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Page 285 ï~~Making Music with Csound for the Macintosh Richard Boulanger Music Synthesis Department Berklee College of Music 1140 Boylston Street Boston, MA 0221S email: firstname.lastname@example.org mit.edu ABSTRACT A musical demonstration of the current capabilities and newest MIDI features in Barry Vercoe's Macintosh version of Csound. Drawing from classroom and laboratory use at the Berklce College of Music, the talk will focus on the educational implications of the current package, and ways to efficiently integrate the software into today's commercial MlIl-based workstation environment. Further, the extension of Csound through commercial and public domain DSP software will be discussed and featured. Excerpts from the Csound Anthologyand student compositions will serve to demonstrate some of Csound's newest capabilities. 1. AN EDUCATIONAL PERSPECTIVE Without a doubt, Barry Vercoe's (sound has established itself as one of the most powerful software synthesis and signal processing packages. Over the years, Csound has served as an excellent educational and research tool, but not a particularly effective compositional or performance tool. Recent advances, however, particularly in the area of RISC-based computers, have brought about the near real-time performance of even the most complex Csound orchestras, thereby transforming Csound into a more interactive environment in which to explore ones compositional ideas. Until now, Csound has yet to find its place among professional musicians in commercial film and recording studios; that is, until Barry Vercoe and his graduate students, Dan Ellis and Bill Gardner, ported Csound to the Macintosh. Before Csound for the Macintosh, few commercial musicians were exposed to the program. With the recent addition of a MIDI File interpreter and a set of MIDI-based unit generators, Csound is coming into use by a wider range of Macintosh -based professional musicians. Certainly, it will take time for commercial musicians to fully understand the inherent power of Csound; but a new generation of commercial synthesist is being trained today at the Berklec College of Music, where for thelast three semesters Csound has been required of Sound Design majors and electable by all. The enthusiasm for this course has been overwhelming, and the musical results have been both surprising and inspiring. 1.1 Csound? The Macintosh port of Csound allows the commercial and professional musician an opportunity to explore and create in a virtual synthesis environment; to better understand the psycho acoustic basis of auditory perception; to rediscover some of the historical approaches to sound design; and most importantly, to develop synthesis algorithms and hybrid synthesizer schemes that are currently unavailable commercially. Csound is a unique environment in which sound design and musical design is inextricably entwined. Thus, from an educational standpoint, Csound provides the framework for a deep conceptual and theoretical understanding of music synthesis and digital audio. Furthermore, Csound offers the student a glimpse of a musical future whose sounds and structures are limited only by their understanding and imagination. 1.2 For the Macintosh? The Macintosh is ideally suited for Csound because of the diverse and powerful music software that already runs on this platform. Other important factor s are the readily available and reasonably affordable high quality All) and D/A converters and digital i/o boards. Further, graphical waveform editors, spectrum analyzers and a number of powerful public domain, signal processing packages furthner extend the power and utility of the Macintosh version of Csound. The speed of the Quadra, Macllfr. Ilci or even an SE30 is quite reasonable for both private and classroom use. 285
Page 286 ï~~2. THE BERKLEE PERSPECTIVE To many', erklee represents a musical trade school with an emphasis on pop music. Admittedly Rerklec is career oriented. However, it is this very career orientation that drives Berklee's pursuit of a leadership role in music technology. This has resulted in the development of the most effective classroom environment for the study of contemporary musical "instruments" and contemporary musical ideas. Thus, Berklee's commitment to the comprehensive understanding of today's music technology would naturally include the study of a powerful and open software synthesis environment such as Csound because Csound provides the framework for the broadest possible training of future professionals in this rapidly changing technologically driven music business. 2.1 The Berklee Labs The Music Synthesis Department at lkrklee consists of three teaching labs -- with twelve Macintosh-based MIDI workstations in each, plus two performance labs and a dedicated recital hall with large Macintosh-based MIDI workstation in each. It would be easier to list the Music programs that the department doesn't own rather than all the ones we do. Needless to say we have at least one copy of everything and usually 36 copies of the main programs such as Opcode's VisionTM, and (;a/a.r Plus TM, Digidesign's SoundesignrrrlTM and Coda's Music ProseTM to name but a few. The size of the class is limited to twelve students, so that each individual sits and works at their own station. The stations are equipped with about a half dozen of the newest samplers and synthesizers, and each Macintosh is equipped with sixteen bit stereo AID and D/A converters and a large hard disk for digital audio and Csound work. 2.2 The Berklee Csound Classroom Approach The initial classes consist of a thorough analysis and modification of the tutorials from the Ierklk Csound Workbook. From a teaching station at the front of the room, the professor's original instrument design and edits are projected onto a large screen. In class, the students are encouraged to code along with the professor as the lesson is presented. Much time is saved by the fact that the student can actually experience the sound design and editing process while it is being explained and demonstrated. Thus, tutorials serve as springboards for guided study and explorations. During this phase of study, the weekly assignments are to modify, elaborate and extend the instrument designed in class. As the semester continues and the student's understanding of Csound grows, a typical class might begin by listening to a Risset composition. A block diagram of the central instrument would be drawn on the board, and a Csound version of it would be compiled, played, analyzed, and then modified. The assignment might be to listen to another Risset piece; to analyze and modify its central instrument found in the Cound Anthology, to hand code one of the Risset instruments described in Dodge and Jerse's Computer Musictextbook, and then to compose a short etude based on the modified and coded instruments. 2.2.1 Making Music Although a good part of the semester is spent exploring Csound's many unit generators, the ultimate goal is to make music with Csound. Thus, the student is introduced to a variety of working methods targeted at the efficient generation and exploration of sampled and synthesized source material. To this end, a variety of production-oriented concepts and instruments are introduced, such as algorithmic soundfile editors, processors, spatializors, and mixers. In addition, the new MIDI unit generators are introduced which allow Csound scores to be realized using a commercial sequencer or music notation program. Finally, the use of MIDI-based samplers to play Csound generated timbres is also demonstrated. From some combination of the above tools and techniques, short compositions are generated by each student and submitted as final projects. Removable cartridge drives at each station allow the students to store long runs eliminating the need to recompile them, and digital i/o at most stations provides the means for long tcrm archival and retrieval of files for later compilation and composition. 286
Page 287 ï~~2.2.2 Making Art Although the highly "artistic," sometime "academic" and often "esoteric" nature of most of the composition thus far produced using software synthesis programs such as Csound may seem at odds with the stated musical goals of the Berklec College -"to prepare and train professional musicians for today's commrrcial market," still a number of surprisingly innovative extensions of pop forms, some excellent tutorial instruments and instructional models, and a few very nice pieces have resulted from its inclusion in the curriculum. Given that the Csound course at Berklee is only one semester long, the scope is focused primarily on the extension of sound design into areas of musical design. However, aesthetic and compositional issues do still present themselves, particularly in the context of the CD-based studies of works by Risset, Dodge, Lansky, Chowning, Dashow, "lruax, and others. In these instances, classroom discussions move from the way a certain sound might be designed in Csound, to the way that specific sounds are employed in the musical design of the particular composition. Further, developing a broad "non-commercial" aesthetic through the innovative compositional use of'commercial technology is the entire focus of a required course in the Music Synthesis curriculum entitled Comp/Orch for Synthesis (msl 40). This course, which employs the texts learning to Compose by Austin and Clark, and Cope's New Directions in Music, strives, and usually succeeds, through a progressive set of focused original compositional etudes, to guide the student toward a broad and all encompassing definition of music as "Organized Sound." 'hus, by the time that students enroll in the Csound course, they are well equipped to appreciate the compositional possibilities of Csound, and to explore them in a musical and artistic way. 2.2.3 Directed Studies After taking the Csound course (msl 07), many majors continue their Csound researdc during a final semester of Directed Studies (ms201 ). Last years Csound-based thesis projects included: Robert Whalen's Virtual Spatializatior Â~Tim Powers' Exploring Vocal Synthrsi, and Gregory Hainers Understanding Randomness. This year, projects include: Heather Jennings' Virtual Tuning through Csound; David Sumy's Csound Library of Psychoacoustic Instruments, Corey Keisler's Cross Synthesis Studies, and a collaboration between John Lamar and John Burkhardt entitled - Integrating Vercoe's Csound with OpCode's MAXTM. 2.3 Why it works The Csound course at Berkice works for two reasons. First, the immediate feedback that the student gets from working along with the professor contributes to a quicker and deeper understanding of the subject. Not only the Csound course, but the entire Music Synthesis program at Berklee works because it supports active learning through individual access to a complete station. Second, the course works because virtually all the students can continue doing Csound on their own Macintosh computers at home. In the labs they gather to help each other better understand the advanced synthesis and signal processing ideas which are covered weekly. They also meet to share their triumphs and exotic auditory concoctions. Because Csound now runs on virtually any Macintosh, most students continue running jobs even when they are not working in the Berklee labs. 2.4 Why it's important For Berklee students, Csound is particularly important. Until now, it could be argued that there is no better place that the Music Synthesis Department at Berklee to learn how to make beautiful sounds with oscillators, and yet know absolutely nothing about how an oscillator actually works. Quite frankly, it is this author's belief that this situation is not unique to Berklee, but rather represents the norm in many other colleges and conservatories, particularly given the predominance of commercial sample-players and synthesizers with thousands of stored preset voices that are commercially available. Csound is important because it gives the music synthesis student at Berklce a glimpse into the research labs at CCRMA and IRCAM; it lets them stand on the shoulders of giants such as Chowning and Risset; and it lcts them look into the future as they model and explore music synthesis techniques that are not yet, and may never be, commercially available. 287
Page 288 ï~~3. FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR MACINTOSH-BASED CSOUND Over the past year a number of suggestions have been made for future extensions of Csound for the Macintosh. What follows are a list of the currently planned extensions and several of the long term goals. 3.1 Currently planned enhancements The current goals for Csound include: an update from ThinkCTM 4.0 to ThinkCT 5.0; support for background processing; the integration of all associated analysis programs such as pvanal, Ipcanal, hetro, etc.; FIR filtering; an integrated word processor; and working versions of Scot and Cscore. In addition, two Csound publications are currently in the works: The Berklee Csound Workbook by Richard Boulanger - including annotated examples from the Csound Anthology and over 30 Tutorials (available by January 1993); and Making Music with Csound by Barry Vercoe and Richard Boulanger-- a theoretical and practical insight into the unlimited power and musical potential of Csound including a Cl) R)M with audio examples, orchestras and scores, reference manual, source code, and the complete Csound Anthology (available by August 1993). 3.2 Long term goals The long term goals for the Macintosh version of Csound include: an icon-based Csound orchestral compiler; a version of MAXTM with Csound unit generator objects; and a real-time version of (Csound running on Apple's RISC-based Macintosh. 4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The author's involvement with software synthesis began in a 1979 summer course at M.I.T. and has continued to this day because of the generous support of Barry Vercoe. His continued development, expansion and refinement of Csound have been a constant source of musical inspiration. "'hanks also to Bill Gardner and Dan Ellis from M.I.'. for their work on the Macintosh port of Csound, and for their many important extensions to the language and refinements to the user interface. At Digidesign, thanks to Peter Goucher and Andrew Calvo, and at Micro Technology Unlimited, thanks to David Cox and Larry Isaacs, who's high quality hardware and powerful software made the Macintosh and PC versions of Csound an affordable reality. A special thanks to Charles l)odge, Russell Pinkston, Alexander Brinkman, Curtis Bahn, Craig Harris, and Jean-Claude Risset for contributing their Csound instruments to the author's Csound Anthology. These innovative designs have been a source of much enlightenment and understanding. At Berklee, the support of Dennis Thurmond, Don Puluse, Dr. Warrick Carter, and Dr. Lee Eliot Berk is greatly appreciated. Most of all, thanks to the Music Synthesis students at Berklee, particularly John Lamar, Robert Whalen, David Sumy, Gregory Hainer, Tim Powers, Heather Jennings, Danielle DeGruntola, Corey Keisler, Kazuhiko Gomi, David James, and Chin Boo Tan whose enthusiasm for Csound has inspired the author to continue growing, learning, and sharing. 288