Thursday, January 19, 2012

On the Development of Instruments

In my early posts you can find many posts criticizing the whole notion of additive synthesis for the very simple reason that it is not really possible. I will not get into the reasons here to avoid mathematics which most don't have a background in.

As a clarification, I do own Alchemy because I find it's application of additive synthesis useful. However, I find the whole notion of describing sound in terms of partials to be of only limited use. I also find waveforms while essential for analogue synthesis to again have limited value for describing natural sounds.

For the most part, when we hear a sound, it is the attack transient that our brains use to determine what instrument is being played. Lets do a thought experiment. Take a number of orchestral instruments and have a group of musicians begin to play them together but separated by a few measures and then stop playing in the same manner. Experiments have show that it is relatively easy to distinguish when each instrument started but difficult to distinguish when each finishes.

The truth is simply this. It is the attack transient that we use to distinguish an instrument and not the much more stable waveform during the sustain or decay part of a note.

So if waveforms don't help and partials don't help much in understanding sound what does? My theory is that by studying the dynamics of transients and their underlying physical properties one can develop a means of classifying sounds that is far more natural and corresponds to how we hear sounds rather than how they can be expressed with mathematics. So in studying instruments historically I can find a basis to begin to describe how sound changes and how that can be used musically.

This is where I find myself drawn to musically and many times my music also is truly experimental in that I am learning as well as creating.

This is not my only interest musically. I am also very interested in how music creates an emotional response. I also have an interest in orchestration but these will have to be for future blogs.

Comments are always most welcome.

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