Timbre space as synthesis space: towards a navigation based approach to timbre specification

Seago, Allan; Holland, Simon and Mulholland, Paul (2008). Timbre space as synthesis space: towards a navigation based approach to timbre specification. In: Spring Conference of the Institute of Acoustics 2008: Widening Horizons in Acoustics, 10-11 Apr 2008, Reading, UK.

URL: http://www.proceedings.com/02753.html


Much research into timbre, its perception and classification over the last forty years has modelled timbre as an n-dimensional co-ordinate space or timbre space, whose axes are measurable acoustical quantities (variously, spectral density, simultaneity of partial onsets etc). Typically, these spaces have been constructed from data generated from similarity/dissimilarity listening tests, using multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis techniques. Our current research is the computer assisted synthesis of new timbres using a timbre space search strategy, in which a previously constructed simple timbre space is used as a search space by an algorithm designed to synthesize desired new timbres steered by iterative user input. The success of such an algorithm clearly depends on establishing suitable mapping between its quantifiable features and its perceptual features. We therefore present here, firstly, some of the findings of a series of listening tests aimed at establishing the perceptual topography and granularity of a simple, predefined timbre space, and secondly, the results of preliminary tests of two search strategies designed to navigate this space. The behaviour of these strategies in a circumscribed space of this kind, together with the corresponding user experience is intended to provide a baseline to applications in a more complex space.

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