MUSC 298: Interactive Electronic Music-making

I. Introduction

This course introduces tools and techniques for making music in real-time with computers, synthesizers, and other things that go boop in the night. Most of our focus will be on learning the visual programming environment Max and with its applications in the Ableton Live DAW. In the first half of the semester, you will complete several small and tightly delimited creative projects around a specific programming concept. In the second half of the course, you will conceive of and execute a larger project involving music and interactivity. Regular workshopping of these projects will lead to a final public performance on the evening of the last Friday of the semester.

Of course, all music-making is interactive: with other performers, with an audience, with an instrument, with a room, with nature, with deities, with the psyche, with time. What makes the computer so different? To address this question, we will study a wide variety of music and music-making practices, and also read some scholarly work about interactivity, computing, and expression—including in music but not limited to it.

II. Learning outcomes

  • Gain basic familiarity with the Max programming environment for the manipulation of audio and video
  • Write custom Max for Live devices for real-time music-making
  • Engage seriously with a range of interactive electronic music
  • Write or otherwise communicate with scholarly specificity about interactivity, improvisation, gesture, and control, both as they relate to computer music of the last 60 years and in your own creative work

Representative readings:

Manzo - Max/MSP/Jitter for Music

Lewis - Interactivity and Improvisation
Keislar - A Historical View of Computer Music Technology
Alonso-Minutti, Herrera, and Madrid - The Practices of Experimentalism in Latin@ and Latin American Music: An Introduction
Sharp - “I go against the grain of your memory”: Iconoclastic experiments with traditional sounds in Northeast Brazil
Bennett - Digital Audio Theory
Bossis - Analysis of Electroacoustic Music: From Sources to Invariants
Cascone - The Aesthetics of Failure
De Souza - Timbral Thievery
Kane - Relays: Audiotape, Material Affordances, and Cultural Practice
Kendall - Feeling and Emotion in electroacoustic art
Rodgers - On the Process and Aesthetics of Sampling in Electronic Music Production
Rehding - Timbre/Techne
Emmerson - Aural Landscape: Musical Space 
Giordano and McAdams - Sound Source mechanics and musical timbre perception