Computer Music

Columbia University
Fall, 1999 -- G6610X
Brad Garton and Chris Bailey

Hello, and welcome to our fun digital world. We will be holding class from 5 PM to 8 PM on Tuesday evenings, generally in room 701 Dodge Hall (the Music and Arts Library seminar room). We may occasionally meet down in Prentis Hall, where most of our main studios are located. But then again, we may not! Check on the course syllabus for any changes in venue, class announcements, etc. We will also be placing a lot of other material related to the class on this page. We're just living in a web-ified world these days...

During the past several years, I have tried shifting the structure of this course around -- the original intent of the class (to teach the tools and techniques of computer music) have largely been subsumed by the Basic Electroacoustics class (G6601/2) taught by Thanassis Rikakis and Luke Dubois. The field of computer music has experienced explosive growth in the past decade, and it has been a challenge to define the particular focus of this (G6610/11) class. This year we are planning in the fall term to concentrate upon the capacity of the computer to model various processes, and to exploit musical features abstracted from or mapped onto these processes. We haven't done a lot of what we plan this year, so it should be an exciting class... for us at least!

We will indeed be hitting a fair number of advanced tools and techniques during the year, but our primary purpose is not to teach these techniques explicitly. We will also be doing a fair amount of programming/coding in the class, but this is mainly to demonstrate to you what is possible and to show how to do certain things. It will be up to you to find your own level of engagement with what we cover -- we won't be requiring that you HEAVY DUTY C/C++ or Lisp hacking. It is loads of fun, though.

Chris will be hosting an "informal" lab session on Thursdays from approximately 5 PM to 8 PM in room 803 Dodge (or at Prentis as the need arises). Prior to each Tuesday class, Chris plans to give an overview of the computer language and techniques we will be using. These labs are optional, mainly for people who may not have encountered C or Lisp programming, or who feel that a bit more information might be useful. Chris and I are also both available by appointment, or through e-mail, phone, whatever (see below for contact information). If you are feeling totally dazed and confused by the class, please let us know.

I will also be making a few assignments throughout the term. In the past, I haven't done this, but I think that perhaps some suggested activities might help stimulate further work and provoke additional exploration of the topics we hit. We'll also be asking you to do a final project: a finished piece of music, a computer application, a nifty new piece of research, ground-breaking visions, whatever. We'll talk more about this later in the term.

Finally, we do assume that you sort-of know your way around our studios and hardware. If you don't, ask and we'll find a way to get you the information you need to work. Our facilities will be expanding quite a lot this year, so machines/studios will most likely be rearranged at some point (more about this in class!). We will try to keep disruption of the class to a minimum, and let you know about any fun new toys we get in the class. Like I said, this should be an exciting term!


The course syllabus is located here.
[Note: We will be password-protecting this syllabus at some point in the term because of potential copyright issues -- we will give out the password in class.]

Contact Information

The best way to reach us is through e-mail: or If the machines are in flames and our e-mail server is down, you can also contact me via: I will also be holding semi-official office hours from 3:30-5:00 PM on Tuesdays and 10:00 AM-12:00 noon on Wednesdays. My office is room 807 Dodge Hall. 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 maniacal, 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:


Grades will be based mainly on the final project you do, and of course they will be completely subjective and based on our own personal whims -- so ya better treat us right!

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!