting if we apply them to moving spectra because they rely on the interaction of data in different (time) windows - and if these sets of data are very similar we will perceive no change.

We may select a window (or sets of windows) and freeze either the frequency data or the loudness data which we find there over the ensuing signal (spectral freezing). If the frequency data is held constant, the channel amplitudes (loudnesses) continue to vary as in the original signal but the channel frequencies do not change. If the amplitude data is held constant then the channel frequencies continue to vary as in the original signal. As mentioned previously, in a complex signal, holding the amplitude data is often more effective in achieving a sense of "freezing" the signal. We can also freeze both amplitude and frequency data but, with a complex signal, this tends to sound like a sudden splice between a moving signal and a synthetic drone. (Sound example 3.24).

We may average the spectral data in a each frequency-band channel over N time-windows (spectral blurring) thus reducing the amount of detail available for reconstructing the signal. This can be used to "wash out" the detail in a segmented signal and works especially effectively on spikey crackly signals (those with brief, bright peaks). We can do this and also reduce the number of partials (spectral trace & blur) and we may do either of these things in a time-variable manner so that the details of a sequence gradually become blurred or gradually emerge as distinct. (Sound example 3.25).

Finally, we may shuffle the time-window data in any way we choose (spectral shuffling), shuffling windows in groups of 1 or 2 or 64 etc. With large numbers of windows in a shuffled group we produce an audible rearrangements of signal segments, akin to brassage, but with only a few windows we create another process of sound blurring, particularly apparent in rapid sequences. (Sound example 3.26).


A whole series of spectral transformations can be effected in the time-domain by operating on wavesets defined as pairs of zero-crossings. Bearing in mind that these do not necessarily correspond to true wavecycles, even in relatively simple signals, we will anticipate producing various unexpected artefacts in complex sounds. In general, the effects produced will not be entirely predictable, but they will be tied to the morphology (time changing characteristics) of the original sound. Hence the resulting sound will be clearly related to the source in a way which may be musically useful. As this process destroys the original form of the wave I will refer to it as destructive distortion. The following manipulations suggest themselves.

We may replace wavesets with a waveform of a different shape but the same amplitude (waveset substitution : Appendix p52). Thus we may convert all the wavesets to square waves, triangular waves, sine-waves, or even user-defined waveforms. Superficially, one might expect that sine-wave replacement would in some way simplify, or clarify, the spectrum. Again, this may be true with simple sound input but complex sounds are just changed in spectral "feel" as a rapidly changing sine-wave is no less perceptually chaotic than a rapidly changing arbitrary wave-shape. In the sound examples the sound with a wood-like attack has wavesets replaced by square waves, and then by sine waves. Two interpolating sequences (see Chapter 12) between the 'wood' and each of the transformed sounds is then created by inbetweening (see Appendix p46 & Chapter 12). (Sound example 3.27).

Inverting the half-wave-cycles (waveset inversion: Appendix p51) usually produces an "edge" to the spectral characteristics of the sound. We might also change the spectrum by applying a power factor to the waveform shape itself (waveset distortion: Appendix p52) (Sound example 3.28).

We may average the waveset shape over N wavesets (waveset averaging). Although this process appears to be similar to the process of spectral blurring, it is in fact quite irrational, averaging the waveset length and the wave shape (and hence the resulting spectral contour) in perceptually unpredictable way. More interesting (though apparently less promising) we may replace N in every M wavesets by silence (waveset omission : Appendix p51). For example, every alternate waveset may be replaced by silence. Superficially, this would appear to be an unpromising approach but we are in fact thus changing the waveform. Again, this process introduces a slightly rasping "edge" to the sound quality of the source sound which increases as more "silence" is introduced. (Sound example 3.29).

We may add 'harmonic components' to the waveset in any desired proportions (waveset harmonic distortion) by making copies of the waveset which are 1/2 as short (1/3 as short etc) and superimposing 2 (3) of these on the original waveform in any specified amplitude weighting. With an elementary waveset form this adds harmonics in a rational and predictable way. With a complex waveform, it enriches the spectrum in a not wholly predictable way, though we can fairly well predict how the spectral energy will be redistributed. (Appendix p52).

We may also rearrange wavesets in any specified way (waveset shuffling : Appendix p51) or reverse wavesets or groups of N wavesets (waveset reversal : Appendix p51). Again, where N is large we produce a fairly predictable brassage of reverse segments, but with smaller values of N the signal is altered in subtle ways. Values of N at the threshold of grain perceptibility are especially interesting. Finally, we may introduce small, random changes to the waveset lengths in the signal (waveset shaking : Appendix p51). This has the effect of adding "roughness" to clearly pitched sounds.

Such distortion procedures work particularly well with short sounds having distinctive loudness trajectories. In the sound example a set of such sounds, suggesting a bouncing object, is destructively distorted in various ways, suggesting a change in the physical medium in which the 'bouncing' takes place (e.g. bouncing in sand). (Sound example 3.30).


In a sense, almost any manipulation of a signal will alter its spectrum. Even editing (most obviously in very short time-frames in brassage e.g.) alters the time-varying nature of the spectrum. But, as we have already made clear, many of the areas discussed in the different chapters of this book overlap considerably. Here we have attempted to focus on sound composition in a particular way, through the concept of "spectrum". Spectral thinking is integral to all sound composition and should be borne in mind as we proceed to explore other aspects of this world.

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