The Computer Music Tutorial (Paper) (Anglais) Broché – 4 avril 1996
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You may not need to have the bible at home but the "Computer Music Tutorial"... you really do need it !!!
Anyway, just like the bible, it's getting old and it would need an upgrade by now... ;-)
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The lecturer of the course admitted to me that he had based the course on this book, so naturally I found a copy. After reading it for 5 minutes I ordered a copy, because I knew without a doubt this was the book that would carry me through the rest of my studies. Interestingly, anyone else who has ever seen my copy has gone and bought themselves without much delay!
What the book offers is threefold: 1. A good introduction to MIDI. 2. A broad spectrum of signal processing techinques (including SFX). 3. A fast repository of synthesis ideas.
It even explains the fundamentals of the Fast Fourier Transform optimisation.
A lot of math has been replaced by flow charts, and this is means that it can explain the ideas to a wider range of people (and not just mathematicians).
The real selling point of this book is that it is, ultimately, the best possible mix of scope and depth of the subject of musical synthesis.
At 1234 Pages, it's also good value for money!
The first four sections of the book are completely relevant today, and they deal with fundamentals, synthesis, mixing and signal processing, and sound analysis. That is the first 600 pages of the book. Section five, on the musician's interface, is relevant and correct as to history and the basic facts. Many of the instruments used as illustrations no longer exist, but the theory of operation is still employed today. The section does discuss the "Max" software in the context of interactive performance, and Max is still used in various forms. Other systems such as MODE, MacMix, and NoteWriter, are now obsolete. However, even these sections are worthwhile in talking about how such systems work even if these particular systems are defunct.
Section six, on Internals and Interconnections, is probably the section with the most obsolete material, and even then it is not that bad. The sections on MIDI and the internals of digital signal processors are good detailed explanations. DSP hardware and dataflow are especially clearly explained. However, in the chapter on system interconnections, we are in a time gone by as there is much material on how to connect to devices no longer in existence such as the 2-track and 4-track recorder. Section seven is a very short one on psychoacoustics. It is not that it is dated, it is just a very short introduction to the subject. Among the appendices, there is a very useful section on the details of Fourier analysis. This is essential knowledge for the computer musician.
I would still highly recommend this book. Just recognize that a very few sections - and a good number of the photographs of actual equipment - are dated.
Although it may seem outdated, trying to making up one's mind one has to consider a few things:
It's true that synthesis techniques have evolved in a very impressive way during theese 20 years (the book as you may guess has been written during the 80's), but it's also true that many of today's so called "new" synthesis techniques (as some software synthesis companies are fond of saying) are simply the natural evolution of past ones.
Just to give you an example the plugin "melohman" by ohmforce can be viewed as moving wavetable synthesis tool combined with ring modulation and effects like delay filters etc.
On the other hand, some chapters like ones on music equipment or software for algoritmic composition -fields in which technology plays a very important role- do are really outdated.
Cmt is a very complete book, it covers most important fields involved in electronic music composition, as one can see stepping through the index. Explanation of FFT calls for a review of trigonometry and algebra if you didn't studied them well at school, like me for example.
This review must come to an end, so here it is:
If you are/want to become self-taught serious about computer music and you like to make music with softwares like Pure Data or Max/MSP this book is a good place to start. Buy it.
Profund understanding of the possibilities of synthesis techniques or effects design of course requires more specifc scientific/academic readings.