sdf PhD





Exploring visual representation of sound
in computer music software through
programming and composition



Selected content from
a thesis submitted with a portfolio of works to the University of Huddersfield in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

December 2013

Samuel David Freeman

Minor amendments
April–June 2014

3: In software, on screen

Formative works and study pieces from the early stages of the project are discussed in this chapter; each section describes a different piece and its context, with the final section (§3.7) concluding the contextualisation. Connections to the concepts introduced in the previous chapter are demonstrated, just as later works will be shown to connect also with the concepts introduced, explored, and developed in the works here described.

Having chosen to compose music through software-based systems while questioning the possible implications of the visual aspects with such systems, particular attention has been given to thinking about the 'and how' part of the question: what aspects of sound are being shown in software, and how?

Visual representations of sound appear within software as part of the graphical user interface (GUI) on screen. A computer screen is the medium by which a human may observe the virtual worlds that are taken to exist within the computer. It is on, and within, such virtual worlds that this project is focussed, and this includes the pursuit of creating new worlds within worlds through computer programming (though it is rather more typical to use the term environments when referring to these software worlds).

Most of the programming undertaken by this project has been within the environment of MaxMSP (Cycling ’74, n.d.). My coding background includes programming with C and C++, and although these languages were not used during this project, awareness remains of a C way of thinking, and that that is underlying the MaxMSP environment. MaxMSP provides high-level constructs that allow for rapid implementation of ideas in code, especially when those ideas have strongly visual elements. With the additional use of Jitter and JavaScript within that environment, a slightly lower-level of access to (and control of) data, and programming styles other than that of pure data-flow are incorporated into my works. During the project, some works have also involved writing JavaScript for use with HTML5 (which has emerged during the period of this project) within in the environment of a web browser. Similarly, the Adobe Flash environment has been utilised for its widespread availability to potential audiences of interactive works (Adobe, 2009).


← 2.3 Looking at looking at sound

3.1 Pixels →