Granular: Introduction

Granular synthesis is a special form of sample based synthesis, making use of micro sections of audio material, called grains, sometimes particles or atoms. This principle can be used to manipulate sounds by time-stretching and pitch-shifting or to generate sound textures (Roads, 2004).

Early Analog

John Cage's Williams Mix, realized in 1952-53 shows some of the earliest granular approaches.

Iannis Xenakis was the first to refer to Dennis Gabor's quantum theory and the elementary signal (Gabor, 1946) for musical applications.

Early Digital

The possibilities to use granular synthesis grew rapidly with the advent of digital sampling and new composers made use of the technique.

Barry Truax, who was visiting the TU Studio as guest professor in 2015-16 is known as one of the pioneers of digital granular composition (Truax, 1987). His soundscape-influenced works use the technique for generating rich textures, as in Riverrun:

Horacio Vaggione made use of granular processing for his mixed music pieces. The original Scir - for bass flute and tape (which is granular processed bass flute) - has ben produced at the TU Studio in 1988:

In 2018, the TU Studio performed the piece with flutist Erik Drescher and made a binaural recording:


  • Curtis Roads. Microsound. The MIT Press, 2004. ISBN 0262681544.
  • Barry Truax. Real-time granulation of sampled sound with the dmx-1000. In ICMC. 1987.
  • D. Gabor. Theory of communication. part 1: the analysis of information. Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers - Part III: Radio and Communication Engineering, 93(26):429–441, November 1946. doi:10.1049/ji-3-2.1946.0074.

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