Music 147
Digital Music Production

University of California, Irvine


Assignments are posted here for the immediately upcoming class session and all past class sessions.

For Friday July 30, 2010:

Turn in your completed final project in the EEE DropBox called "Project 3" no later than 8:00 am. Late projects will not be accepted.

Your final project should be in the form of a .zip archive containing:
- Your complete GarageBand and/or Audacity project file(s),
- A sound file in AIFF or WAVE format of your completed project final mix, and
- A prose file (.txt, .doc, .rtf, or .pdf) describing what you were trying to accomplish, what your working process was, and what techniques you used.

Projects will be graded based on demonstrated effort, attention to quality and detail, and demonstrated understanding of the music arranging and sound processing techniques covered in class, as provided by the software you used.

In the unlikely event that your final project is so large that it is refused by the EEE DropBox, you may send me an email informing me of that fact by 8:00 am, then turn in your full project in person at the final meeting time.

Bring your completed sound file (.aif or .wav) -- on flash drive or CD -- to the final meeting.

The final meeting will be in Room 703 at 11:10 am.

Thursday July 29, 2010:

Study day; No class meeting.

For Wednesday July 28, 2010:

There is no new homework assignment. Continue working on the final project, as described under July 26 and July 30.

For Tuesday July 27, 2010:

Assemble the sound sources for your final project if you need to collect audio footage (sound files). If you are doing a cover version of an existing tune or an original composition, decide on the note content and begin entering it in the computer (or writing it down to enter it later).

One important step, especially if your music will have a beat as most of your projects will, is to decide on a tempo and meter, so that all the musical elements will be properly synchronized. Once you have done that, entering some basic rhythmic information such as a basic drum beat is very helpful in placing the other elements of the music properly. Take advantage of the bars/beats/divisions grid of the software in order to make the rhythms accurate and together.

For Monday July 26, 2010:

Monday's class will be held in the "Pre-Production Room" on the 6th floor.

Read the Shure Educational Publication on Microphone Techniques for Live Sound Reinforcement (PDF file). Read at least pages 4-11, and pages 32-33, and more if you're interested. (This article contains quite a lot of useful information, fairly clearly explained.)

Post as detailed a plan as possible for your final project on the class MessageBoard by 9:00 pm on Sunday. The final project -- due Friday July 30 -- should be approximately 60 seconds in duration. It can be a "cover version" of an existing piece of music, your own distinctive variation of an existing piece of music (using an existing piece as a starting point or model, but re-orchestrating it for entirely different sounds), or your own original composition. Focus on trying to make a good quality production in terms of the techniques discussed in class -- recording well, using/designing interesting synthesized sounds, mixing, panning, processing, etc. Your plan should include a link to the piece you want to use as a model, if any, with timings telling what portion you're referring to, and with a discussion of how you want to treat the source idea. As before, you might want to start with an analysis of what the component parts are, describe what each part will do, and describe your approach to putting it together.

For Friday July 23, 2010:

Read the Soundcraft Guide to Mixing, an instructional brochure available online as a PDF document, which will be discussed in class. Read at least pages 3-7, and more if you're interested. There is a lot of useful information in this brochure, fairly clearly explained. You might find particularly useful section 3 (pp. 10-16) on Mixing Techniques and Section 6 G-J (pp. 28-30) on techniques In the Studio.

For Thursday July 22, 2010:

Read about the composition Entropy in the liner notes of the CD Artful Devices (just the first few paragraphs of the liner notes). You can hear a recording of the composition here.

Read about the composition There's Just One Thing You Need To Know in the liner notes of the CD Artful Devices (just the last few paragraphs of the liner notes). You can hear a recording of the composition here.

Listen to this short NPR story about the composition Mannam. You can hear a recording of the composition here.

For Friday July 16, 2010:

Turn in your completed Garage Band project file -- one per working group -- to the AssignmentSubmission folder of the EEE DropBox called "Project 2" no later than 8:00 am. The Garage Band project file should be in a condition such that it can be opened and played to hear your intended result. (You don't need to hand in a separate mixed-down sound file. The Garage Band project should successfully demonstrate your intended version, and will also show your working method and how you organized the sounds.)

Also turn in a text file telling what time segment of the original song you are emulating, and describing any known compromises or flaws in your project and the ways you tried to address those problems.

For Thursday July 15, 2010:

Continue working on your Project 2 with your group. If you have recorded some vocals that you need to incorporate on "Real Instrument" tracks in your Garage Band project, edit and place that material in Garage Band and synchronize it with your synthesized "Software Instrument" tracks.

With your group, evaluate your work so far, and make a to-do list of what you need to accomplish on Thursday to have a good finished "product". If there are things you can't accomplish on your own, ask others in the class to help you with those aspects. If there are problems or questions that have arisen, we will try to resolve as many of those as possible during class. In class we will discuss ways to "finalize" and refine the final mixed stereo sound file.

For Wednesday July 14, 2010:

The first part of the Wednesday class session will be devoted to making vocal recordings for those who need it for their Project 2. If you want to make a recording of vocals during that session, come to class with a suitable Garage Band project or audio file at the right tempo to make a recording that will be properly synchronized with your synthesized musical parts. (The file need not be perfected, but it does need at least to be at the proper tempo to make the recording fit with the rest of the music, and to give the singer sufficient pitch and rhythmic guidance.) Oh, and you might want to rehearse a little beforehand, too. :)

For Tuesday July 13, 2010:

Work with the other members of your group to analyze the component parts of your chosen musical excerpt and get as much note information as possible entered into the computer on separate MIDI tracks. Bring a copy of the file to class to show your work in progress.

For Monday July 12, 2010:

1) Choose a brief segment of a piece of music that you would like to try to duplicate or emulate with a computerized "cover" version. Your segment should be approximately 16 measures (approximately 30 seconds) in duration, and should be of a modest level of complexity such that you feel able to discern its composite parts and think you could try to replicate them using synthesizers. Ideally it should be some music that you actually like and find sonically interesting, so that it will pose a fun and engaging challenge for you to work on. Try to analyze the music by determining a) what instruments and sounds are present, b) what each instrument or voice is doing, c) which parts are more prominently in the foreground and which are clearly accompanimental, and d) what types of audio effects or processing techniques seem to be in use (hypothesize about how the sounds were achieved).

On the MessageBoard post the title of the tune and the name of the recording artist, with a description of precisely what part of the song you want to focus on, as well as whatever analytical observations you have made about it. If the music is available online, post a link to it. If it's music that you have but that is not available online, you can just post the text about it on the MessageBoard, and place an MP3 version of it in the EEE DropBox called "Possible Tunes". Complete this assignment by 9:00 pm on the evening of Sunday July 11.

We'll use some of these pieces as the subject of our Project 2, which will be a small group project (three students per group). Therefore, if you choose the same musical excerpt as someone else in the class, it's probably a boon rather than a problem; you can work in the same group as that person. If you feel that you may lack the traditional musical skills to do this project well, feel free to say so in your MessageBoard post. I will try to help organize the groups such that people with compensatory strengths are paired with people who feel weak in some area of expertise.

2) Read the following two Wikipedia pages about MIDI.
- MIDI (From the beginning, through the first paragraph of the section on File Formats.)
- MIDI 1.0 (The section on Message Format.)

For Friday July 9, 2010:

Using Audacity in the Mac Room or on your own computer, and/or any other program such as Mu.Lab or Garage Band, compose an audio collage (musique concrète composition) 30-60 seconds in duration, using recorded audio files. It can be meterless/beatless or you can try to impose a beat. The primary goal of this assignment is to become familiar with sound editing and processing -- importing audio, placing soundbites, editing to create new soundbites (portions captured from existing soundbites), using volume and panning to achieve variety of dynamics and perceived location of the sound, and as time permits experimenting with audio effects (you can create new effects-processed versions of a soundbite by duplicating it and imposing effects). The best way to gain familiarity with the program is just to use it, trying to get the exact sounds, rhythmic placement, volume balance, and panning that you desire, and of course by (gasp!) consulting the help documentation as needed.

When you are done, export the finished composition and save it as a AIFF, WAVE, or MP3 file. (Listen to the file to be sure it sounds the way you intend for your composition to sound.) Turn it in to the EEE DropBox called "Musique Concrète", in the Assignment Submission folder, no later than 11:00 am.

Write a couple of paragraphs of text explaining what sounds you used, how you processed them and edited them, and what you were trying to accomplish in your composition. Turn that text file into the DropBox along with your composition.

For Thursday July 8, 2010:

1) Read the following articles. Focus on at least one remark in these classic writings that seems to you to be particularly insightful, prophetic, or meaningful in relevance to technology and musical practice today. Describe in detail why you think it is a significant idea, and what its implications are to you as a maker of music. Post your writings on the MessageBoard no later than 8:00 am.

Russolo, Luigi. "The Art of Noises", 1913.

Cage, John. "The Future of Music: Credo", 1937.

Cage, John. "Experimental Music: Doctrine" (.pdf), 1955.

Varèse, Edgard. "The Liberation of Sound" (.pdf), 1936-1962.

2) Listen to the following works on the class listenings page. The files on that page use two different methods of streaming. Some are streamed via a QuickTime server, and others require Real Player.

Choose one of these works that intrigues you because of its composition, techniques used, rhythms, or timbres, and write a brief composerly analysis of how the composer achieved the effect that you liked. You need not try to write a comprehensive analysis of the entire piece, but instead should focus on one particular aspect that you think can be instructive to you in your own thinking about how to construct an audio collage or a musique concrète composition. Post your analysis on the class MessageBoard no later than 8:00 am.

Schaeffer, Pierre - Etude aux chemins de fer, 1948. This is considered a classic (one of the very first pieces of musique concrète ever) by the person who coined the term. He made it the piece in 1948 with disc cutters, not tape!

Cage, John - Williams Mix, 1952/3. The source sounds and edits in this piece were chosen strictly according to a systematic score combining explicit instructions and chance operations. Thus the editing is an abstract process for creating rhythms that is largely independent of the source sonic materials.

Varèse, Edgard - Poème électronique, 1958. Another classic of early musique concrète, originally composed for multi-channel diffusion in the novel Philips Pavillion at the World's Fair.

Beatles, The - Revolution 9, 1968. This work demonstrates many classic tape techniques such as reversal, looping, speed changes, etc., and because of its distribution on a rock album it is an early instance of avant-garde electroacoustic music merging with popular recorded music.

Hancock, Herbie (and Swift, Rob) - This is Rob Swift, 2001. Realtime musique concrète editing via virtuosic turntablism, using only non-musical vocal sound sources, performed with instrumental music.

3) Work on your audio collage in Audacity (the July 9 assignment) by editing and processing your collected sounds to make a variety of sounds that you think sound interesting, and by arranging them in time to create the kind of rhythms and formal structure (progression in time) that you desire. If you have any results on which you would like to receive feedback -- either privately or in class -- you can place your work in the EEE DropBox titled "Proj 1 - Rough Draft" and send an email to me (and/or to other students) letting me know that it's there, by 8:00 am.

For Wednesday July 7, 2010:

If you want to work on the audio assignments on your own computer, download the programs Audacity and Mu.Lab. You probably will also want to download the Audacity documentation (.pdf file) and the Mu.Lab documentation (folder of HTML files in a .zip archive).

Collect audio "footage" -- digital audio files -- of sounds that you find interesting, for use in composing a sound collage. Avoid including recordings of other people's music; instead, collect sounds that are not normally considered to be music. Any sounds you can record yourself or find on the internet are legitimate for use in this assignment; however, if they are copyrighted, you must attribute credit to the "author" and cite the source of those sounds. You can register at to obtain download access to the many sound files there.

Analyze a few television commercials (on TV or YouTube) for their composition of sound and time. Your focus should not be particularly on the marketing techniques, or visual effects, or social implications, but rather on the abstract "musical" form and effect that is created by the rhythm and pacing of the editing, and the combinations and types of sounds. TV ads are some of the most highly produced video clips you will see, in terms of money spent per second of video.) Notice the pacing and organization of the video editing and the content, and the balance and relationship of voice, sound effects, and music. In terms of pacing, editing, and sound, are Japanese commercials different from American ones? As you make any interesting observations, post a link to the video (if possible) and an explanation of what you observed on the class MessageBoard.

For Tuesday July 6, 2010:

Read the article Dobrian, Christopher. Digital Audio. (1997). Come to class with specific questions regarding topics, (italicized) terms, or concepts discussed in the article that are unclear to you.

July 12, 2010
Christopher Dobrian