Introduction to Digital Music
Hello, and welcome to the "Introduction to Digital Music"
class. This course was originally titled "MIDI Music Production
Techniques", and you may still hear old people (like me) refer to it
as "the MIDI class". It was
intended to explore the musical possibilities of MIDI -- the Musical
Instrument Digital Interface.
MIDI used to be a big part of the class, as it was the underlying
communications protocol used for most of our studio equipment, but
that's no longer true. Digital audio has changed radically
in the past several decades. However, the main purpose of the class is still
(as always) to create some interesting and snazzy pieces of music.
"MIDI" is now sort of a fun name, kind of like the "School of Mines".
We won't be assuming any in-depth knowledge of either computers or
music in the course. Naturally, music will always be the product
of what we are doing, but we don't plan to sit back and
pass Ultimate Musical Judgment on the sounds you create in the
class. All styles and approaches (save those that damage equipment)
are encouraged and welcome. Astonish us!
Texts and Information
The class is based around Apple's
as our primary platform for mixing and sequencing.
We're also going to be doing a fair amount of work with
an interesting alternative approach to mixing and sequencing
that is gaining a lot of 'market share' in the music world.
a very thorough set of
(see the "User Guides" towards the end of the page in particular)
and Ableton has some terrific
as well as an extensive
for you to consult.
We'll be looking at some other software, but be assured that
all of the documentation
we will be using this term is now available on-line.
We may post
links to specific application docs on the
web page, but then again we may not. We're sneaky that way.
Although Logic will be the application we use to show concepts
and techniques in the class, you should feel free to use other programs you
may know. Plus we'll be getting into some other fun music apps
later in the semester (see below).
We will use the syllabus page for any general class announcements,
if any are necessary (and of course we'll send e-mail if any
Big Things happen).
Grades will be based on two class assignments, a
midterm project, a final project, and class
"participation" (attendance, mainly).
We will be discussing the midterm and final projects
in the class, but the parameters are fairly flexible. They might
be a single musical piece, a set of pieces, a bunch of weird
sounds you want to call a "piece", or whatever your creative
brains can conjure. Again, astonish us!
The two class assignments are a relatively new feature. We'll say more about
them when the time is right.
The final grade will be determined using the following percentages:
|class assignments||20% (two, 10% each)
Grading will be on a straight 10% scale: 90-100% = A; 80-89% = B;
70-79% = C; no curve. Grading of midterm and final projects will
be based on your creative and technical use of the studio equipment, not
on musical content or style. We will be looking mainly for effort
on your part. We really do encourage a
lot of different musics in this class!
Ultimately our grading will be subjective; after all this is a music
class, ya know. In the past this hasn't been much of a problem for
anyone, but if you are worried about your potential grade please come
to see us.
We will be taking attendance, the major part of the "class participation"
component. If circumstances arise such that you need to miss class,
please drop us a note (e-mail is preferred) letting us know. In fact,
if you miss a significant portion of the classes then your grade will
probably drop far below the level suggested by "20%".
The best way to reach us is through e-mail:
If the machines are in flames and our e-mail server is down,
you can also call some main numbers on the phone.
The relevant phone numbers are:
- Brad: garton-at-columbia.edu
- Dani: dd2799-at-columbia.edu
212-854-9266 (the main Computer Music Center phone)
212-854-3825 (the main Music Department phone)
Brad's Official Office Hours are Wednesdays from 10:30 AM -- 12 noon
in room 807 Dodge Hall. Because my schedule gets messed-up sometimes,
it's a good idea to check that I'll be available during these Official Hours.
We will also be around the CMC before
and after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or you can make an appointment
to see either of us at any time (virtually). Dani does a lot of work at
the CMC and can easily arrange to meet with you if you would like.
Access to Facilities
All class studio work can be done in our Prentis studios. If you have
your own computer-music gear, you are welcome to use it for this
course instead of our studio facilities. You
may also bring your own equipment to the Prentis studios, but the policy
is that others may use any instruments left in the studio (and of course
we won't be responsible blah blah blah...). Prentis is open
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you'd like, Columbia's
Department of Public Safety runs a
shuttle bus service
for outlying buildings such as Prentis. There is also a walking-escort
service available if you so desire, contact the
Department of Public Safety
for information (or call 212-854-SAFE (7233)).
You can reserve the studio where we teach the class using a reservation
system tied to your Columbia e-mail ID. We will be showing how to
do this in class.
One final note: if you wish to work with people from outside the
class on your project(s), you should clear this with us before bringing
them into the Prentis building. You may also need
a note from one of us to move equipment out of Prentis --
even your own. The security guards get understandably paranoid
about equipment and people moving in and out of the building.
We have a fair amount of disk space available for this class, but you
all will be sharing the space with other class members. This also gives
you the ability to move, rename or destroy other user's files on the
disk. Please do not abuse this ability! If disk
space is getting tight, we can take appropriate measures to
help remedy the situation. If you are worried about your own files --
perhaps you have a long, involved project you are doing -- there are
very simple and easy
ways to backup your work on removable media. We will be covering
this at some point in class.
As the class progresses, we will be covering more, um, 'esoteric'
areas of computer music, programs like
Our intention is to introduce you to some nifty state-of-the-art-like
research and hopefully get you intrigued by the vast possibilities
in using computers to make music.
Hey! This is Columbia! Go Lions!
Don't feel that you are obliged
to master (or even use) a lot of what we teach; again the content of
your work for this class is ultimately up to you.
Hope you enjoy the class!