Welcome to Basic Electroacoustics, the class that has launched thousands of digital sounds! We'll be covering a lot of ground this term, but the general goal of the class is to get you intrigued and inspired about our fun digital world. We won't be assuming a lot of knowledge about computer music, but we do anticipate that you have a healthy interest (i.e. you'll actually do this stuff) in learning the basics of how audio technologies can be used to make snazzy music and art.
The field of computer music has experienced explosive growth in the past several decades, and it has been a challenge to decide exactly what we should attempt to cover in the class. To be honest, I'm not even sure how much meaning the term "computer music" actually has these days -- the field has become so broad as at encompass nearly all areas of musical creation and scholarship. There are several trends and 'hot' topics of discussion in digital audio these days, however. In designing the course syllabus, we wanted to engage a few of these to give you a foundation for advanced work here at the CMC.
In particular, we will be comparing and contrasting "real-time" (or "interactive") musical uses of computing hardware with "non-real-time" approaches for making sound. We'll also be covering the cognitive and psychoacoustical aspects behind the material we present during the course of the class. Much of the work we do in class to demonstrate synthesis and signal-processing concepts will also illustrate more advanced computer music techniques (algorithmic composition, etc.).
Implicit in all this is the notion that we're going to do
musical stuff in the course. This is not a heavy computer
science DSP class, it is not a recording-studio-engineering class,
it's not even a straight-ahead "tools&techniques" class. Everything
we show will be aimed at a musical application or result.
It may be tremendously boring, but what the
heck. If you truly hate this stuff, then maybe you should seriously
considering not taking this class.
The applications we show in class will be Macintosh-based, although most have Windows or Linux equivalents. Our primary software platform will be Max/MSP because of the common interface it provides to a number of computer music tools. For example, we will also be making heavy use of RTcmix, an algorithmic synthesis and signal-processing language we developed here at Columbia, but we will be using it through the rtcmix~ Max/MSP object. Other popular synthesis and signal-processing languagse such as JSyn and CSOUND can also be accessed through Max/MSP. Even SuperCollider 3 can be controlled using the Open Sound Control interface protocol.
It is not essential that you work exactly the same way we demonstrate
in class -- Any/all of the languages mentioned above
are fair game for you to use. As much as possible,
we will try to use public-domain or shareware programs in the
class. RTcmix, CSOUND, JSyn and SuperCollider are all free
for developers to use. Check the
page for links to the download sites.
We realize that Max/MSP is a commercial package, but (in addition
to giving us a common platform to begin teaching about computer
music) it is about the best there is at present for doing interactive music
At some point, we will assume that you sort-of know your way around our
studios and hardware. Please let us know if you are having
problems gaining access to our facilities or getting equipment to work
We will be linking in discussions of each class topic, class examples,
on-line resources, etc. to many of the syllabus entries. Probably
we'll get waaaay behind in doing this about halfway through the term, but
it will hopefully help a little. Also, certainly don't be shy about
'googling' information we present in class -- there are many terrific
on-line resources for doing and unerstanding computer music.
It's always a good idea to make an appointment to see me, even during my purported office hours, because I often have to run around campus like a maniac doing strange, computer-music stuff. You can also call on the phone, but please refrain from calling my home much after 11:00 PM or my wife will mutter evil curses that will affect Your Future. Relevant phone numbers are:
Seriously, by this point in your career the last thing you should be worrying about is a grade. The main thing is to find something that you'd really like to do and then do it. Please don't try to impress us with your consummate knowledge and skill, we are more impressed by people who do things. Honest!
Hope you enjoy the class!