Fragments of a Bohlen-Pierce Composition (Pt 4)

Since Friday, I’ve had almost nil in terms of time to work on fragments. The little time I did have, I put together an additive synthesizer prototype, which I call Tadd for the time being; short for Table Additive Synthesizer. Perhaps I should be calling it tads? It’s very rough, glitchy and a bit poppy, but I love it.

Download: fragments_4.csd

I’m not going to go into the details on how it works here. It’s still in early development, and I plan on only using it in a rough state for fragments. It’s a time constraint thing. Beyond this Bohlen-Pierce piece, I have some big ideas for Tadd, and will most likely write an article about it for the Csound Journal. In the mean time, if anyone has an questions about it, I’d be happy to answer.

Where am I with the piece? I now have a pretty good idea what my final instrumentation will be like. Effects will play a major role in this. I’m considering writing a stutter delay buffer, and possibly a trippy space dub echo machine. There will be heavy use of note generating algorithms present. Timbre wise, it could use one more instrument that contrasts the FM and additive sounds. I’m thinking granular.

There is the question of whether or not to do this in 4-channel quadraphonic surround. If there is time, I’ll give it a try. Though technically speaking, I’m not set up for it here. I’m not ruling it out, yet.

As for a metaphor for what the piece is about… That’s just now coming to me, but it’ll take me a few more days before it truly begins to manifest. The one thing I’m hoping to avoid is to use the Bohlen-Pierce scale as a gimmick rather than a primary element of the piece.

Note to self: listen to more Autechre this week.

Csound Blog: Touch-Tone DTMF Generator

The Csound Blog
Issue #13

Most people would never think of a touch-tone phone as being an additive synthesizer. Though it may be primitive, a phone does generate tones using two sine wave oscillators, which in my humble opinion, qualifies it as such.

However, I’m not here to debate the semantics of whether or not a phone is a synthesizer. Instead, I’m here to demonstrate how easy it is to emulate the sounds of the touch-tone phone.


  • DTMF
  • macros
  • additive

More at The Csound Blog. For more information about Csound, please visit

Beginning Csound @ NYC Resistor

Beginning Csound

Beginning Csound
July 28, 2008 @ NYC Resistor
1 Session, 3 hours, with personalized post-session project with instructor via email.
Cost $75

Csound is the most powerful computer music language in the world, with a direct lineage to Max Mathews’ original Music-N languages. The focus of this class will be a synthesis of three topics: The Csound language, synthesizer theory, and composing weird alien music.

Together, we will demystify the assembly-like syntax of the Csound language. We will cover the fundamentals of synthesizer theory, including: oscillators, filters, envelopes, amplifiers and modulation. Finally, we’ll tie it all together by composing sounds in the vein of classic Sci-Fi movies.

Taught by Jacob Joaquin (that’s me.) Click here to enroll.

Slipmat Pre-Alpha 0.01.0 Released

Slipmat 0.01.0

I just released a new Slipmat package at sourceforge. This latest version comes with three new examples, including one that uses a basic Java GUI. Four out of the five examples are now pre-rendered as CSDs for convenience. There are also a handful of new synth Modules to play with.

The documentation has been improved, including better Javadoc support. The Javadocs are not pre-rendered as to keep the size of the release to a minimum, so you’ll have to generate them yourself. Many IDEs, including NetBeans and Eclipse, will generate them for you.

There is also the PseudoTutorial example that gives a broad overview of the design of Slipmat and how to use it.

And in case you’re wondering, Slipmat is “A Java-based modular computer music library built on top of the Csound API.”

Introducing Slipmat for Java and Csound

Yesterday, I released the first public version of Slipmat, a Java-based modular computer music library built on top of the Csound API. You can download it at Sourceforge.

Let me back up a bit…

Ever since I started Csounding about a decade ago, I’ve heard people refer to the syntax of the Csound language as being very similar to that of Assembly on numerous occasions. I certainly see their point. Let’s face it, Csound is a Frankenstein of language, stitched together with duct tape and bubble gum. And like Frankenstein, it is both powerful, yet scary to those who judge it solely on its facade. Those who turn a blind eye to Csound’s frightening nature and learn to understand it for what it is are rewarded with an amazingly expressive computer music environment. Unfortunately, most people equate their first experience with ladling hot soup onto their laps. Did I mention Csound is afraid of fire?

Continuing with the Frankenstein metaphor a little longer, Slipmat is a Java abstraction layer that attempts to tame the monster. To teach it some manners and civility. If all goes well, Csound will be putting on the ritz in no time.

Let’s take a look at a simple Slipmat java program (included with the download.) The following plays every note in a 12 note octave between 440 and 880:

import com.thumbuki.slipmat.*;
import com.thumbuki.slipmat.module.*;

public class SimpleExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        SynthRack synthRack = new SynthRack(false);
        SinePerc sinePerc = new SinePerc();
        Output output = new Output();

        for (int i = 0; i <= 12; i++)
            sinePerc.playNote(i * 0.25, 0.9, 440 * Math.pow(2, i / 12.0));

        try {
            Thread.sleep(4000); /* Keep java running for four seconds */
        catch(Exception ex) { }

If we think of Slipmat as a high-level abstraction of Csound, which it is, then what happens behind the scenes is that Slipmat "compiles" Csound code, and then this code is fed to the Csound engine. This is sorta how Java produces bytecode that is executed by a Java Virtual Machine. The following is the code that is produced by the previous example:

csound -d -A -odevaudio null.csd
sr = 44100
kr = 4410
ksmps = 10
nchnls = 2

0dbfs = 1.0

gitable1 ftgen 1, 0, 8192, 10, 1.0

chn_a "chna0", 3

instr 1
aclear = 0.0
chnset aclear, "chna0"

instr 2
a1 oscil p4, p5, gitable1
aenv linseg 0, p3 * 0.05, 1, p3 * 0.95, 0
a1 = a1 * aenv
chnmix a1, "chna0"

instr 3
a1 chnget "chna0"
outs a1, a1

i 2 0.0 0.125 0.9 440.0
i 2 0.25 0.125 0.9 466.1637615180899
i 2 0.5 0.125 0.9 493.8833012561241
i 2 0.75 0.125 0.9 523.2511306011972
i 2 1.0 0.125 0.9 554.3652619537442
i 2 1.25 0.125 0.9 587.3295358348151
i 2 1.5 0.125 0.9 622.2539674441618
i 2 1.75 0.125 0.9 659.2551138257398
i 2 2.0 0.125 0.9 698.4564628660078
i 2 2.25 0.125 0.9 739.9888454232689
i 2 2.5 0.125 0.9 783.9908719634986
i 2 2.75 0.125 0.9 830.6093951598903
i 2 3.0 0.125 0.9 880.0
i 1 0 -1.0
i 3 0.0 -1.0


I know what you're thinking... What the hell am I looking at? Truth is, this code is not meant for human consumption. A person who regularly writes Csound code can write code that is more clear than this. Even then, compared to Java-Slipmat code, it can look like chicken scratch. Or my handwriting.

Since Slipmat is more or less a Java library built on top of the Java-Csound API, this means all of Java's and whistles are now available to use in conjunction with Csound. Want a reliable cross-platform GUI? Give swing a try. Want to integrate Processing with you Csound? You can. Want a tool that automagically hides all the grunt work from you, such as assigning instr numbers, tables, chn software busses, etc? More than anything else in life (personally speaking.)

I should warn you... Slipmat is currently pre-alpha. Which means everything is in a state of flux, and there isn't anything that resembles a specification at this point. Methods and classes are guaranteed to change drastically over the next few months. Tutorials on the way...