Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Computer Science


Computer Science


Dr. John Clements


Modern day musicians rely on a variety of instruments for musical expression. Tones produced from electronic instruments have become almost as commonplace as those produced by traditional ones as evidenced by the plethora of artists who can be found composing and performing with nothing more than a personal computer. This desire to embrace technical innovation as a means to augment performance art has created a budding field in computer science that explores the creation and manipulation of sound for artistic purposes. One facet of this new frontier concerns timbral creation, or the development of new sounds with unique characteristics that can be wielded by the musician as a virtual instrument.

This thesis presents Timcat, a software system that can be used to create novel timbres from prerecorded audio. Various techniques for timbral feature extraction from short audio clips, or grains, are evaluated for use in timbral feature spaces. Clustering is performed on feature vectors in these spaces and groupings are recombined using concatenative synthesis techniques in order to form new instrument patches.

The results reveal that interesting timbres can be created using features extracted by both newly developed and existing signal analysis techniques, many common in other fields though not often applied to music audio signals. Several of the features employed also show high accuracy for instrument separation in randomly mixed tracks. Survey results demonstrate positive feedback concerning the timbres created by Timcat from electronic music composers, musicians, and music lovers alike.