Hans Mikelson


Welcome to the premier edition of Csound Magazine. I would like to thank Richard Boulanger who helped solidify the idea for this in my mind. I also want to thank the contributers for getting the magazine off to a great start.

As an introduction I thought I would share some personal thoughts with you. Before I started working with Csound I did not have a good understanding of digital signal processing. What is signal processing? For some people it is merely the application of digital filters. Others view it as the application of a variety of techniques to digitally alter and generate signals. I view digital signal processing as an art form. A well crafted algorithm is a thing of beauty and elegance.

How does one design instruments? I use several techniques. The most straight forward method is to try to emulate an acoustic or analog sound or effect digitally. This method involves understanding the physical principles of the sound being emulated and developing an algorithmic model of those principles.

A second method is to draw inspiration directly from mathematics. The area of computer graphics has grown greatly in recent years due in part to the discovery of fractals and chaotic systems. Many of the ideas used in computer graphics can be applied to digital audio. This is a vast area of largely unexplored territory.

A third source of inspiration is the world around us. Looking across a rolling hill covered with grass I see each blade of grass as a resonance on the waveform of the hill. Cars passing on the highway become pulses of noise swept by doppler shifts. How can the swirling of a brook be applied to sound processing?

Sometimes all that is needed is a change of scale. Vibrato applied at audio frequencies becomes frequency modulation. Enveloped sound at a high frequency becomes granular synthesis. Try pushing things to the extremes. Build on what others have done. Try new arrangements of things. Try combining several separate concepts or techniques to make something new. Take a one dimensional concept and extend it to two dimensions, four dimensions, 3.5 dimensions.

I hope this magazine will deliver some of the magic of digital audio.