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Granular synthesis can be thought of as particle theory applied to sound. The concept is that a sound can be broken down into very small “grains” – typically 1-50 or 100 msec in duration. These tiny snippets are then played back to reproduce the original sound, or to create new sounds by changing the speed, pitch, volume, playback order, and direction of the individual grains. You can crossfade between these modified grains, or layer more grains on top. The result can range from audio processing tricks such as changing speed without changing pitch and vice versa, to creating psychedelic “clouds” of sound (and indeed, there is a popular module called Clouds).

The links below contain some of the history of the use of granular synthesis in composition, dating back as far as 1959.

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