University Studies 4: Transfer Seminar
"Composing Music with Computers"
University of California, Irvine
Fall 2006 - Tuesday 3:30-4:20
216 Music and Media Building
Professor Christopher Dobrian
211 Music and Media Building
(949) 824-7288 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Many music composers and performers are using computers in experimental and unexpected ways. In addition to using computers for traditional tasks such as music notation, recording, and production, some adventurous musicians are also programming computers to play a more active role in music making, to actually compose music, improvise music, synthesize and process new sounds, and generate entire multimedia spectacles. The professor will discuss his own work and that of other musicians in this experimental research field of "musically intelligent" computers. Seminar sessions will include demonstrations and discussions; homework will include reading and listening assignments. (Note: This is not a hands-on class in the use of computer music software. See the UCI Catalogue for information on regularly offered computer music courses.)
Tuesday, September 26
Introduction to experimental music: "The opening up of music to all sounds"
Tuesday, October 3
Introduction to the role of computers in contemporary music: MIDI and audio
Tuesday, October 10
Audio signal processing: sound design as a means of composition
Tuesday, October 17
Intelligent accompaniment: score following and simple interactivity
Wednesday, October 18
The Computer Music of Philippe Manoury - Winifred Smith Hall, 5:00pm, Free
Tuesday, October 24
No class session.
Tuesday, October 31
Emulating musical intelligence: computer decision making with a knowledge base or with probabilities
Tuesday, November 7
Guest lecturer Michael Dessen: computer audio processing in live performance
Tuesday, November 14
Interactive computer-human performance: networked performance systems
Tuesday, November 21
Improvisation with computers: artificial expressivity
Tuesday, November 28
Multimedia and intermedia: digital connections among art forms
Each week students are asked to complete reading and/or listening assignments. Most assigned readings and listenings are available on the web, and links to them will be provided in the assignment descriptions below. However, some reading materials might be handed out during class, and some reading and listening materials might only be available at the Arts Media Center. (The location and hours of the Arts Media Center are clearly posted on the Arts Media Center website.) Regardless of the means of distribution, each student is responsible for acquiring the assigned materials and completing the reading and/or listening.
In addition to reading and listening, each student is required to post his or her ideas and comments, written in response to the assigned materials, on the class NoteBoard (online discussion group). Each student is required to post a minimum of one original written comment about at least one of the assigned materials on the NoteBoard no later than 11:59 PM on the Sunday before the class session for which the material was assigned and a minimum of one response to someone else's comment on the NoteBoard no later than 11:59 PM on the Monday before the class session for which the material was assigned. These NoteBoard postings are the part of the assignment on which each student will actually be graded.
The NoteBoard postings may include such things as: a distilled summary of the content (boiling the material down to a few sentences that describe what you consider to be its most salient features), questions that you have about things you don't understand (although hopefully you will make the effort to research independently those things you don't understand, and your postings will consist of more than just questions), things you disagree with or dislike and your reasons for opposing them, your considered reactions to the materials, or other topics, information, links, etc. that you think might be of relevant interest for others in the class.
No specific length is required for each posting, but a general guideline is that your original posting should be at least about 150-350 words long (feel free to write more!), and your response posting should be at least about 50-250 words long.
For Tuesday, October 3
The first week's assignment is larger than that of most weeks because it includes readings that retrospectively elucidate the discussion held on the first day of class as well as readings that anticipate the discussion in the second class session.
As a follow-up on the discussion in the first day of class, and to gain some historical perspective, read one or both of these articles. Read the article "Experimental Music: Doctrine" (1955) by American composer John Cage (1912-1992). Read the article "The Art of Noises" (1913) by Italian futurist Luigi Russolo (1885-1947). Feel free to do additional research about these two influential thinkers, of course.
In preparation for the upcoming class, read these two articles. Read "Digital Audio" by Christopher Dobrian. (If that article leaves you with unanswered questions, you can also take a look at "A Digital Audio Primer" by Bruce Fries, which says similar stuff in a somewhat different way.) Read "Making Music with MIDI" by the MIDI Manufacturers Association. For additional research on digital audio and MIDI, you can simply Google "What is MIDI?" and "What is digital audio?".
Post at least two times to the NoteBoard, following the guidelines given above and below.
For Tuesday, October 10
Read Music Programming by Christopher Dobrian as an introduction to some of the issues involved in programming computers for musical purposes.
Listen to Direct Current for MIDI-controlled synthesizer by Christopher Dobrian (with Kei Akagi). This piece was "performed" by a computer sending MIDI data to a synthesizer. Think about what aspects of the music are uniquely possible by a computer--i.e., aspects that would be difficult or impossible to produce on an acoustic instrument. (Consider, for example, the first 45 seconds and the last 30 seconds of the piece.)
Listen to Insta-pene-playtion by Christopher Dobrian. This piece uses exclusively sounds of an actual flute processed by a computer. What kinds of sounds and effects do you imagine are being employed to modify the flute sound? (A highly technical description of the computer processing used in this piece can be found in section 2 of the article Programming New Realtime DSP Possibilities with MSP by Christopher Dobrian. This is not required reading, but the topic will be discussed in the October 10 class, so you might want to give it a try.)
Post at least two times to the NoteBoard, following the guidelines given above and below. You can write about either the reading or the listening.
For Tuesday, October 17
Listen to "There's Just One Thing You Need To Know" for Disklavier (MIDI piano), synthesizer, and interactive computer system by Christopher Dobrian. Read the CD liner notes for this piece.
In this composition, the computer runs autonomously with no intercession by any technician. The pianist plays from a traditional musical score (albeit with instructions to improvise in a couple of spots) and the computer accompanies the pianist with synthesized sounds (and sometimes even by playing additional notes on the piano). Consider the musical relationship between pianist and computer in this piece; what would a computer need to "know" to be a good accompanist to a live performer? On the course NoteBoard, post your comments regarding this question, or regarding the readings suggested below.
Read the brief web page that describes the technique known as "score following" from the web site of the French computer music research center IRCAM. If you want to get into technical details of one approach to this problem (not required reading), you can check out the article "Score following in practice" (.pdf format) by Miller Puckette and Cort Lippe. This approach is relevant to the compositions that will be presented in the lecture/performance on the computer music of Philippe Manoury on Wednesday October 18.
For Wednesday, October 18
Attend the lecture/performance on the computer music of Philippe Manoury Wednesday October 18 at 5:00 pm (free) in Winifred Smith Recital Hall (adjacent to the Music and Media Building). Post questions and observations on the NoteBoard regarding this presentation in the usual manner: at least one original post by the end of the day on Sunday October 22, and at least one response by the end of the day on Monday October 23. There will be no class session on Tuesday October 24.
For Tuesday, October 31
Read A Brief History of Algorithmic Composition by John A. Maurer IV for some historical perspective on systematic composition.
Visit composer David Cope's website on his "Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI). Read his description of his program and listen to some of the examples of its output.
(Optional:) Read an Interview with David Cope (.pdf) conducted by Patricio da Silva.
(Optional:) Read about and try out Mozart's Musikalische Würfelspiele (Musical Dice Game).
Listen to Entropy by Christopher Dobrian. Read about it in the CD liner notes. Read a more detailed description of the compositional procedure of Entropy in the final section ("Entropy: Information Theory and Probability") of Music and Artificial Intelligence by Chris Dobrian.
Post your observations about these readings and listenings on the NoteBoard in the usual way.
For Tuesday, November 7
There is no assignment in preparation for this class. Just come to class. The session will consist of a guest presentation by composer/trombonist Michael Dessen.
Optional: If you want to learn about the software Michael Dessen uses for his live electronic performances, visit the Ableton Live website.
For Tuesday, November 14
View the DVD "JazzBot" (approx. 25 minutes), available on reserve under Dobrian in the Arts Media Center. (The location and hours of the Arts Media Center are posted on the Arts Media Center website.) Read the introduction to the performance, which accompanies the DVD. Describe some of the types of correspondences or "interactions" that you can discern taking place between the pianist and the robots. Consider to what extent the performance succeeds or fails as an example of social/musical interaction and as a musical/theatrical experience. Post your ideas on the course NoteBoard.
Optional: You can learn more about these particular "musical robots" by visiting the LEMUR website, and you can read "A History of Robotic Musical Instruments" (.pdf) by Ajay Kapur.
For Tuesday, November 21
The topic of the November 21 will be "Improvisation with computers: artificial expressivity". To prepare for that discussion, you should examine what we actually know about improvisation and musical expression: what are they, and how can they be modeled or emulated or expanded by computers?
Read the sections entitled "Artificial Intelligence and Music Cognition" and (optionally) "Rhythm Perception" in the article Music and Artificial Intelligence by Chris Dobrian.
Read the first three sections (through section 3.2) of The 'E' in NIME: Musical Expression with New Computer Interfaces (.pdf format) by Christopher Dobrian and Daniel Koppelman. Of course you are welcome to (optionally) read the rest of the article if it interests you.
Read the first three sections (through section 3) of (Strategies for Continuous Pitch and Amplitude Tracking in Realtime Interactive Improvisation Software (.pdf format) by Christopher Dobrian.
Listen to Mannam (Encounter) by Christopher Dobrian. Read the program note for the piece. (If you want to, you can also follow the musical score, available online.
Optional: If you want to read some rambling thoughts about improvisation, you can see Thoughts on Composition and Improvisation (1991) by Chris Dobrian.
For Tuesday, November 28
Read about the music/audio programming environment called Max/MSP (once there, click on the link "View All (1-5)") and its visualization extension Jitter. Don't worry if you don't understand everything you read. Those web pages will give you some information about Max/MSP/Jitter, which is one of the most popular programming environments for computer music, electronic art, and multimedia. The class session on November 28 will feature a demonstration and explanation of this programming language, and a discussion of computer-based multimedia. Post to the NoteBoard any questions you have about Max/MSP/Jitter or any notable experiences you have had with digital multimedia performances or art installations.
For Tuesday, December 5
The assignment for this week requires only ONE post to the NoteBoard, although you are encouraged to make multiple posts. On the NoteBoard, provide at least one web link to an interesting site, or composition, or work of digital sound art that you think is relevant to this class and that you find particularly intriguing. Include comments telling what you find interesting/relevant about it, and what you think others should particularly notice about it. After you post the URL, check the NoteBoard to make sure that your link is correct. (Don't enter the link with any HTML tags -- i.e., don't use any brackets. If you simply include the URL in your post, the NoteBoard will take care of making it into a link for you.)
Each student is required to personally attend at least 90% of the class sessions (at least 9 of the 10 class sessions) for at least 90% of each class time (at least 45 of the 50 minutes of each session).
Each student is required to post his or her ideas and comments written in response to the assigned materials on the class NoteBoard (online discussion group). Each student is required to post a minimum of one original written comment about at least one of the assigned materials on the NoteBoard no later than 11:59 PM on the Sunday before the class session for which the material was assigned and a minimum of one response to someone else's comment on the NoteBoard no later than 11:59 PM on the Monday before the class session for which the material was assigned. Students are encouraged, but not required, to post more than the required two weekly posts. LATE POSTINGS WILL NOT BE COUNTED TOWARD THE GRADE.
No specific length is required for each posting, but a general guideline is that your original posting should be at least about 150-350 words long (feel free to write more!), and your response posting should be at least about 50-250 words long. See the professor's example original posting (323 words) and example response posting (227 words) to get an example of length and content.
Grading will be equally balanced between class attendance and NoteBoard postings. (Attendance has a 50% effect on the grade, and NoteBoard postings have a 50% effect.) Grading will be done as objectively as possible according to a straight scale: 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, and 0-59%=F. Grade modifications with +/- signs will be used only in rare cases.
So, the minimum needed to obtain an A is: attend at least 9 of the 10 class sessions (for at least 45 of the 50 minutes) and submit at least 18 on-time NoteBoard postings (at least 2 per week in at least 9 of the 10 weeks). A slightly more complex example: A student misses two class sessions, but does all of the required postings, thus getting 80% for attendance but 100% for NoteBoard postings, for a final grade of 90%=A. A still more complex example: A student shows up for 9 of the 10 classes but comes to class more than 5 minutes late 2 of those 9 times, thus getting a total attendance grade of 70%, and posts 2 comments in each of 7 weeks, only 1 comment in 1 of the weeks, and tries to make up for a lazy drunken week in the middle of the quarter by posting extras in the last week of class (which don't count at all toward the grade), for a total NoteBoard grade of 75%; this is not exemplary "excellent" work, and should probably even be considered "below average" for such an easy class, but it has an objective score of 72.5%=C.
Regarding academic integrity: All written work submitted for this class must be your own. Allowing someone else to do your work for you or plagiarizing the work of others is in direct violation of the UCI Academic Senate Policies on Academic Honesty. In instances where it is appropriate to quote the speech or writing of others, you should make clear what words are not your own and should give credit to the original author of those words and should, if possible, cite the source where you obtained the quote.
This page was last modified on November 29, 2006.