By Curtis Roads





Below the level of the musical note lies the realm of microsound, of sound particles lasting less than one-tenth of a second. Recent technological advances allow us to probe and manipulate these pinpoints of sound, dissolving the traditional building blocks of music—notes and their intervals—into a more fluid and supple medium. The sensations of point, pulse (series of points), line (tone), and surface (texture) emerge as particle density increases. Sounds coalesce, evaporate, and mutate into other sounds. Composers have used theories of microsound in computer music since the 1950s. Distinguished practitioners include Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis. Today, with the increased interest in computer and electronic music, many young composers and software synthesis developers are exploring its advantages. Covering all aspects of composition with sound particles, Microsound offers composition theory, historical accounts, technical overviews, acoustical experiments, descriptions of musical works, and aesthetic reflections.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262182157 424 pp. | 8 in x 9 in 68 illus.


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262681544 424 pp. | 8 in x 9 in 68 illus.


  • Microsound is packed with insight and stimulating ideas.

    Douglas Geers

    Electronic Musician


  • The 'final frontier' of computer music is undoubtedly microsound—the quantum level of acoustics—and Curtis Roads boldly leads us into this new domain, which will become increasingly important in the twenty-first century. In providing the history, theory, and compositional practice of the micro scale of sound design, Roads clearly lays out the roadmap to this exciting and challenging area of digital research. The book is destined to become the standard reference in the field for years to come.

    Barry Traux

    Professor, Simon Fraser University

  • The best survey to date of real-time machine techniques for musical composition, performance, and improvisation.

    Miller Puckette

    Professor, Department of Music, University of California San Diego

  • Microsound offers an enticing series of slice 'n' dice audio recipes from one of the pioneering researchers into the amazingly rich world of granular synthesis. I can't wait to try these at home.

    David Zicarelli

    founder and president, Cycling '74

  • Roads has assembled a thorough survey of software and techniques for granular synthesis, and provides a useful discussion of related musical practices and aesthetic implications that arise.

    Miller Puckette

    Professor, Department of Music, University of California San Diego