Writings

This page contains writings, interviews and lectures on composition, aesthetics, and computer music technology.

Download Selected Writings

VisualAudio - An environment for designing, tuning and testing embedded audio applications - 2005 Conference of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), New York City, 2005.

Extensions of the Karplus-Strong Plucked String Algorithm - by D. Jaffe and J. O. Smith, in Computer Music Journal (Summer 1983-vol. 7, no. 2).

Musical and Extramusical Applications of the NeXT Music Kit, Proceedings of the 1991 International Computer Music Conference, Montreal.

Intelligent Musical Instruments: The Future of Musical Performance or the Demise of the Performer? , Interface Journal for New Music Research, December, 1993.

JSTOR articles

Impossible Animals: Notes on Birds and Musical Style - by D. Jaffe, Perspectives of New Music, 1995.

The Computer-Extended Ensemble - by D. Jaffe and W. A. Schloss, in Computer Music Journal, 1994.

Spectrum Analysis Tutorial, Part1: The Discrete Fourier Transform - by D. Jaffe in Computer Music Journal, 1987

Ten Criteria for Evaluating Synthesis Techniques - by D. Jaffe in Computer Music Journal, 1995.

Symposium on Computer Music Composition - Edited by Curtis Roads, Computer Music Journal, 1986.

SynthBuilder: A Graphical Rapid-Prototyping Tool for the Development of Music Synthesis and Effects Patches on Multiple Platforms - by N. Porcaro, D. Jaffe, et. al., Computer Music Journal, 1998.

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Saturday
Nov242012

Notes on Birds and Musical Style

The visual arts would be greatly impoverished without birds and all that birds represent. Music, except for a few notable exceptions, has left bird song a largely untapped resource. I have been watching and studying birds for twenty years, nearly as long as I have been composing. During that time, I have been repeatedly drawn to the avian world as a source of musical inspiration.

This brief essay chronicles some of my shuttlings between the domains of music and nature, and looks closely at examples from three different genres: instrumental music, vocal music, and computer music. More generally, it illustrates the compositional strategy of starting from the known, in this case bird song and behavior, and abstracting to the unknown. The familiar, whether it be a musical style, a bird song or a computer-simulation of the human singing voice, is already something of great richness and character. The process of abstraction then involves combining several familiar elements in an unconventional manner, or stretching the familiar in strange directions or to unnatural proportions. The result can be something quite alien, but with a strong hauntingly-familiar identity, as if viewing a face from a long-forgotten childhood dream.

Use of bird song can be viewed as one example of "external" artistic inspiration that, far from the popular view of a passive experience that overcomes an artist, involves active molding and sculpting of raw material into something new. In taking such an inclusive approach, the artist has, quite literally, the world to gain. Paradoxically, when he or she allows private personal experience to find its way into music, the result can be more broadly relevant, compelling work.

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Friday
Nov232012

Performance Expression in Commuted Waveguide Synthesis of Bowed Strings

In [Smith 1993], an approach was described for implementing efficient real-time bowed string synthesis. Recent work has focused on differentiating the members of the violin family, as well as on the flexibility necessary to create expressive performance. This paper presents a technique for creating smooth transitions between notes, enabling a variety of bowing styles to be synthesized, such as legato, marcato and martele. A method for supporting such left-hand techniques as vibrato and glissando is also given, as is the efficient simulation of pitch-correlated bow noise. Examples from various periods of music history have been convincingly synthesized in real time using the Music Kit and DSP56001 under NEXTSTEP.

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Friday
Nov232012

A Virtual Piano Concerto

We describe here the process of collaboration that went into the creation of a The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World a seventy-minute, seven-movement concerto, scored for remote-control piano and an acoustic ensemble of eight instruments. The solo piano part, written specially for Andrew Schloss and developed in collaboration, is for the Yamaha Disklavier C7 Grand Piano Mark II (a piano that can "play itself" under computer control) and the Mathews/Boie Radio Drum [Boie et al, 1989] (a device that conveys three-dimensional gestures to a computer.) The Radio Drum and Disklavier are connected via a computer running software created for the piece. Thus, the final result of this work is entirely acoustic.

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Friday
Nov232012

Music and the Computer: Up-Ending the Family Tree

Computer music is nearly forty years old. Electronic music is twice that old, dating back to the invention of the Theremin Vox. In that time, computer music has brought together many diverse disciplines, creating hybrids such as psycho-acoustics and algorithmic composition, as well as spawning its own diverse branches. These range from performance instruments to music printing, from MIDI sequencing to automatic transcription. Such diversification is an indication of the success of the field. Yet some categorical divisions arose as a result of philosophical schism, often in response to limitations in the technology of the day.

As this is my first trip to Australia, it seems fitting to flip things upside down and take a fresh look at some of these traditional divisions. Focusing on areas such as sound synthesis, performance, and the role of the composer, we will see which of the familiar constructs still apply and which may no longer serve our best interests. The intention here is not to survey all existing work--this would require more time than we have--but rather to discuss a few examples drawn from my own work and that of several of my colleagues in order to show that hybridization is still an active force throughout the computer music family tree.

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Friday
Nov232012

Intelligent Musical Instruments: future of musical performance or the demise of the performer?

This paper [by W. Andrew Schloss and David A. Jaffe] examines the potential problems that "too much" technology in musical performance can create. In developing very powerful computer-assisted instruments, and in decoupling the sound production from the gesture, issues of what performance is really about start to surface. This is a relatively recent problem, because it is only in the last few years that realtime performance has been widely possible in computer music. As a case in point, we will discuss a co-composed piece entitled "Wildlife," that involves many of the critical issues.

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