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Introduction to Computer Music
by Wayne Bateman
Published by J. Wiley & Sons
Price £15.20


At last, a book that gives an accurate and readable introduction to the subject of computers in music. Unlike many books with that word in their titles, this really is an introduction, dealing with all relevant aspects of computer science and musical acoustics.

The preface says that it is primarily intended for the musician, and although no prior knowledge of computer science or electronics is required, the book is involved enough to interest the more technically-minded reader. The sections on musical acoustics in particular are superb and better than those in most electronic music books. The discussion of frequency domain analysis is particularly excellent, and deals with the meaning of the analyses of non-periodic signals such as isolated instruments tones; a subject which is difficult for musicians and engineers alike to grasp and one which regrettably I have never seen covered in a book of this type before.

A non-technical introduction to the operation of a computer precedes discussion of programming, including algorithms, flow charts, and high and low-level languages. This is then applied to simple methods of tone-generation by computer, complex tone synthesis, and the organisation of the hardware and software components of a computer music synthesis system to allow communication with the composer/programmer in the most useful terms without sacrificing versatility. The increasingly important field of computer processing of natural sounds is given an up-to-date treatment, and the simulation and reproduction of natural sounds is covered separately from original synthesis. The book ends with a chapter on computer composition of music, and a thought-provoking discussion of the meaning of machine and human creativity, a particularly tricky subject to write upon.

The book is illustrated throughout with excellent diagrams, mostly computer-drawn, the accuracy of which is very important for explanations of waveform analyses etc. There's not a semicircular 'sine' wave, or 'square' wave with rounded corners, all too common in less authoritative electronic music books, to be found anywhere here.

Introduction to Computer Music should appeal to all musically minded engineers and technically minded musicians who want to find out about the musical applications of computers. It could even be useful to analogue synthesists who require more advanced information on tone-forming techniques than available from electronic music books.



Electronic Music Projects
by R. A. Penfold
Published by B. Babani Ltd
Price £1.75


Mr Penfold's name is already familiar to many constructors and in this book he presents twenty-three original music related projects aimed at the hobbyist who already has some experience of building electronic circuits. They are presented in the categories Guitar Effects Units, General Effects Units, Sound Generator Projects, and Accessories, and though most are fairly basic they include a reverb unit, guitar practice amplifier and 3 channel sound-to-light unit.

The function and circuit operation of each project is explained with reference to large, clear circuit diagrams and sometimes graphs and other diagrams. The designs cover a wide range with some appearing as complete units and others as modules for use with other circuitry. The latter is particularly the case with the sound generators — the tone and noise sources could be used with some of the modulating and effects circuits to form a simple experimental electronic music system for the beginner.

The function of the major components in the circuits are explained well, and since various different design techniques are used, all projects should prove instructive to the reader who only intends to build a few. For example, in the designs which involve electronic control of gain such as the Sustain Unit, Amplitude Modulator and Voice Operated Fader, alternative approaches using a discrete opto-coupler, an FET, and a voltage controlled attenuator IC are used with the properties of each device explained.

There is a good balance between discrete and IC circuits with the commonest types of IC, including op-amps, power amps, timers, and logic well represented. All components used are easily obtainable and all but one project are powered by 9V batteries.

Board layouts and constructional details are not given, except for short notes for the few projects where the layout is likely to affect operation. Hence the book is not suitable for the total beginner, but includes more projects than would otherwise be possible for those hobbyists who can work out the construction for themselves.



Practical Electronics Handbook
by Ian Sinclair
Published by Newnes Technical Books
Price £4.05


Ever wished you had a book which contained all the necessary information to design your own projects, to your own specification, without having to refer to a daunting pile of literature, concerned only with their own specific type of component?

Books like that are rare and authors capable of producing such a book, with less than two-hundred pages of essential information, are normally only found on Betelguese. It does not come as a surprise then, that the book I have just read was written by Ian Sinclair, for nowadays his name, in modern electronics is synonymous with Shockley or Voltaire.

Briefly, the contents are divided into the following sections: Passive components, Active discreet components, Discreet component circuits, Linear ICs, and Digital ICs.

A nice bonus is the addition of pin out details for TTL and CMOS ICs appended to the chapter on digital ICs.

If you have ever had difficulty in understanding the part that a passive component plays within a circuit, or have been unsure of the results expected, when its value is changed, then this is the book for you — however with all the equations it contains you had better keep it on the work bench, preferably somewhere near your calculator.

The book's best quality, is that having once explained the theory, you are given the opportunity to try your own practical working models, with the circuit examples shown, and hence, draw your own conclusions.

As a final point, I should mention, that this book is not aimed at the absolute beginner, it is more for the enthusiast who has become fed up with simply building projects, without really understanding how they work.



Newnes Book of Video
Edited by K. G. Jackson
Published by Newnes Technical Books
Price £5.95


The Newnes Book of Video, is a compilation of manuscripts, submitted by various experts in their field.

The book does not really leave one with the feeling of greater knowledge, or insight into the subject. It tends more to confirm what was already suspected, only slightly improving one's foreknowledge.

Each section of the book covers a different sphere in the science of video-technics. Unfortunately, the layout is not dissimilar to a spaceship, relaying information about a subject, that only orbits around the topic in question, never actually landing, to take a closer look. This technique, is the same as that used in the correlation of encyclopaedia's, that is; each entry stating the minimum of facts required to purvey a fair picture of the article described. This approach is fine for those who know nothing of the subject, but is not for those whose appetite has already been whetted, and are not satisfied with the basic facts.

An interesting little deviation, from standard, technical journal layout, is the friendly opening to each section, by introducing the particular contributor on a personal note, with a photograph, and a few words about his technical background.

Do not get me wrong. The book is well written and easy to read, it is just that I did not find it absorbing, due to lack of fresh data.



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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Electronics & Music Maker - Apr 1981

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