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The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music - Puckette

The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music - Puckette

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Published by The Almighty Sound
Miller S. Puckette's groundbreaking foundational work on the basics of understanding how sound and technology work. The reading can be kind of dry at times, but the amount of information and theory is nearly unparalleled. Puckette is also the creator of Max/MSP and Pure Data.
Miller S. Puckette's groundbreaking foundational work on the basics of understanding how sound and technology work. The reading can be kind of dry at times, but the amount of information and theory is nearly unparalleled. Puckette is also the creator of Max/MSP and Pure Data.

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Published by: The Almighty Sound on Aug 06, 2009
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07/01/2013

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If a sinusoid is given a frequency which varies slowly in time we hear it as having

a varying pitch. But if the pitch changes so quickly that our ears can’t track the

change—for instance, if the change itself occurs at or above the fundamental

frequency of the sinusoid—we hear a timbral change. The timbres so generated

are rich and widely varying. The discovery by John Chowning of this possibility

[Cho73] revolutionized the field of computer music. Here we develop frequency

modulation, usually called FM, as a special case of waveshaping [Leb79] [DJ85,

pp.155-158]; the analysis given here is somewhat different [Puc01].

The FM technique, in its simplest form, is shown in Figure 5.8 (part a).

A frequency-modulated sinusoid is one whose frequency varies sinusoidally, at

some angular frequency ωm, about a central frequency ωc, so that the instan-

taneous frequencies vary between (1r)ωc and (1 +r)ωc, with parameters ωm

controlling the frequency of variation, and r controlling the depth of variation.

The parameters ωc, ωm, and r are called the carrier frequency, the modulation

frequency, and the index of modulation, respectively.

It is customary to use a simpler, essentially equivalent formulation in which

the phase, instead of the frequency, of the carrier sinusoid is modulated sinu-

soidally. (This gives an equivalent result since the instantaneous frequency is

the rate of change of phase, and since the rate of change of a sinusoid is just

another sinusoid.) The phase modulation formulation is shown in part (b) of

the figure.

We can analyze the result of phase modulation as follows, assuming that

the modulating oscillator and the wavetable are both sinusoidal, and that the

carrier and modulation frequencies don’t themselves vary in time. The resulting

signal can then be written as

x[n] = cos(acos(ωmn) +ωcn)

The parameter a, which takes the place of the earlier parameter r, is likewise

called the index of modulation; it too controls the extent of frequency variation

5.4. FREQUENCY AND PHASE MODULATION

133

N

0

OUT

frequency

-1

1

modulation

frequency

frequency

carrier

index of

modulation

-1

1

(a)

carrier

OUT

-1

1

modulation

frequency

(b)

1

index of

modulation

Figure 5.8: Block diagram for frequency modulation (FM) synthesis: (a) the

classic form; (b) realized as phase modulation.

relative to the carrier frequency ωc. If a = 0, there is no frequency variation

and the expression reduces to the unmodified, carrier sinusoid; as a increases

the waveform becomes more complex.

To analyse the resulting spectrum we can rewrite the signal as,

x[n] = cos(ωcn)cos(acos(ωmn))

sin(ωcn)sin(acos(ωmn))

We can consider the result as a sum of two waveshaping generators, each oper-

ating on a sinusoid of frequency ωm and with a waveshaping index a, and each

ring modulated with a sinusoid of frequency ωc. The waveshaping function f is

given by f(x) = cos(x) for the first term and by f(x) = sin(x) for the second.

Returning to Figure 5.4, we can predict what the spectrum will look like.

134

CHAPTER 5. MODULATION

The two harmonic spectra, of the waveshaping outputs

cos(acos(ωmn))

and

sin(acos(ωmn))

have, respectively, harmonics tuned to

0,2ωm,4ωm,...

and

ωm,3ωm,5ωm,...

and each is multiplied by a sinusoid at the carrier frequency. So there will be

a spectrum centered at the carrier frequency ωc, with sidebands at both even

and odd multiples of the modulation frequency ωm, contributed respectively by

the sine and cosine waveshaping terms above. The index of modulation a, as

it changes, controls the relative strength of the various partials. The partials

themselves are situated at the frequencies

ωc +mωm

where

m = ...2,1,0,1,2,...

As with any situation where two periodic signals are multiplied, if there is some

common supermultiple of the two periods, the resulting product will repeat at

that longer period. So if the two periods are kτ and mτ, where k and m are

relatively prime, they both repeat after a time interval of kmτ. In other words,

if the two have frequencies which are both multiples of some common frequency,

so that ωm = kω and ωc = mω, again with k and m relatively prime, the result

will repeat at a frequency of the common submultiple ω. On the other hand, if

no common submultiple ω can be found, or if the only submultiples are lower

than any discernible pitch, then the result will be inharmonic.

Much more about FM can be found in textbooks [Moo90, p. 316] [DJ85,

pp.115-139] [Bou00] and the research literature. Some of the possibilities are

shown in the following examples.

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