Music synthesized with Csound

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Here is a collection of pieces of music made using the computer program "Csound", developed by Barry Vercoe at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology from the seventies on. None of the sounds that appear in these tracks come from the physical world, but from a process of calculation performed by a computer(*). To create a piece, a composer prepares two files: one is the orchestra, which describes the internal structure of the instruments that will be required during the execution of the piece, made of oscillators, filters and similar, and the other is the score, which specifies when these instruments should fire in time, at what musical frequency, the length of each note and a series of parameters for each note to modify the precise sound of each. The Csound program reads these two files and creates a sound track that can then be played.

There is only one piece of mine here; for the rest I just copied the orchestras and scores from the Internet, ran the synthesis with Csound, and recorded the resulting sound tracks. For further information on Csound, on the pieces and on the composers, search for "Csound Frontpage" on the Internet.

The source code for all these pieces plus another two is available as ZIP or tar-gzip archives. They are about 500KB each, with the same contents.

Martin Guy, Catania, August 2000

(*) Except where samples are used: in Nuclear for the four drum sounds and in Laugh, which uses three samples of the author laughing which are then transformed.

The order of the pieces is chosen for ease of listening because when I compiled it I didn't know when they were composed.

MP3 and OGG formats

These files are available in three formats: and the file sizes are in a ratio of about 3:2:1

For some pieces there are also Micro-Oggs made with oggenc -b 45 (the highest compression), more to hear what the degradation sounds like than for anything else!

Orchestras, Scores and Samples

These are the original control files that make Csound produce these pieces, modified by me only where necessary to produce CD-quality output.

Tobias Enhus

Electric Priest (2'50")

MP3 (2.72 MB), Ogg (1.94 MB), Mini Ogg (1.08 MB), Micro Ogg (948 KB), orchestra and score.

The most interesting technical point is the quality of the synthesized voice. Also worthy of note is the fake ending in the middle of the piece. If you're good at counting time during the silence, you should soon be able to predict when the piece will start up again!

Since version 4.05, Csound makes a nasty scratching noise throughout this piece, probably due to some bug in the reverb code. These audio tracks were created using an earlier version of Csound.

Jacob Joaquin

Nuclear Energy - Our "Misunderstood" Friend (May 1998) (2'16")

MP3 (2.19 MB), Ogg (1.92 MB), Mini Ogg (1.17 MB), Micro Ogg (836 KB), orchestra, score and AIFF samples: 1 2 3 4.

Making creative use of sequences and of six simple instruments, this makes an easy-listening introduction to synthesized music. Note that the drumkit is not synthesized, but is made from four samples of acoustic instruments: bass drum ("kick"), snare drum and hi-hat cymbal, open and closed.

The author says:
You can contact me by email @

Kim Cascone

Blue Cube (3'10")

MP3 (3.04 MB), Ogg (1.80 MB), Mini Ogg (827 KB), orchestra and score.

Perhaps the most beautiful of these pieces.

The author says:
Recontextualizing Ambient Music in Csound.

Jacob Joaquin

Message From Another Planet (Spring 1999) (4'16")

MP3 (4.1 MB), Ogg (1.91 MB), Mini Ogg (961 KB), orchestra and score.

This piece consists of a single, 256-second chord on an absurd instrument.

The author says:
You can contact me by email @
To search for extra-terrestrial life from your home computer, visit

Michael Jude Bergeman

Face on Mars (2'45")

MP3 (2.64 MB), Ogg (2.39 MB), Mini Ogg (1.12 MB), orchestra and score.

The author says:
"Face On Mars" is my first CSound piece. It was inspired by the research of Richard Hoagland. In his book, THE MONUMENTS OF MARS, he presents conclusive evidence of a former advanced civilization on Mars. The evidence is based on pictures taken from probes sent up to Mars in the 1970's. These pictures reveal artificial structures that communicate redundant mathematical formulas through their alignment on the Martian surface. These mathematical formulas point the way to a "new" untapped energy source available in the Universe. Unfortunately, there is much debate regarding the accuracy of Hoagland's findings. To complicate things further, since the mid 80's every probe sent to Mars either by Russia (Phobos) or the United States (Mars Observer) has been lost. I am frustrated by the fact that we could send probes out of our solar system and land people on the moon in the 70's, but can't even get a probe to Mars in the 90's. New pictures focused on this area of Mars would silence the critics of Hoagland's theories and reveal a deeper truth about humanity and its existence. Someone or something does not want this to happen.

The Beauty of Laughter (2'57")

MP3 (2.83 MB), Ogg (2.25 MB), Mini Ogg (1.13 MB), orchestra, score and AIFF samples: 1 2 3.

The author says:
"The Beauty of Laughter" is my second CSound composition. It was written to celebrate the 25th annual Bourges' Electroacoustic Music Festival in France. I chose this title because I was fortunate enough to win first prize in the music and humor category of the competition in 1994 with my piece "The Hershe Tube Rundown". "The Beauty of Laughter" was composed by first creating samples of myself laughing when I was five. These samples were then read into CSound and manipulated in different ways. I also used a few other instruments to balance things out.

If you have any questions or would just like to exchange ideas feel free to contact me. My address is:

Michael Jude Bergeman
244 Mount Vernon Avenue
Medford, N.Y. 11763 U.S.A.

Jacob Joaquin

Electronic Bubbles (Spring 1998) (4'00")

MP3 (3.84 MB), Ogg (3.18 MB), Mini Ogg (1.62 MB), orchestra and score.

I don't like this piece - I find it relentless - but the subtle use of various effects and reverberation make it interesting.

The author says:
You can contact me by email @

Richard Boulanger

Trapped in Convert (Summer 1979) (4'50")

MP3 (4.64 MB), Ogg (3.76 MB), Mini Ogg (1.08 MB), orchestra and score.

This is the most ancient piece of the entire collection. The author describes the piece as "a musical mobile", that is to say a musical version of one of those ornamental mobile compositions made from sticks of wood suspended by threads, from which various objects (fish etc.) hang.

In the score, it says:
written July 1979 in music11 M.I.T. Experimental Music Studio
revised June 1986 in Csound M.I.T. Media Lab
revised July 1996 in SHARCsound Analog Devices Inc.

and the instruments of the orchestra have the following names: IVORY BLUE VIOLET BLACK GREEN COPPER PEWTER RED SAND TAUPE RUST TEAL and FOAM with the two effects SMEAR e SWIRL.

Here, for comparison, is an earlier 88.8-second monophonic version of the same piece. The score file is dated 14 Aug 1987.
MP3 (694KB), Ogg (486KB), orchestra and score.

Matthew Mariano

Vestige of Time (5'18")

MP3 (5.1 MB), Ogg (3.2 MB), Mini Ogg (1.4 MB), Micro Ogg (901 KB), orchestra and score.

The author says:
My name is Matthew Mariano and my piece is entitled "Vestige of Time". I am a fourth semester student here at Berklee College of Music. I have been doing C Sound for four months. This piece was my final project for my C Sound class.

Most everything I have been experimenting with found its way into this piece. There are a few instruments in my orchestra that arent used in the piece and I never removed from the file. This is also true with some of my functions in the score file. I suppose I will eventually hunt down which aren't used and remove them to streamline my files and the running time of the job. There are also a few init errors in the first of second section of the score I never got around to fixing. With the tight deadlines here I had to cut some corners.

There is a group of sounds I based on the vocal formants given in the "Dodge" book. They aren't extremely realistic but they do produce some very nice timbres. To create them I used a buzz unit generator and filtered it with reasonating filters at the formant frequencies and adjusted the bandwidth of each.

Jen Scaturro

Deserted (1'39")

MP3 (2.75 MB), Ogg (2.09 MB), Mini Ogg (1.21 MB), orchestra and score.

The author says:
"Deserted" was inspired by my experiences at the Berklee College of Music under the instruction of Dr. Richard Boulanger during the spring of 1997. Many of the instruments were created by modeling the designs of Jean-Claude Risset and John Chowning ("Computer Music" Dodge-Jerse). These instruments were born out of the process of studying various types of synthesis including FM, AM, Subtractive, Additive and Ring Modulation. Others were created by modifying existing instruments designed by John Fitch.2s During the creation of this premier composition, I quickly realized the virtually unlimited capabilities of csound as a music synthesist's tool for sound design, real time signal processing and artistic expression.

Jen Scaturro found this page and mailed me to offer two more pieces, both in MP3: Something (3.0 Mb) and At The Same Time (4.25 MB), also available at, but I don't know whether or to what extent Csound was used to make them.

Ozric Tentacles/Martin Guy

Kick Dirt (August 2000) (1'50")

MP3 (1.76 MB), Ogg (1.76 MB), Mini Ogg (930 KB), orchestra, score and AIFF samples: 1 2 3 4.

I stole the music for this piece by ear from a distant memory of "Kick Muck" by the Ozric Tentacles from their album "Pungent Effulgent", and the instruments, sequencer and samples from Nuclear Energy (see above) by Jacob Joaquin, to whom the last three notes are a tribute!

Severine Baron

Unwanted Flight (Spring 1998) (2'51")

MP3 (2.73 MB), Ogg (1.97 MB), Mini Ogg (819 KB). orchestra, score and AIFF sample.
Martin Guy <>
Last updated: 16 May 2005.
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