Computer Music Composition

Final Exam Study Guide

This study guide for the final exam contains a listing of assigned readings, and some questions you should try to be able to answer based on those readings.

Links to all assigned readings, recordings, and videos are also available on the Assignments page and the Links page.

Assigned Readings

(Listed chronologically in order of date assigned.)

How Hearing Works - [Questions]

Digital Audio - [Questions]

Soundcraft Guide to Mixing - [Questions]

Microphone Techniques for Live Sound Reinforcement - [Questions]

Pro Tools User Guide - [Questions]

"The Art of Noises" - [Questions]

"The Future of Music: Credo" - [Questions]

"Experimental Music: Doctrine" - [Questions]

"The Liberation of Sound" - [Questions]

Guide to Sound Objects - [Questions]

"Digital Interconnection Standards Explained" - [Questions]

Gassmann Studio Tutorial - [Questions]

Tutorial on MIDI and Music Synthesis - [Questions]

Reason Operation Manual - [Questions]

"ReDrum" from the Reason Operation Manual - [Questions]

"Advanced Reverberation", Part 1 and Part 2 - [Questions]

ReWire - [Questions]


How Hearing Works
Define the following words: compression, rarefaction, frequency, amplitude, pinna, tympanic membrane, ossicles, cochlea, basilar membrane, and organ of corti. What does knowledge of how hearing works have to do with music? Is it useful for a composer to understand how sound is perceived? Can you give reasons and/or examples to support your answer?

Digital Audio
Define the following terms: simple harmonic motion, amplitude, frequency, fundamental mode of vibration, complex tone, harmonics (overtones, partials), harmonic series, spectrum, amplitude envelope, loudness, (and its relation to) amplitude, pitch, (and its relation to) frequency, decibel, analog-to-digital converter, digital-to-analog, converter, digital sampling, Nyquist theorem/rate/frequency, sampling rate, aliasing/foldover, low-pass filter, quantization, quantization precision, signal-to-quantization noise ratio, clipping.

Soundcraft Guide to Mixing
Describe the following common features on most mixers: mic input (plug type and expected level), line input (plug type and expected level), gain (trim) pot, insert, EQ, auxiliary send, pan, solo, mute, fader, direct out, auxiliary return, main stereo mix out, submix, monitor (control room) out, and phantom power.

Microphone Techniques for Live Sound Reinforcement
Describe the main differences between dynamic microphones and condenser microphones, the different kinds of directional sensitivity patterns available (and what those pattern diagrams really mean), the difference between balanced and unbalanced wiring, and the meaning of the terms phantom power, transient response, frequency response, proximity effect, and decibel.

Pro Tools User Guide
What is "automation" in Pro Tools? What might one commonly automate? What are the ways you can create automation in Pro Tools? What are two common ways one can apply reverberation in most DAW software? What is the meaning of the editing modes "slip", "shuffle", "spot", and "grid"? How does Pro Tools allow one to edit and mix sound without altering the original source recordings?

The Art of Noises
What changes was Russolo urging in this article? How does his use of the word "silence" compare to that of John Cage? What did he have to say about the state of instrumental music in his time? What was his vision for the future of music?

The Future of Music: Credo
What did Cage predict about the role of noise in music? What did he see as the most important musical instruments of the future? How did he describe the traits of new music?

Experimental Music: Doctrine
How did Cage distinguish different categories of experimental music? What did he say is the purpose of new experimental music?

The Liberation of Sound
How did Varèse's description of his musical goals differ from classical music? What did he predict about the future notation and synthesis of music? What were some traits of future music that he anticipated? Did he think that electronics and computers would save music?

Guide to Sound Objects
What is the definition of "acousmatic" as it is used in discourse about recorded music? How are the terms "abstract" and "concrete" applied in musical discourse by Pierre Schaeffer? In light of that, what does the expression musique concrète refer to? The phenomenon of a "closed groove" in early musique concrète composition is comparable to what compositional technique commonly used today? Explain the idea of a "cut bell" as described by Chion, and how it can be useful in musique concrète.

Digital Interconnection Standards Explained
What are the most common plug types for the AES-EBU, S/PDIF, and ADAT digital audio formats? What are the most common problems with transmitting digital audio, and what settings must the sending and receiving devices agree upon?

Gassmann Studio Tutorial
What is the most important technical rule in the Gassmann Studio? In the audio patch bay, where are the outputs and where are the inputs? What does a normalled connection mean?

Tutorial on MIDI and Music Synthesis
What does the acronym MIDI stand for? What is MIDI? What is the transmission rate of MIDI data? Is MIDI good for transmitting digital audio? What are the different types of MIDI "channel messages"? What is a "status byte"? What is the distinguishing characteristic of a status byte? How many bytes are in a MIDI note-on message? What information is contained in a MIDI note-on message? What is MIDI note-on "velocity"? How is velocity generally measured on a keyboard? What is a MIDI channel? Why is a MIDI channel useful? What is the MIDI code number (key number) for the pitch middle C? What is MIDI "pitchbend"? What is the difference in transmission and usage between MIDI "events" such as notes, and "continuous control" messages (such as volume)? That is, what is different between the way that a keyboard sends out MIDI note messages and volume messages, and why is that difference musically necessary?

Reason Operation Manual
What is an oscillator? What is "frequency modulation" (FM), and how is it different from mixing? What is a "low frequency oscillator" (LFO), and why is it useful? What are some parameters of a sound that can be usefully controlled by a LFO? What is "vibrato"? How do we create the effect of vibrato in the Subtractor synthesizer? What is an ADSR envelope, and how is it used (what does it usually control)? How can you automate changes in synthesis parameters in Reason?

What is "sampling", and how does a sampler (a.k.a. sampling synthesizer) work? Is ReDrum more accurately a drum synthesizer or a sampler? How can you make it play the samples you want it to play? What are at least two ways to enter notes for the ReDrum?

Advanced Reverberation
Define the terms "predelay" (initial delay), "early reflections", "RT60 decay time", "high-frequency damping", and "direct-processed mix", and be able to describe what sonic effect each one plays a role in creating.

What is ReWire for? Explain the usage of the terms "mixer" application and "synth" application in the context of ReWire. Which of those two applications must be opened first? When an application is in ReWire Slave Mode, its audio goes where?

This page was last modified March 5, 2013.
Christopher Dobrian,