Abstract Sounds

Sounds which we are unable to link with a specific source (Sound source). When we hear Abstract Sounds we usually think about them as sounds in their own right; we…

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Acousmatic

This word was first used by ancient Greeks and describes an audio-only presentation of sounds (free from the distraction of association with the sounds Sound Sources). When we listen to…

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Acoustic Ecology

The study of the relationship between individuals (and communities) and the sounds of the environment that surrounds them. Two different examples of sonic environments (soundscapes) might be urban (a city)…

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Additive Synthesis

A process of creating sounds in which complex sounds are made from the combination of simpler elements (such as sine waves). Different types of simple sounds can be combined to…

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ADSR

ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) is a term used to describe the shape of sounds over time Sounds that begin very quickly (for example a click) can be described as…

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Algorithmic music

Algorithmic music involves the application of algorithms as part of the composition process (an algorithm is a procedure or formula, e.g., for solving a problem). This term is one of the…

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Amplification

The boosting of a signal’s amplitude so as to increase the perceived volume and energy of the sound signal. Amplifiers may be electronic, or might be acoustic resonators (such as…

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Amplitude

A technical term that describes loudness. The higher the amplitude of a sound wave, the louder it is. The amplitude relates to the amount of displacement that the sound wave…

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Amplitude Modulation

A type of manipulation in which one input signal modulates the amplitude of another sound. When done in the sub-audio range by, for example a LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) sine wave, the…

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Analogue

A continuious signal in time, which in music, allows for the continuious capture of audio signals. Prior to digital technology all systems were analogue. Though analogue systems allow for a…

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Art of Noises

Written by Luigi Russolo, the leaflet argued that traditional orchestras limited themselves to only four or five different types of sounds: Instruments played with the bow, Plucked instruments, Brass instruments, Woodwinds,…

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Automation

A tool that allows you to change the variable parameters of a sound over time. By plotting points of automation it is possible to make Manipulations (effects) change over time. This allows the composer…

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Balancing sounds

Balancing is a term used to describe the management of sound levels and Panning in a final mix. The achievement of a well-balanced mix will make sure that all the sounds fit…

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Band-pass Filter

A band-pass filter lets through only a (small) frequency area surrounding a centre frequency. The Band Pass Filter will only allow one band of sound to pass through. Best used to…

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Band-reject Filter

A band reject filter removes a (small) frequency area surrounding a centre frequency. The Band Reject Filter will not let a certain band of sound to pass through. Best used to…

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Beating

The interaction between two simple tones, resulting in a rhythmic interference interaction between them. The rate of beating is equivalent to the difference in frequency between the two tones. (greater…

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Binaural

A binaural recording is one where the microphones are placed in the position of the outer ears, or in a simulation of this. This microphone setup aims to capture sounds…

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Chorus

The use of multi-layering one or more sounds, often with the use of very small-scale delays. The chorusing effect leads to the impression of a duplication of the original input…

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Close Your Eyes

This is a simple technique used by some people to help with their listening. How does it work? By closing your eyes you block out any visual distractions. Because you…

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Collage

An artwork in which small fragments are cut and pasted together to make a larger final work. In sound-based music this may concern extremely brief elements of sound material up…

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Composite Gesture

A composite gesture consists of a number of gestures combined into one. In this case an accumulation of gestures together form a single gesture. It is is made up of…

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Computer Music

This term covers a broad range of music created through the use of one or more computers. The computer may work as (assistant) composer, as in Algorithmic music. Alternatively the computer…

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Contact Microphone

A simple recording technology that allows sound vibration travelling through solid objects to be detected and recorded. Contact microhpones are made from piezoelectric crystals, which induce an electric current when…

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Contextual listening

Listening for the purpose of identifying and gaining information about a sound’s source. It is the opposite of Musical Listening. (also known as causal listening). Contextual Listening This is a…

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Controller

A tool that allows a physical control of a certain parameter. These might take the form of a series of faders, potentiometers or a keyboard interface.

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Delay

A process in which a given input signal is looped and repeated, but with some period of time (delay) between the original sound and the repeated sound.  This can be…

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Detached sounds

Detached sounds are separated from one another by slight pauses. In traditional music such sounds are described as staccato (Staccato is the Italian word for detached.)

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Diffusion

The distribution, and relative concentration, of sound through a space. Electroacoustic diffusion refers to the practice of distributing sound throughout a space using multiple loudspeakers, usually with real-time control over…

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Digital

The storage format used by computers, where information is broken into individual chunks (packets). Digital is in contrast to Analogue which stores information in continuious streams. Computers store information in binary, using…

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Digital Audio

Computers can’t read continuous signals. Instead they need digits, blocks of information which they can process. Sound wave vibrations in the air are continuous streams of information. Therefore, for computers…

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Distortion

What is Distortion? Distortion is sometimes used deliberately as an effect, but can also be created accidentally within the process of mixing. If a sound wave is so loud that…

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Editing

The process of selection, cutting, layering and ordering through which elements are combined and polished in the creation of a final work.

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Electric guitar

Guitars had been around for hundreds of years before the first electric guitar was made. The traditional guitar made use of a hollow body which served to amplify the sound…

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Electroacoustic

The process of converting sound wave vibrations into electrical signals, or electrical signals into sound wave vibrations. Microphones convert sound wave vibrations into electrical signals and loudspeakers convert electrical signals…

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Electroacoustic music

Music in which electronic technology is used to manipulate, eventually generate, explore and combine sounds. Electroacoustic Music Music in which electronic technology, now primarily computer-based, is used to access, generate,…

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Electronic Music

Music in which the sound material is not pre-recorded, but instead uniquely generated electronically, through oscillators and noise generators. There are some, particularly in the United States, who use this…

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Electronica

This term is used in two different ways. It is synonymous with certain innovative electronic forms of pop music including so-called Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). Most of this music is…

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Elektronische Musik

This term is not only the German equivalent of Electronic Music; it was the initial term used from 1949 (originally by Werner Meyer-Eppler) throughout the 1950s for music that was made…

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Envelope

The shape of a sound over time. This is a key parameter of sound and by changing the envelope we can radically transform how a something sounds. A more scientific…

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Environmental sound

Sounds that come from the environment, this term might most often be used to refer to natural sounds (wind rustling through the trees, birds tweeting, waves crashing on a beach,…

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Equalisation

A process by which the various frequency energies of sounds can be balanced, usually using a series of band filters to boost or cut certain portions of the sound. For…

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Fade

A change of volume over time, usually moving from or to silence (fade-in or fade-out).

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FFT (Fast Fourier Transform)

A method which allows the visualisation of a sounds energy distribution over time. FFT (or Fast Fourier Transform) is a tool used to represent graphically the spectral constituents of a…

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Field Recording

Recording that takes place outside of controlled studio environments. Field recording allows for the capture of sounds from objects which could never fit within a recording studio or sound stage.…

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Filter

A filter changes the frequency makeup of a sound by making parts of it weaker. Filters allow you to focus on parts of a sound that are of interest to…

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Filter Sweep

The combination of Automation and a Filter, creating a dynamic sound gesture. Filter Sweep This is an example of a filter sweep. You can hear the filter changing over time. As the filter…

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Flanging

An effect that uses very short Delays (in ms) to create a cancellation effect when a delayed copy of a sound is added to the original audio stream. See Phase. Flanging is…

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FM (Frequency Modulation)

FM (Frequency Modulation) Involves one frequency affecting another. FM can be applied as an effect or used as a form of synthesis (see below). The frequency of an input or…

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Form(s)

The shape and structure of one, or a group of many, sounds. Form might refer to the shape and structure of individual sounds, or of an entire piece. It is…

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Frequency

A technical term that describes Pitch. The higher the frequency of a sound the higher it sounds in pitch. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). The number of wave cycles per…

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Futurists

A group of artists, writers and musicians who felt that traditional music was out of date. They wanted a new style of music for the new technological age in which…

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Gain

Gain is a measure of how loudly the sound plays back. You can change gain, just like you can turn the volume up or down on your TV or stereo.…

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Gesture

A Gesture is an energy trajectory (pathway), moving from one point to another. They always move forwards and give the impression of passing time (the opposite would be texture, which…

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Glitch

Glitches are mistakes that come from technology. They might be clicks or pops on a vinyl record or tape, skips on a CD or mistakes in a digital file. Just…

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Grain

Grains of Sound Imagine the grains of sand on a beach. Each of them is very small, but together they can form sand castles and even mighty sand dunes. Grains…

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Granulation

A process that causes the splitting of an existing sound into numerous small sound grains (fragments) which are then re-assembled in a sound cloud.

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Graphic Score

A way of notating music and sound visually but without using traditional notation. Traditional notation provides a performer with instructions about the type of sound that they should create. When…

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GRM (Musical Research Group)

The GRM was officially founded in 1958, as a new version of various earlier groups (Studio and Club d’Essai, Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète) that all shared the aims…

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Harmonic

A concentration of sound wave energy that relates to a fundamental frequency. A Sine Wave is a simple sound and a concentration of soundwave energy at a single frequency. Harmonic sounds are…

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Harmoniser

Harmoniser a manipulation in which several versions of an input sound of identical Duration (in Phase) are created at specifically chosen pitches. This manipulation can be used to create both Harmonic and Inharmonic polyphonic textures. Harmonising is…

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Headphones

A pair of small loudspeakers designed to be worn directly on or in the ears. Because these loudspeakers are so close to your ears you should be especially careful with…

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Heightened listening

A focused and attentive approach to sounds in which the listener focuses upon the details of sounds, perhaps free from the source bonded associations.

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High-pass filter

A high-pass filter lets the high frequencies through and removes the low. A High Pass filter allows all frequencies higher than its cut off point to pass. Does not allow any…

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Hydrophone

a Microphone technology designed to record sound waves travelling through liquids. Hydrophones, like contact microphones, use piezoelectric crystals to induce an electrical signal. Hydropones get their name from the Greek words for…

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Imprint or sound mark

Sound imprints The sound prints are sounds equivalent to the reference points on a map. They are key sound objects that help us to orient ourselves within a sound landscape. Often the…

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Impulse Click

Impulses are very short sounds which make a click. Their Envelope will dictate how sharp or smooth they sound but they often sound like Noisy clicks. An individual click sound.

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Indeterminacy

To have no defined goal, to leave things open and up to chance. John Cage was a famous proponent of this style of music making.

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Inharmonic

an inharmonic sound is a complex sound in which the sound energy is not distributed across the spectrum in a mathmatically ordered fashion (sound energy partials are distributed, relative to…

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Installation

The sound installation can be considered the equivalent of a musical sculpture, an auditory experience designed and created generally for an exhibition space of visual arts or for a specific…

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Intention and Reception

an approach to studying music which takes into consideration the interpretations of an audience and questions the role of the composers aims and intentions.

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Interface

An interface bridges two worlds, allowing physical interaction with computer processes, (in the previous example it bridges the physical world of the performer and the digital world of the computer).

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Keynote Sounds

They form a background for other sounds and define a certain location, place or time. Examples might be the sound of the sea (when you’re near the coast) or the…

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Layering

A compositional approach in which different sound textures are placed alongside one another. It allows the listener to compare and contrast one sound texture against another, and for the composer…

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LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator)

A sound wave that has a low frequency (usually below the range of human hearing) but which can be used to manipulate sound within the range of human hearing. LFO’s…

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Limiter

a manipulation which prevents the amplitude of an audio signal exceeding a chosen dynamic level. This can be useful in reducing dynamic range without causing clipping. These are often used…

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Listening

Attention focused upon sounds. On this website you will come across a few different types of listening: Contextual Listening, Heightened Listening, Passive Listening and Musical Listening. Pierre Schaeffer was the…

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Live Electronics

live performance with electronic instrument devices that can be controlled in real time. Live electronics performances might involve a fixed (non-real time) element and/or a part for traditional orchestral instruments…

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Loop

To loop a sound is to continuously repeat it. Pierre Schaeffer used looping to draw the listener’s focus away from the source of the sound, and towards the rhythm and…

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Loudness

The relative volume of a sound, ranging from loud to quiet. Loudness can be scientifically defined in terms of amplitude, BUT it is in fact a relative property of sound.…

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Loudspeaker

A loudspeaker is a device designed to reproduce sounds. It takes an electrical signal and coverts it in to sound wave vibrations in the air. The loudspeaker does this through…

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Loudspeaker Orchestra

a tool for presenting electroacoustic music that is composed within the studio. Loudspeakers take the place of musicians upon the stage and around the auditorium, with the performer/composer sat at…

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Low-pass Filter

A low-pass filter lets the bass tones through (the low frequencies) and removes the treble (high frequencies). The separation between low and high frequencies is called the cut-off frequency. If…

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lowercase sound

a style of music and sound works that focus upon quiet, small, or commonly ‘overlooked’ sounds. Lowercase artists are most interested in listening as a creative act, and seek to…

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Luigi Russolo

He was a member of a group of Italian artists call the ‘Futurists’. They wanted to inspire people to make music that reflected the new industrial world of big ships,…

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Manipulation (effect)

A process by which sounds are changed or transformed. There are many manipulations available within the CwS software. Manipulations are sometimes referred to as ‘effects’.

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Mapping

this term refers to the linking of variables. For example, the linking of a MIDI control Interface to control parameters within the programme. OR in synthesis the linking of note velocity with…

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Microphone

Microphones are used to capture sounds. They detect vibrations in the air caused by sound waves and convert these into electrical signals, These electrical signals are then passed on to…

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Microsound

A microsound is a sound that is too short to be heard on its own. It can last up to ca. 1/10 of a second. Microsounds, when heard together, can…

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MIDI

a language of instruction information, designed to allow pieces of musical equipment to communicate with one another. MIDI information is information about action to be taken (for example the instruction…

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MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)

A language of instruction information, designed to allow pieces of musical equipment to communicate with one another. MIDI information might be considered as similar to written notation, it is information…

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Millisecond (ms)

A unit of time that is equivalent to 1/1000 th of a second (in the same way that 1p is 1/100th of £1). This means that there are 1000 milliseconds…

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Mimesis

A Greek word referring to the imitation of nature or culture. Often used as a term to describe recognisibility, it is the opposite of abstract (Abstract Sounds). A mimetic sound,…

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