This book is the result of my experience of teaching electronic music. Through the teaching process, I became familiar with the most common stumbling blocks students encounter — especially when the student's native language is not the language in which lessons are conducted.
Pd (Pure Data) is a professional, high-performance programming language for electronic sound processing. It is open source, i.e. available for free on the Internet. One disadvantage of this is that Pd is only discussed in certain institutions or Internet forums. The complicated technical terminology usually found there is enormously difficult for beginners to understand. This book will help first-time users to clear those first few hurdles when learning Pd.
Pd's main designer, Miller Puckette, is also writing a book about the theory and technology of electronic music processing with Pd. Surely there is no better teacher of a programming language than the person who designed it; his primarily scientific approach certainly does cover all the material in a thorough, systematic fashion. However, his method of teaching can be difficult to comprehend. My pedagogical experience has been that Puckette's text demands a large amount of mathematical, computer science, and terminological knowledge from its readers.
This book is designed for self-study, principally for composers. It begins with explanations of basic programming and acoustic principles before gradually building up to the most advanced electronic music processing techniques. Some knowledge of physics is assumed and explanations of basic physics concepts have been intentionally omitted. My book's teaching approach is focused primarily on hearing, which I regard as a faster and more enjoyable way to absorb new concepts than through abstract formulas. In terms of mathematics, I explain only what is absolutely necessary to comprehend a given processing concept. I explain the various techniques from a compositional perspective, rather than attempting a computer science-, math-, or physics-based discussion of processing phenomena or structures. Therefore, the decisions and comments I have made are purely subjective and are open to debate.
This book would not have been possible without the support of Prof. Mathias Spahlinger, the expert supervision of Prof. Orm Finnendahl, suggestions and patches from the Pd community, the manuscript editing and DocBook-XML coding efforts of Esther Kochte. I would also like to thank Mark Barden for the English translation and the Musikhochschule Freiburg and the state of Baden-Württemberg for financing the project, which — in the spirit of the open source movement — makes it possible for all interested parties to use this book for free on the Internet. This will hopefully increase interest in electronic music, thereby indirectly enriching the aesthetic discourse of New Music.
Johannes Kreidler, January 2008