Tim O'Brien

Ph.D. student at CCRMA. Musician. Humanist. Linux enthusiast. Signal processor.


the Sonic World


A collaborative, networked virtual environment for real-time musical composition, improvisation, and exploration. Written entirely in C++ and tested on Apple OS X and Linux (Fedora and Ubuntu).

 Details  Presentation

FFT quantization as audio effect


Two C++ implementations of uniform frequency-domain quantization as audio effect. One is a SuperCollider plugin which leverages the FFT and PV UGen framework, and the second is a full C++ implementation meant to be used with the fcpp2appls utility, leveraging Faust's ability to compile to a variety of architectures even though the Faust language does not support FFT-based effects.

 Github  Audio  Report

The Machine
An Ambisonic Auditory Experience

The Machine

I contributed two modules to this collaboration between Robert Henke and students of his course at CCRMA, "Sound, Structure, and Machines." My contributions included bouncing, flying atoms of processed sound as well as a disklavier interface triggered by nearby sounds, breaking through into the tangible realm from the illusory aural elements.

 Details and Download

All American Advanced Audio Codec


A perceptual audio codec written entirely in Python. Incorporates, among other things, Huffman coding, block switching, MS stereo encoding, and variable bit rate.

 Report  Slides

Faust throught the back door

An initial modification of faust2appls which inputs a Faust-style C++ file and (a) integrates with a specified architecture file, then (b) compiles to that architecture. Developed in conjunction with the Frequantizer.


the ChucK flock


A swarm simulation for algorithmic musical composition. The user composes the evolution of attractor elements, thus influencing the behavior of the multidimensional ChucK flock (and thereby the musical output) in delightfully nonlinear ways. Written natively in ChucK.

 Details  Github

Eighth Plague

Eighth Plague

A real-time computer improvisation framework. An arbitrary input audio signal influences the behavior of a multidimensional boids swarm simulation, in which each dimension corresponds to a musical feature such as pitch, duration, loudness, etc. The swarm, in turn, generates audio, both sampled and synthesized, spatialized over four channels. The Python boids implementation interfaces with the SuperCollider signal processing and synthesis elements via OSC.


Eighth Plague
for Electronic Jar

Jar Swarm

This project combines the Eighth Plague improvisatory swarm sonification framework with sensors connected to an embedded linux device as well as a Processing-based visualization.

 Paper  Github


Toast and Jam (2013)
Ensemble Analocos

Toast and Jam

An analog synthesizer improvisational performance featuring myself and Romain Michon, Kurt James Werner, Myles Borins, Gina Colecchia, and Fernando Lopez Lescano. Each performer used a homemade "Noise Toaster," constructed as part of our independent studies with analog synthesis guru Nando, who also rounded out the sound with his formidable El Dinosaurio modular synthesizer.

 Concert program  YouTube

Side Two (2012)
T. O'Brien, S. Salazar, M. Borins

Side Two

An improvised piece utilizing my Eighth Plague sonified swarm simulation in SuperCollider, which responded to my guitar input as well as my fellow performers Spencer Salazar and Myles Borins.

 Details  YouTube

suiGeneris (2001-2009)
T. O'Brien, R. Mendelson, O. Burkat


suiGeneris was a progressive metal band founded by myself, Bobby Mendelson, and Oliver Burkat in New York, NY. We composed and performed in Manhattan and Brooklyn most actively from 2006 to 2009. An archive of some recorded original work may be accessed via the link below.


About Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is a graduate student at Stanford University's CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics), where he is able to unite various interests and study/research at the intersection of music, media, art, and technology. Currently, he is most interested in music information retrieval, algorithmic/generative composition, and multimedia improvisational systems.

He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he earned a B.S. in physics with distinction, concentrating in computational physics and minoring in anthropology. He is an avid guitar player and musician, and had been composing, performing, and recording in New York for the six years prior to his stint at CCRMA.