Sound in a nutshell:

Granular Synthesis

An overview of granular synthesis and the techniques involved.

Written by Tallaine Opie

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BA Honours (Music)

Terry McDermott
Graeme Leak

This thesis is designed to give an overview of where granular synthesis currently stands. It is an area which is still not well known. It is even omitted in some recent computer music publications. I had personally heard very little about granular synthesis 12 months ago (late 1998). Although I was first introduced to the concept by Larry Polansky in 1996, when he gave a guest lecture at La trobe University. It is hoped that after reading this thesis you will be able to go and use these methods in compositions, with a full understanding of what you are doing.

The thesis begins by going through all of the details and parameters that form a grain. It then looks at how the grains are structured together as textures and the control methods involved. It goes through the history of the conceptualisation of granular synthesis, and how sound has come to be perceived. The thesis considers some examples of compositions written using granular synthesis methods. It finishes off by looking at areas which still need to be explored, and gives some new ideas about the direction research in granular synthesis could go.


I would especially like to thank Terry McDermott for all of his help and the patience he displayed whilst I was still trying to learn the basics of an area which has now become dear to me.

I would also like to thank Graeme Leak for his fun and practical ideas about composition. I would like to thank David Hirst for getting me onto the road of computer music technology in the first place.

Other people I would like to thank:

All the staff in the La Trobe University Music Department for their support and willingness to keep on going, despite what is happening to the department - namely the closure of the La Trobe Music Department.

Nicole Bone for lending me computer equipment, Blake Stickland for helping me find references, Marc Lawless for grammatical advice, and Wendy Jones for her encouragement and proofreading. Lastly I would like to thank my family.

Statement of Authorship

I certify that this thesis is my original work. No other person's work has been used without due acknowledgement. This material has not been presented by me for examination in any other course or subject at this or any other Institution. Signed in the original document by Timothy Opie on 12 November 1999.

© Copyright 12 November 1999 Timothy Opie

This work was submitted to La Trobe University as part of my Honours Degree In Bachelor of Arts.