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  • System Detail

System: DISSCO

Authors

Description

DISSCO, a Digital Instrument for Sound Synthesis and Composition, was recently released on SourceForge.net, the world's largest Open Source software development website which provides free hosting to tens of thousands of projects. DISSCO was developed in the Computer Music Project of the UIUC Experimental Music Studios by Sever Tipei, Professor of Music, Hans G. Kaper, Senior Mathematician at Argonne National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor in Composition-Theory in the School of Music, and by students of the Advanced Computer Music Seminar taught by Tipei. DISSCO integrates composition and sound synthesis in one seamless process. It exploits the fact that the grouping of sounds in various structural units at the compositional level parallels the way partials contribute to the makeup of a sound at the synthesis level. Thus, similar tools manage events that occur at different time scales. Another notable feature of DISSCO is its ability to deliver a finished product that does not need further processing. This comprehensive approach not only makes any additional mixing or adjusting of the output unnecessary but also facilitates the production of manifold compositions. A manifold composition contains multiple variants of a work, all different in their details but sharing a common structure. Since it combines mass production with the uniqueness of each variant, this is an idiomatic way of using the computer. By permitting variable degrees of indeterminacy at all levels while delivering a fully completed product, DISSCO is well suited for this task. The result of years of research and testing, DISSCO has many other unique features. For example, it allows precise control over each parameter of each partial as well as over the perceived loudness of each sound, a subjective sensation related to but different from the sound's amplitude. Also, DISSCO gives the user various options to avoid overflow (clipping). Its output can be directed to an arbitrary number of channels, which can be controlled individually or by the specification of the location of each sound in space. DISSCO is written in C++ and Java and has three main components: LASS (Library for Additive Sound Synthesis), LASSIE (Graphical User Interface), and CMOD (Composition Module). The source code as well as extensive documentation for LASS may be found at: http://dissco.sourceforge.net. DISSCO is free software distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

References

“The characteristics of every sound depend on the way in which the sound was produced. Each art-form exploits its special production methods in order to endow the phenomena with unmistakable characteristics. Artistic economy demands that the means be appropriate to the end, and that the exploitation of the means be an end in itself.”

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“... but beware, technique can submerge the user: We must defend ourselves; it is good to use techniques, but we have to dominate them, to stay alert.”

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“The use of computers is the logical outcome of a historical development. It by no means heralds a new musical epoch; it simply offers a fast, reliable and versatile means of solving problems that already demanded solution. The person who writes the computer programme must bear the development of musical language up to the present in mind, and try to advance a stage further.”

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“... the use of numerical machines no longer stands in need of justification. It is not a mystery. If there is a mystery, it is in the mental structures of music and not in the computers, which are only tools, extensions of the hand and the slide rule.”

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“... and the hope of an extraordinary aesthetic success based on extraordinary technology is a cruel deceit.”

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“Music is then no longer primarily conceived as a guide for premeditated emotions, but as the density of the possible relationships which first become actuality during production under the influence of chance, and which during performance are presented to the listener as sounds beyond any environmental associatiations, independent of bodily actions required to produce sounds...”

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“The computing machine is a marvelous invention and seems almost superhuman. But in reality it is as limited as the mind of the individual who feeds it material. Like the computer, the machines we use for making music can only give back what we put into them.”

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“... the individual and the society are deprived of the formidable power of free imagination that musical composition offers them. We are able to tear down this iron curtain, thanks to the technology of computers...”

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“Composers are now able, as never before, to satisfy the dictates of that inner ear of the imagination. They are also lucky so far in not being hampered by esthetic codification -- at least not yet! But I am afraid it will not be long before some musical mortician begins embalming electronic music in rules.”

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“The danger is great of letting oneself be trapped by the tools and of becoming stuck in the sands of technology that has come like an intruder into the relatively calm waters of the thought in instrumental music.”

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“With the development of electronic and computer music, multidemnsionality of sound representation turned out to be both natural and useful. But music goes beyond multidimensionality -- it is even more complex.”

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