Curtis Roads

Professor Curtis Roads (2016)

Office Hours

On Sabbatical Fall 2015 & Winter 2016

Contact Phone

(805) 893-2932

Office Location

2203 CNSI


Electronic & computer-generated music

Composition Program


Dr. Curtis Roads is Professor of Media Arts and Technology and also Associate Director of the Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology (CREATE) at UCSB.
He studied music composition and computer programming at California Institute of the Arts, the University of California, San Diego (BA Summa Cum Laude), and the Université Paris 8 (Doctorate «Très honorable avec félicitations du jury»). From 1980 to 1986 he was a researcher in computer music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the MIT Media Laboratory. He then taught at the University of Naples Federico II, Harvard University, Oberlin Conservatory, CCMIX (Paris), and the Université Paris 8.
He has led masterclasses at the Australian National Conservatory (Melbourne) and the Prometeo Laboratorio (Parma), among others. He is co-organizer of international workshops on musical signal processing in Sorrento, Capri, and Santa Barbara (1988, 1991, 1997, 2000). He has served on the composition juries of the Ars Electronica (Linz) and the International Electroacoustic Music Competition (Bourges, France).
A cofounder of the International Computer Music Association in 1979, he was Editor of Computer Music Journal (The MIT Press) from 1978 to 1989, and Associate Editor 1990-2000.
His research is focused on microsound synthesis (granular, pulsar, and related techniques), pluriphonic spatialization, notation and visualization of sound, and the history and aesthetics of electronic music composition. His research on dictionary-based pursuit of analyzing audio signals (with Bob Sturm, Aaron Mcleran, and John Shynk) was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (2007-2009).
In 2001, Roads and Alberto de Campo developed PulsarGenerator, a widely distributed application for sound particle synthesis. Together with David Thall, he developed EmissionControl (2005, updated 2008), a program for generalized granular synthesis.
His composition Clang-Tint (1994) was commissioned by the Japan Ministry of Culture (Bunka-cho) and the Kunitachi College of Music, Tokyo. His music is available on recordings produced by Asphodel, MODE, OR, the MIT Media Laboratory, and Wergo.
In 2002 he won the Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for POINT LINE CLOUD, a collection of electronic music with videos by Brian O'Reilly. POINT LINE CLOUD was released on the Asphodel (San Francisco) label in 2005 and he has performed it in venues such as the Paris Planetarium, Instanbul Technical University, Venice Conservatory, Paradiso (Amsterdam), All Tomorrow’s Parties UK (Camber Sands), El Rey Theater (Los Angeles), Recombinant Media Lab (San Francisco), Eastman School of Music (Rochester), Teatro Farnese (Parma), and the Sonic Arts Research Centre (Belfast).
Pieces from his new set of music FLICKER TONE PULSE were premiered at the Festival Tage Neue Musik, Zürich, Switzerland in November 2009. They will appear on a new Blu-Ray disc on the ZKM label in 2018.
In 2010 he won the SEAMUS Prize for lifetime achievement in electronic music awarded by the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States. In 2016, he won the Giga-Hertz Prize for lifetime achievement in electronic music, awarded by the Center for Art and Media (ZKM), Karlsruhe, and the Southwest Radio (SWR), Baden-Baden.
His books include Foundations of Computer Music (1985, The MIT Press), Composers and the Computer (1985, AR Editions), The Music Machine (1989, The MIT Press), Representations of Musical Signals (1991, The MIT Press), Musical Signal Processing (co-editor, 1997, Swets and Zeitlinger, Amsterdam), and Microsound (2001, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).
His book, The Computer Music Tutorial (1996, The MIT Press) is the best-selling textbook in the field, and has been published in French as L'audionumérique (Third edition 2016, Éditions Dunod, Paris) and Japanese (2001, Denki Daigaku Shuppan, Tokyo). The Chinese translation (2011, People’s Music Publishing House, Beijing) is a National Textbook of China.
His most recent book is Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic (2015, Oxford University Press).
A revised edition of The Computer Music Tutorial (The MIT Press) is also in the works.