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Com Sci 295
Digital Sound Modelling

Spring 2000

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Here is a picture showing the structure of the sound domain.


This is why sound is not so simple to model. If you understand the picture thoroughly, please explain it to me. If you don't understand it, enroll for the course.


... it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene V.

William Shakespeare mentioned sound in many other plays and sonnets.

If it sounds good, it is good.
Duke Ellington


News Flash: Online discussion using HyperNews


Copyright information

Last modified: Wed Mar 6 10:54:01 1996

Catalog Description

In this course we learn how the basic structure of sound perception affects the useful ways of processing sound through digital computations. The focus is on basic synthesis techniques, rather than on signal analysis, or on special applications of synthesis such as music or speech.


Introductory computer programming (ComSci 105/106 or 110/111 or 115/116) or general familiarity with computers, basic knowledge of elementary trigonometry and calculus.

Recommended Texts

There is no really appropriate textbook for this course, but there are some books that cover some of the material rather well, and which you should consider adding to your personal library.

  1. A. J. M. Houtsma, T. D. Rossing, W. M. Wagenaars. Auditory Demonstrations (an audio CD). Philips 1126-061 (1987). This CD provides the most efficient way that I know to get a firm intuitive grasp of auditory perception. Everyone in the class needs to listen to the demonstrations on her own during the semester. I have a number of copies that I will lend. The CD is available from the Acoustical Society of America for about $25. I bought my copies at the members' discount of $20. If you would like to keep your own copy, I'll pass one on for $20. Think about joining the ASA.
  2. Curtis Roads. The Computer Music Tutorial. MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1996. This book costs $50, but it's huge and has a lot of interesting material. Much of it is about music performance, but there is a lot of general material on sound, too. The bookstore has this one. If you're serious about computer music, you need this in your library.
  3. John Strawn, editor. Digital Audio Signal Processing: an anthology. William Kaufmann, Los Altos CA, 1985. A-R Editions, Madison WI. This is a nice cheap book (about $25), covering several elementary topics in the basic mathematics of sound very well, and with a particularly accessible treatment of digital filter theory. It also has some wacky chapters. Unfortunately, it is out of print. You may be able to find a used copy.
  4. Ken Steiglitz. A Digital Signal Processing Primer. Addison-Wesley, 1995. ISBN 0-8053-1684-1. This is a clearly written short text on the basic methods of digital sound. I can't use it for a class text because it doesn't focus on listening experiments, and it treats the techniques a bit too uncritically. But, it could be very helpful for understanding the technicalities.
  5. Ronald N. Bracewell. The Fourier Transform and Its Applications. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2nd edition 1986. This is a dense reference for engineers. It has a very nice pictorial dictionary of Fourier Transforms in the back. It cost me $58. Most people don't need this, but anyone who intends to really use the Fourier Transform will bite the bullet and shell out the price, even though it's rather high for a small and specialized item.
Instead of going to the bookstore, you may wish to order texts from Book Pool, Barnes & Noble online, BigWords, Amazon, or other book vendors. Amazon is engaged in a patent action against Barnes & Noble, claiming exclusive rights to use one-click shopping. Some people consider this an abuse of intellectual property law, and prefer not to do business with Amazon.

Required Equipment

Stereo headphones with small jack plug and a long connecting wire (probably a separate extension cord). They can be cheap. Headphones from portable music machines suffice. The long wire or extension cord is essential, since the headphone jack is on the back of the SGI computer.


Resources for the Course

  • Final interview instructions and schedule
  • Instructions for getting started
  • Instructions for the class project
  • Students in the class
  • Course Information
  • Lecture Notes
  • Computing Resources
  • Summary of human sound perception
  • Instructor's pointers to external sound info
  • Auditory Perception, an online text with sound samples.
  • Online Discussion
  • Virtual Auditory Spaces by Paul Henley, a college student in the class.
  • Previous instances of the course

  • 1999
  • 1997 at the University of Iowa
  • 1996
  • If you like Com Sci 295, you'll love the University of Chicago Computer Music Studio. ------------------------------------------------
    Maintained by Michael J. O'Donnell, email: [] odonnell@cs.uchicago.edu

    Last modified: Mon Mar 26 11:02:11 CST 2001