Kyma Rocks!

Another of my research tools in the lab here is, and has been for the past 16 years, a Kyma System.

Powerful, like my Lisp system, this is a multi-DSP sound design and exploration system. It too is an extension of my fingertips. It is based on the computer language Smalltalk. But you don’t have to know Smalltalk in order to use a Kyma system. It is a very visually based sound design environment.

It is really intended as a tool for audio artists and mixing engineers, but there are a handful of scientists out there in the mix too. From time to time I also pretend to be an “artist”.

With Kyma I can literally do anything imaginable to sound. Turn it upside down, inside out, create things that have never been heard before, accurately mimic real world sounds, you name it.

I used the Kyma system from the earliest of my explorations of hearing. With it I created a sound probing system with which I could explore and map out the nonlinearities of our hearing. I used the methods of Julius Goldstein, of Harvard, to probe and detect sounds that would otherwise have been hidden from normal listening.

The earliest research was focused on discovering the nature of nonlinear normal hearing. And I mapped out something called the 3rd order intermodulation distortion (IMD) intercept point of our hearing… which turned out to be much more than a point. That is what you see in that graph I showed of the slope of the normal hearing curve.

I also found that in our typical musical listening environments we ought to be swimming in intermodulation distortion products. I guess we are just accustomed to they way they sound.

And I couldn’t begin to tell you how many variations on early Crescendo I wired up in Kyma for test and validation of the ideas. And I still do.

Kyma is an absolutely indispensible tool in my lab!

  • DM

Author: dbmcclain

Astrophysicist, spook, musician, Lisp aficionado, deaf guy

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