Digital Sound Synthesis and Usability Testing Dissertation

Excerpt from Dissertation :

Digital Sound Synthesis and Usability Testing

Overview of analogue/digital synthesizers and their input in the music industry

An essential issue in the researches of new media happens to be to investigate and clarify the connection between technological development and cultural revolutions. In this case, digital technology has usually been seen as the single most significant tool in the design of numerous of today's new cultural terminologies. In media that is heavily reliant on computers and relative software, like blogs, the case becomes even more palpable; however, digital technologies may also be associated with changes in more conventional media like film, music as well as literature. Many comprehend the emergence of those novel expressions due to new technology conquering the restrictions of the earlier versions of the analogue format of media. After this argument, you might end up expecting that producing inventive documents in a brand new millennium will be the consequence of an electronic revolution that had left prior formats of analogue technologies obsolete. Modern culture has generally an optimistic attitude towards the beginning of digital technology, considering it being an enhancement on its analogue precursors. In this specific article I wish to have a closer look at these assumptions by creating a step-by-step investigation to the role of digital technology in the assembly of popular music in the world today, in anticipation of expressing something more specific concerning the association that exists between technology and cultural terminologies (Barlindhaug, 2007).

"From a certain point-of-view, it clearly looks like digital production tools are the dominating force in the western cultural expressions of today. The 80s and 90s produced a large range of digital hardware, culminating in a growing software and computer industry. Through the application of software, computers can be turned into powerful tools for the production of documents. Most literature describes the introduction and development of digital media as providing great freedom in manipulating information, both for consumers and producers. For most of us, "digital" equals "new and better." To a certain degree this is also true of musical production. Diverse software has been designed to make computers function as tools for both recording and producing sound. One important trend in this regard is the integration of a range of so-called software synthesizers into your music production. These are programs that function like real-life machines, but existing only in the software environment of the computer. A good example of this is "Reason," made by the Swedish company Propellerheads Software, a sound production tool with the graphic and functional appearance of a physical rack. Here the user can add units like drum machines, mixers and synthesizers, and on the backside of the rack you can connect the units together using colorful cables" (As cited in Barlindhaug, 2007).

All aspects and structures are very lifelike, but at exactly the same time remain acutely virtual. "Reason" is excellent in that it's an entire production environment, while all the computer software synthesizers are created to function as part of larger tools and software as plug-ins. These plug-ins in many cases are replicating mechanisms that are also available as hardware. In the beginning this may appear to be a prime and commendable case of the innovative progress of digital media knowledge. However, many aspects simply don't accumulate that easily. To begin with: Why do we would like computer software that functions like a real machine? In the end, making wordprocessing computer software work the same as a typewriter wouldn't seem very novel. However, this is very much indeed the structure in music assembly. Also, with the overabundance of computer software accessible, why are corporations prepared to exhaust U.S.$1,400 on e-bay for a little battery-based musical device from the year 1982 onwards, when you are able obtain a computer software version free of charge? Academics have conceptualized a number of theories unfolding the influence of digital media, but how of use are these when attempting to explain what's happening in a particular domain like music production? (Barlindhaug, 2007)

When attempting to scrutinize electronic music on the basis of conventional media notions, it is vital to indicate that there's a significant big dissimilarity in how theorists, practitioners and musicians recognize media knowledge and tools. This big difference also details the reasons behind why media theories can't explain what's going on in music production. Conventionally, theorists think about media as something broadcasting a note or functioning while the material basis continues on with this message. There's a consensus that this material basis imposes restrictions and influences what's communicated, and by doing so affects the end result. However, regarding the electronic music, the media is constituted with a longer assembly sequence that expand farther than the instantaneous material basis. Even though the material basis for the music that is being produced may be the same, what eventually classifies its overall artistic appeal is what media was utilized in its previous assembly. In musical terms, technology plays an important role as a structure that is necessary for production, and not just as a way for storage and distribution. It's also essential to indicate that a lot of the technology utilized in music production contains media that easily could be recognized to be used both as storage and producer of content. Due to musicians' concentrate on the mechanisms, the separation that is present between the analogue and digital technological structures is, for the musician maybe not so much so about the technical evolution aspect, but instead it remains to be a question of artistic appeal or aesthetics. The development of educational and artistic notion is, in fact, in these instances a direct result the utilization of the technology, not just of its technical evolution. Based on this, the material facet of technology becomes a completely independent entity whose importance isn't based solely upon its virtual originality. For the concern that currently exists in the view of the technological determinists, I believe many theorists have ignored these aspects of media progression and technology. When placed under stricter inspection, the execution of digital technology can therefore result in have a significantly different and varying consequence than had been initially believed or anticipated (Barlindhaug, 2007).

Advantages of digital synthesizers (Virtual instruments):

Error Recognition

Adjustment in Broadcast

Data Density Construction and Adjustment

Digital Synthesis Techniques

Digital subtractive synthesis, which has also been known as the virtual analogue synthesis, describes computational techniques that duplicate or reproduce the sound generation axioms of analogue synthesizers that were originally developed back in the early 1960s and 1970s. The fundamental principle in subtractive synthesis was first to create an indication with a dynamic ethereal content, after which to sift that particular content or signal attained, the time-varying resonant filter was used successfully.

"Virtual analogue synthesis became a popular and commercial term in about 1995, when Clavia introduced the Nord Lead 1 synthesizer, which was marketed as an analogue-sounding digital synthesizer that uses no samples. Instead, all sounds were generated by simulating analogue subtractive synthesis. Previously, the Roland D-50 synthesizer of the late 1980s worked in a similar way although it contained sampled sounds. An early example of an attempt to design a digital synthesizer that sounds analogue was Synergy" (Kaplan, 1981 as cited in Huovilainen and Valimaki, 2006).

Why digital subtractive synthesis is experiencing a higher demand ratio than that which is usually comprehended is that duplicating or reproducing analogue tools or electronics using the digital processing isn't as straightforward or simple as it might seem or come across to the lay man. One difficulty is aliasing brought on by assortment of analogue waveforms which have sharp boundaries The continuum of such waveforms carry on infinitely elevated levels, and the signals hence may not be band-limited. Yet another intricacy is that analogue filters don't obey simple linear notions. With elevated signal degrees, they create alteration or warp signals. This doesn't obviously or logically surface in digital processing, however it should be planned, calculated, structured as well as executed very purposely, see for instance, the methods used in the studies conducted by Huovilainen in his 2003 research as well as Rossum in an earlier research conducted in the year 1992.

Figure 1: obtained from Huovilainen and Valimaki, 2006

Subtractive Synthesis

The electronic music designs first initiated in the mid 1960s by Robert A. Moog (Moog, 1965) are perhaps one of the more essential innovations in music evolution of technology, both in technical and aesthetic aspects. A couple of years later, his company established products and services where in fact the various structures, designs and modules, for example oscillators, filters, and amplifiers, were built-into just one portable unit. Subtractive synthesis was the primary principle utilized in these instruments. 'Minimoog' was one of the more popular analogue synthesizers in 1970s (as cited in Huovilainen and Valimaki, 2006).

The Prophet 5 synthesizer was another breakthrough that was first initiated as part of the Sequential Circuits back in the year 1979. It had features like microprocessor controlled electronics; however it continues to be used as an analogue synthesizer. Its block diagram shown in Fig. 1…

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