Department of Computer Science and Technology

Course pages 2018–19

Digital Signal Processing with Computer Music

The structure of this course involves an overview of the main areas of investigation in Computer Music, supported by lectures on each of those specialist topics, together with a 'deep dive' into one or two topics chosen according to your own interests. The lectures are intended to be accessible to students with a good undergraduate understanding of computer science and signal processing, and some knowledge of basic musical concepts. For each topic, the lecturer has suggested either a research review article giving an overview of that specialist area, or a few examples of recent research, to give a flavour of the style of investigation and findings that result.

In the 'deep dive' exercises, students will need to become more familiar with at least one of these specialist areas. This will involve reading beyond the suggested readings, following citations to specific pieces of work that are relevant to a research question of interest to the student. These investigations must be based on publications in peer-reviewed research literature, rather than popular books, magazine articles or other online resources.

It will also be beneficial to browse the recent conference proceedings from specialist research venues listed below, and/or follow citations from Nick Collins' textbook. Once a specific topic has been identified, it will be helpful to learn more about related work by senior figures by consulting their personal web pages or Google Scholar profiles.

Lecture slides

All slides have copyright retained by the lecturer (2019). Please do not copy or distribute without permission.

Target papers for review assignments

Lecturers contributing to the course have each made suggestions of relevant recent research publications. These can be used as target papers for your review assignment. Some of the publications listed below are themselves review papers, providing overviews of research on that topic. In these cases, you should select from the bibliography in the review paper to select a single target paper for your own review.

Individual lectures

Thursday 17 January: Dr Mark Gotham (Cornell University):
Mathematical and computational perspectives on musical structure

Suggested reading:
Mark Gotham (2018) ‘Attractor Tempos in Brahms 2/iii’, Music Theory Spectrum 40/1 pp.138–153,
Mark Gotham (2017) ‘Hierarchy and position usage in mixed metres’. Journal of New Musicological Research, 46/2.
Mark Gotham (2015) ‘Attractor Tempos for Metrical Structures’, Journal of Mathematics and Music, 9/1, 1–22.

Thursday 14 February: Dr Neta Spiro (Royal College of Music):
Human perception of musical structure

Suggested reading:
Grahn, Jessica A., and Dirk Schuit. 2012. “Individual Differences in Rhythmic Ability: Behavioral and Neuroimaging Investigations.” Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, Neurosciences and Music, 22 (2): 105–21. (review paper) (Cambridge institutional subscription - contact me for a PDF if this doesn't work)

Tuesday 19 February: Dr Christophe Rhodes (Goldsmiths, University of London):
Audio synthesis methods

Suggested reading:
Ó Nuanáin, C., Herrera, P. and Jordà, S. (2017). Rhythmic Concatenative Synthesis for Electronic Music: Techniques, Implementation, and Evaluation. Computer Music Journal 41:2 pp.21-37.(review paper)
Bank, B. and Chabassier, J. (2019). Model-Based Digital Pianos. IEEE Signal Processing Magazine 36:1 pp.103-114

Thursday 21 February: Dr Dan Stowell (Queen Mary, University of London):
Machine listening

Suggested reading:
Emmanouil Benetos, Simon Dixon, Zhiyao Duan and Sebastian Ewert (2019). Automatic Music Transcription: An Overview IEEE Signal Processing Magazine 36(1), 20-30. (review paper)

Tuesday 26 February: Dr Sam Aaron (Sonic Pi):
Audio processing languages and architectures

Suggested reading:
Aaron, S. and Blackwell, A.F. (2013). From Sonic Pi to Overtone: Creative musical experiences with domain-specific and functional languages. Proceedings of the first ACM SIGPLAN workshop on Functional art, music, modeling & design, pp. 35-46.
Aaron, S., Orchard, D. and Blackwell, A.F. (2014). Temporal semantics for a live coding language. In Proceedings of the 2nd ACM SIGPLAN international workshop on Functional art, music, modeling & design (FARM '14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 37-47.

Thursday 28 February: Research reviews and performance outlines

Class discussion of critical reviews and performance proposals with Alan Blackwell and Andrea Franceschini

Tuesday 5 March: Dr Richard Hoadley: Composition and performance

Suggested reading:
Magnusson, Thor (2014), Herding cats: observing live coding in the wild. Computer Music Journal, 38 (1). pp. 8-16. ISSN 0148-9267 (pre-print version)
Richard Hoadley (2016), Live coding, live notation, live performance, Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2016), Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC)
D. Stowell, A. Robertson, N. Bryan-Kinns, and M. D. Plumbley. 2009. Evaluation of live human-computer music-making: Quantitative and qualitative approaches. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 67, 11 (November 2009), 960-975. (review paper)

Thursday 7 March: Prof Alan Blackwell: Audio display and interaction

Suggested reading:
Csapó, Ádám, and György Wersényi. "Overview of auditory representations in human-machine interfaces." ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 46, no. 2 (2013): 19. (review paper)
Steven Brewster. "Using nonspeech sounds to provide navigation cues." ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 5 (3), 224-259.
R. D. Patterson (1990). Auditory Warning Sounds in the Work Environment. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 327, No. 1241, Human Factors in Hazardous Situations (Apr. 12, 1990), pp. 485-492
Grond, Florian, and Thomas Hermann. "Interactive Sonification for Data Exploration: How listening modes and display purposes define design guidelines." Organised Sound 19, no. 1 (2014): 41-51.

Tuesday 12 March: Final performance session

Jury members:

  • Richard Hoadley
  • Satinder Gill
  • Cheryl Frances-Hoad

Technical support: Andrea Franceschini

Research venues

International Computer Music Association

New Interfaces for Musical Expression

International Society of Music Information Retrieval

International Conference on Live Coding

International Conference on Auditory Displays

International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation

International Workshop on Musical Metacreation

Background reading

A good overview of the main topics covered in this course is provided by Nick Collins' Introduction to Computer Music (Wiley 2009).

A nice how-to guide to sound synthesis, with practical examples of many specific sound classes in the Pd language, is Designing Sound by Andy Farnell (MIT Press 2010)

To build on the DSP part of the course, and understand how the mathematical description of sound can be used to characterise all the phenomena covered in the second part of the course, an excellent and comprehensive reference is Human and Machine Hearing: Extracting Meaning from Sound, by Richard Lyon (Cambridge University Press 2017)

Several lecturers have recommended articles in the January 2019 issue of IEEE Signal Processing Magazine. The whole of this issue is worth browsing.

Georgina Born wrote a classic anthropological study of the social context in which Computer Music research is carried out: Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde (University of California Press 1995)

The Music21 Library used by Mark Gotham is described here:
Cuthbert, M. S. & Ariza, C. (2010). Music21: A toolkit for computer-aided musicology and symbolic music data. In Proceedings of the 11th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, ISMIR 2010, Utrecht, Netherlands, August 9-13, 2010, 637–642.
And a set of further resources can be found here: