Audio Synthesis in iOS


Dates: Tuesday & Thursday, June 28th – 30th
Times: 6pm – 9pm
Course Length: 6 hours
Cost: $20/instruction hour, $120 total, $108 for GAFFTA Members
Location: GAFFTA, 998 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

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High-level synthesis systems like PD, SuperCollider, Max/MSP are wonderful and powerful tools. However, they create a layer of mystery between the artist and the actual audio data they generate. Getting our hands dirty and synthesizing audio from the ground up — working with the raw audio stream — is a deeply empowering and liberating experience. It allows us to experiment with techniques we’d never considered before, and gives us a new window in to the nature of sound. Using just enough knowledge to be dangerous, we can create a huge range of never-heard-before sounds. In this class, we’ll set up a sandbox for experimentation with low-level audio generation in iOS, make some terrifying noises, and have a brief introduction to the STK synthesis library.

Class Outline:

All students must have a personal Apple computer with the Apple Developer Tools installed.


Morgan Packard

grew up in rural New England and planned to be a jazz saxophone player when he grew up. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in jazz school in Boston. There he discovered that jazz wasn’t the only cool music in the world. He quit studying jazz, moved to New York, and spent the next five years immersed in drum and bass music, which was the most explosively creative electronic music of the time.
Then he got tired of making only drum and bass music and studied western classical music and wrote little pieces for acoustic instruments for a while. He also learned how to program computers and started building his own music software. Programming his own tools allowed him to create sounds that no one else could make, and he began to feel like his own voice was finally shining through.

He started working closely with visualist/programmer Joshue Ott, and also found himself aligned with musician and label man Ezekiel Honig. Josh challenged him to write better software, Ezekiel challenged him to make an album for his label, Anticipate. His first solo album, “Airships Fill the Sky”, pricked up ears around the world, got good reviews, and people started buying him airplane tickets to travel and perform in their cities.

His sound is characterized by constantly shifting textures, a minimalist approach to rhythm, unconventional use of traditional acoustic instruments, and a sensitivity to melody and harmony. While his music is influenced by dub techno, ambient, and other established styles, it is best understood on its own terms, rather than through the lens of genre.

Recently, much of Morgan’s efforts have been directed toward Thicket, an experimental audiovisual app for the iPhone and iPad created in collaboration with Joshue Ott. Thicket has been a surprise success and was chosen by Apple as one of the ten best generative art & sound apps in its 2010 “Hot Trends” list.