Computer Music I Syllabus

Tuesday 5:10pm-8:00pm
Room 324 Prentis Hall (125th Street)

douglas repetto
douglas at music columbia edu

314E Prentis Hall (632 W. 125th Street)
office hours:
by appointment

david birchfield (teaching assistant)
dab @ music columbia edu

Class Description:

Computer Music
Computer music is an absurdly diverse field. It's nearly impossible today to find examples of music (in the US of A anyway) that have not been touched in some way by computer technology. If you've listened to it on CD it is, in some sense, computer music. One consequence of this is that "computer music" is pretty much useless as a genre specification. While there is a more or less well defined genre called (capital 'C') "Computer Music" (or more disparagingly, "Academic Computer Music"), that's not really what we're going to be concerned with in this class. As far as we're concerned, if it uses computers (or more generally, electronics) in some interesting and integral way, then it's computer music (or perhaps "computer art.")

Along the same lines, the "music" part of computer music is pretty fluid. We are the Computer Music Center, so obviously there's a music-bias. But just as it's getting difficult to find music that's not influenced in one way or another by computer technology, it's also getting difficult (or maybe it's always been this way) to find music that's not influenced by the other arts, and in our case, particularly the other digital arts. So although most of what we talk about in class will be music or sound related, we'll also touch on many things that aren't necessarily so. And as you work on your projects you should keep in mind that you can interpret the "music" part of computer music rather loosely.

What We're Going To Do
This class will consist of a series of two week long modules on a particular topic that's at least marginally related to creating music with computers. Each module will begin with a presentation by douglas and david or a guest speaker. At the end of the presentation students will be given a commission based on the module's topic.

On the second meeting of each module students will present a proposal detailing how they would fulfill the commission. Proposals may be for musical works, installations, software applications or any other project that addresses the requirements of the commission. While you're not required to actually make these pieces every two weeks, the proposals are expected to be thorough, detailed and well thought out. You are expected to address the aesthetic, technical and logistical aspects of the project, just as you would in a real-world commission proposal. Your proposals should be written in HTML and put on the web so that we can link to them from the class website.

Near the end of the term students will select one of their commission proposals as a final project and will work toward fulfilling the commission.

Please note that this is not a class for learning how to use computer music software or write computer programs, although various software packages and programming techniques will be discussed. Basic familiarity with computer music software and programming languages is required. You can use whatever software/language/tools you like to do your work for this class. Please see Basic Electroacoustics I & II for courses designed to teach you to use computer music software.

You can grade yourself in this class. You are expected to come to all classes and to participate in all class activities. If you don't, no one will like you and you will feel a deep sadness in your heart.

Tentative Class Schedule:

4Class Introduction
Bio/Physical Models:
genetic algorithms; the ant colony algorithm; neural networks
11commission proposal presentations
18Dan Ellis (Columbia EE Department):
machine listening; speech recognition; sound visualization
25commission proposal presentations
2Tom Hamilton (composer, member of Robert Ashley's ensemble):
electronic installations; acoustic/electronic improvisation; collaboration
9commission proposal presentations
16Hardware Hacking:
microcontrollers; sensors; robotics; installation/instrument design
23commission proposal presentations
30Larry Polansky (composer, theorist, programmer):
mutation functions; computer-assisted composition; other weird stuff
13commission proposal presentations
20Christian Marclay (turntable whiz, multimedia artist) &
Ikue Mori (drum machine performer):
collaboration; multimedia; improvisation
27commission proposal presentations
4final project presentations

Note: this schedule may change as more guest speakers are added. Some commission proposal presentation days may be combined.

douglas irving repetto
Last modified: Tue Sep 4 15:54:30 EDT 2001