Computer Music

Columbia University
Spring, 2001 -- G6611Y
Brad Garton and David Birchfield

course syllabus

Hi there, and welcome to the continuation of the Computer Music class, started last fall as G6610X. Check the syllabus from that class for a relatively complete listing of what we did. We'll be running the class pretty much like last term, and although this doesn't build specifically on what we have already covered, it helps if you have been involved in what we have done.

We're changing the class this term a bit from last year. In order to do the kind of work I'd like to hit later in the term, we will need to cover a fair amount of technical ground during the first half. We'll be doing a bit of coding, but (again!) the intent of this class is not to turn you all into ace-crackerjack-a-number-one C/C++/Lisp programmers. Everything we do will be from a "musical" standpoint. Please don't be put off by the hacking; it is not essential for everlasting success in computer music. Also, we plan to focus on several of your projects for class development, so be forewarned! Be thinking of things you'd like to do, especially projects that may involve some degree of interactivity. We may also have a few guest speakers throughout the term, depending on who is available and the interests of the class. We're also starting a more formalized "CMC Colloquiua"-type structure this term. See the CMC Calender. for announcements and information about these events.

David will be doing lab sessions by appointment for people who would like them. Dave and I are also both available 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.

We may also be making a few assignments throughout the term. These will mainly be intended to stimulate further work and provoke additional exploration of the topics we hit. Grades will be based upon 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.


The course syllabus is located here.

We'll be working to keep it up-to-date with class activities, and we even may have some assistance doing this during the term. Yay!

The class will be divided into two main sections. As I mentioned earlier, The first will concentrate on developing some of the technical skills we will need to undertake projects for the second half. Specifically, we plan to hit both CSOUND and RTcmix fairly heavily this term. CSOUND is a fairly popular (and ancient!) software-synthesis and signal-processing langauge, and it is a good way to introduce the concepts of basic digital sound work at a fairly low level. RTcmix is esoteric, not used by all that many people, but a pretty good vehicle for developing interesting interactive (and network-based) applications. Plus we wrote RTcmix here at Columbia. Go Lions.

[Note: We will probably 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 office hours from 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!

Words from last term: 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!