This course explores the elements of music through the lenses of computation and interactive design.
Each of the four course units focuses on one element of music (rhythm, melody, timbre, and harmony), approaching it from the perspectives of music history and theory, interactive design, and computation. For each element, students listen to examples from different periods and styles, represent and manipulate the element in code, and create an interactive study around it. Algorithmic composition techniques such as Markov Chains, Neural Networks and L-Systems are covered throughout the semester. The final two weeks are dedicated to the development of a final project. The final project can consist of: a) The studies created for the class, refined and presented as a series; b) A continuation or combination of previous studies or c) A new generative/interactive music piece or instrument.
In-class coding and assignments will be done in P5.js and Tone.js, but students will be free to use other languages and frameworks for their final projects. ICM or equivalent programming experience is required.Weekly Assignments
Prompt: create a generative / interactive musical piece. It can be web-based, a physical device, or in space. In your presentation, discuss musical, design, and programmatic aspects of your project.
This section will be updated weekly with references, code examples and assignment details.
Introductions + music pieces
Space + applications
Activity: do a catalog of attributes of one of your songs. Design an interactive music experience based on it.
Pick two rhythm interfaces and interact with each for at least three minutes. These can be digital or physical - here are a some web-based examples:
Place each interface on a dimension space - either D. Birnbaum's, or your own dimension space, defined by any axes you deem relevant. Here is a printable version of the original, labeled dimension space diagram.
Submit your diagram/text responses here: rhythm interface analysis.
Code: Keeping time. Play a sound over and over
Code: The elements of rhythm
Discuss: What possibilities does representing these elements in code open up? Consider interactivity: input gestures and control, visual/tactile representation of each element, mapping, and feedback modes.
Design: Sketch three ideas for a rhythmic interface.
Code: Generative rhythm
Tutorial: Create a drum machine
1. Post between 3 and 10 pen-and-paper sketches for possible interfaces, and submit them here.
3. Design + Code: Create an interactive sketch to explore rhythm. Record a 20-second composition using it. Post your documentation and code here, and come prepared to do a 5-minute presentation in class.
Listen: pitches, notes, modes and scales, intervals
Discuss: The Do/Feel/Know cycle, as descibed in B. Verplank's Interaction Design Sketchbook.
1. Listen: Find a piece of music you find melodically engaging. If possible, determine the mode/scale it is in. Draw the melody, denoting the contour created by its intervals.
2. Ideate: Based on the song you picked and one random oblique strategies, sketch an interfaces to explore the elements of melody. Submit song and sketch here (this a pen and paper sketch, not a p5 sketch!).
3. Interact: Pick two melody interfaces and interact with each for at least three minutes. Here are a some screen-based examples:
And some physical examples (come ask me):
Analyze each interface in terms of the Know/Feel/Do cycle we discussed in class. Submit your analyses here.
4. Code (optional): Follow this tutorial to turn the drum machine into a melody sequencer. Steps:
Code: The elements of melody
Activity: Think through different mappings between the elements of melody and a set of button/slider combinations. Consider cross-couplings. Quickly prototype one of these mappings (here is a random example).
Code: Generative melody
Design + Code: Create an interactive sketch to explore melody. Record a 20-second composition using it *. Post your documentation and code here, and come prepared to do a 5-minute presentation in class.
* here is a tutorial Jessica wrote on how to record your internal audio, in case you are using Quicktime.
Using a synthesizer of your choice, create a 20 - 60'' composition focusing on sound texture. This can be any of the synthesizers/patches above*, or any other you are interested in exploring. The only requirement is that it have controls for some of the components we discussed in class. Post your composition here.
Read The Future of music: Credo, by John Cage
Create a found sound library: go out into the city, listen, and record a range of sounds to use in composition - percussive, pitched, different timbres.
* You can find the Max patches from class in our shared folder. Both Max and Ableton Live have free 30-day demos available for download. You can also borrow a production laptop from the ER, with Ableton Live installed. If you are interested in trying the Moog Mother32, sign up for office hours.
Code: Mic input + analysis and visualization
Design + Code: Create an interactive sketch that explores timbre. It can be synthesizer-based, sample-based, or a combination of both. Record a 20-second composition using it. Post your documentation and code here, and come prepared to do a 5-minute presentation in class.
Apply the Idea/Metaphor/Model/Display/Error/Scenario/Task/Control framework to
Listen: Chord Progressions
Interact & Discuss: Hook Theory / Nova Synth
Code: Chord progressions
1. Harmony project
Design: sketch 3 alternative interfaces to engage with harmony, each following a different paradigm, as described on the IxD Sketch Book, p14 to p22.
Post sketches and implementation here.
2. Final project proposal
Define and make progress on your final project
Post proposal and progress here
3. One-on-one meeting
Schedule an appointment with me. If none of these slots work for you, please email me so we can find another time.
Please see ITP's statement on Pass/Fail which states that a "Pass" is equivalent to an "A" or a "B" while anything less would be considered a "Fail".
Attendance is mandatory. Please inform me via email if you are going to miss a class. Two unexcused absences is cause for failing the class. (An unexcused lateness of 10 minutes or more is equivalent to 1/2 an absence.)
This class will be participatory, you are expected to participate in discussions and give feedback to other students in class and also participate with their projects. This (along with attendance) is 40% of your grade.
Class will culminate with final projects. You are expected to push your abilities to produce something that utilizes what you have learned in the class that is useful in some manner to yourself or the world. This will comprise 10% of your grade.