Syllabus for Mus 88 - Introduction to Computer Music
Harvey Mudd College, Fall 2013
Tuesday / Thursday 1:15 - 2:30 Shanahan B450
Computer Music: Synthesis, Composition, and Performance by Charles Dodge and
Thomas A. Jerse (second edition) -- available at Huntley Bookstore
A collection of computer music for listening and
supplemental articles for presentations will be available on Sakai.
Computer music in the broad sense is everywhere in our culture, and it is possibly the
most artistically empowering technology in the history of music. You may be interested
in this course as a way to learn to use synthesizers, to help you realize your own
compositions, or just for a deeper understanding of the basics of how music like this
is made. This course will address all of these issues, and I hope you will bring to my
attention topics of particular interest to you.
This course will concentrate on the basics of using a general purpose computer to generate
and manipulate digital sounds. We will primarily use the software
Csound. It is installed on the studio Macintosh and Macs in the HMC Labs,
though free versions of Csound are also available for Windows, Linux, Unix, and other platforms. I
encourage you to download a copy for yourself. (To do so, go to
the Csound SourceForge page and download the appropriate version for your system.
See also the "tutorials" link. The manual
is available online.)
Because there are no prerequisites for this course, I expect that students will come
from very disparate backgrounds. A background in computer coding is helpful, but not required.
The artistic applications of computer music technologies will also be an important part of this
course though a background in music is also not required.
At this time my office hours are MWF 1:30-2:30 pm and TTh 9:30 to 11:00 am. It is possible that
some of these times may change as my semester schedule
develops. You may want to check the schedule on my door or contact me to confirm. If you
cannot make it at those times, I would be happy to arrange an appointment at another time. I
also welcome your email (alves @hmc.edu).
|Digital audio fundamentals quiz||10%|
|Music Assignments||5 x 8% = 40%|
|Short Assignments||3 x 5% = 15%|
|Group presentation and composition||15%|
Most of the work of the semester will be in the form of assignments which involve the
generation of music (though a background in music will not be necessary to complete them).
Some of these assignments will require the use of the studio. Such assignments generally
have a one week lead-time, so it is vital that you do not wait until the last minute, as
studio time may not always be available. Also, if there are any problems, you may need to
consult with me in order to complete your assignment.
In addition to the music assignments, there will be a few brief assignments having to
do with class readings and listening to the collections of computer music on Sakai.
In the second half of the semester, groups of approximately four students each will prepare
a presentation on a particular computer music process, method, or technology. The presentation
will include theoretical background, aesthetic discussion, and practical coding of examples
to hand out in the form of a short original piece. Meetings with me a week before the
presentation will be required to discuss the presentation content and progress. Presentations
will be evaluated, in part, by your peers in the class, and your conscientious participation
in the evaluation process for other groups will be considered in your class participation
grade. Your final project will also demonstrate application of at least some of the concepts
presented by groups other than your own.
The final project will be an original musical composition realized using, at least for
the major part, Csound. Group final projects are not normally allowed. Don't be intimidated
by this requirement, as a musical background is not necessary for you to express your
creativity with these tools. I will not be grading your technical knowledge of music or
application of traditional music theory.
You will write a proposal for a final project, which may be approved immediately, or only
after negotiated revisions if the proposal is not quite appropriate, sufficient, or practical.
A recording and code listing of your work-in-progress will be required
before the final due date. A concert of all the class projects will take place during the
last week of classes. There will be no other final exam.
Late assignments will normally be penalized one letter grade per class meeting late. There
have been rare instances in the past when technical problems have necessitated an extension
for the whole class. However, not being able to get into the studio because you have
neglected to sign up for time until the last minute is not a valid justification for an
extension. Because studio time is limited, it is crucial that you plan your schedule
It is not permissible to have laptops open during class, unless I explicitly give
permission for group work, for example. If you use your laptop to take notes, then you will
need to find an alternative, like taking paper notes. Flat pads, such as iPads, are acceptable,
as long as they are only used for taking notes.
Regular attendance and contributions to class discussions is necessary for getting the most
out of this course and is therefore reflected in your course evaluation (above). Class participation
includes careful attention to and evaluation of student presentations.
One important web site for this class is Csounds.com.
Included here are links to
download various versions, tutorials, auxiliary software, example instruments, and other
resources. (Please note that the use of example instruments in any of your assignments must
be credited to the original author. The use of someone else's instrument without attribution
is plagiarism and subject to Honor Code sanctions.)
Discussions, questions, and updates on assignments between classes will be made through the
class electronic mailing list: mus-88-l. This is an especially efficient method of alerting
the members of the class to software and hardware problems between classes. All registered
students should be automatically subscribed to this list. To
distribute your message to this list, send mail to
mus-88-l@ hmc.edu. Keep in mind that your message
will be distributed to the entire class, not just me. Please use this resource freely,
though, as there may be others in the class who are wondering the same thing as you or
who would benefit from your tips.
There is also a
mailing list for Csound that I encourage you to join.
Dates may be revised depending on class progress.
|Sep. 3||Introduction to the studio; audio basics|
|Sep. 5-10||MIDI and sequencing||Read Dodge & Jerse chapter 1|
|Sep. 12||Introduction to acoustics||Read Dodge & Jerse chapter 2|
|Sep. 17||Introduction to digital audio||Assignment 1 due -- MIDI sequence|
|Sep. 19||Digital audio (continued)||Read Dodge & Jerse chapter 3|
Digital audio / acoustics / MIDI quiz
|Sep. 24||Digital recording|
|Sep. 26||Sampling||Brief assignment 1 due|
|Oct. 1||Introduction to Csound||Assignment 2 due -- Digital multitracking|
|Oct. 3||Digital oscillators & wavetable synthesis||Read Dodge & Jerse chapter 4|
|Oct. 8||Introduction to digital filters|
|Oct. 10||Using samples in Csound||Assignment 3 due -- Csound program|
|Oct. 15||Modulation||Read Dodge & Jerse chapter 5.1|
|Oct. 17||FM synthesis||Brief assignment 2 due|
|Oct. 22||Fall break|
|Oct. 24||FM synthesizers|
|Oct. 29||Effects Processing||Assignment 4 due -- digital concrète |
|Oct. 31|| More Csound instruments |
|Nov. 5|| Presentation 1: Algorithmic composition|
|Nov. 7|| Presentation 2: Digital reverberation and sound spatialization ||Assignment 5 due -- Csound modulation|
|Nov. 12||No class -- Humanities and Social Sciences Advising|
|Nov. 14||Presentation 3: Waveshaping synthesis ||Brief assignment 3 due|
|Nov. 19||Presentation 4: Analysis/resynthesis|
|Nov. 21||Presentation 5: Granular synthesis|
|Nov. 26||Presentation 6: Physical modeling||Final project proposal due (by email)|
|Nov. 28||Thanksgiving break|
|Dec. 3||Interactive and realtime processing|
|Dec. 5||The future of synthesis|
|Dec. 10-12||Analysis of interim projects||Interim version of final project due|
|Sunday Dec. 15|
Shanahan Recital Hall
|Concert of final projects.|
Rules for using the Computer Music Studio
Breaking any of these rules will be regarded as very serious and may result in the revocation
of studio access privileges. Whenever you are using the studio, you are responsible
for the studio and the equipment in it.
- There is no smoking at any time in the studio. Food and drinks are not allowed in the
vicinity of equipment or on the same tables as equipment.
- Do not touch any equipment not directly related to this course without permission.
- It is all right to have a friend in the studio with you, but no one not enrolled in the course
is allowed to use the studio without supervision.
- Under no circumstances are you to remove, even temporarily, anything from the studio
without permission. This includes borrowing documentation to xerox.
- NEVER modify, disable, or delete any applications, system files, or other related files
on the studio computer, even if you know what you're doing. Do not install any applications
or system files on the studio computer without permission.
- Do not delete, move, or modify anyone else's files. There should be plenty of disk space,
but contact me if there are any problems.
- Never touch any of the cables in the back of the patch bay or other equipment, even if you
know what you're doing.
- The Claremont Colleges'
Policy on Appropriate Use of Computing and Network Resources applies to the studio computers.
This policy includes the prohibition against copying copyrighted applications. (Csound itself is
free to copy for educational purposes such as this class. See the manual for more information.)
- All students enrolled in this course are bound by the
Harvey Mudd College Honor Code in regards to
activities related to this class, even non-HMC students.
If there are any problems with the computer or any other equipment, please contact me AS SOON
AS POSSIBLE by phone (x74170) or email, even if the problem does not affect you personally.
My prompt attention to any technical problems will help your fellow students.
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Updated on August 23, 2013, by Bill Alves.