Music 1421: Introduction to Computer Music, Fall 2020

Kevin Ernste, Associate Professor
Email: kevinernste AT
Office: B27 and 337 Lincoln Hall

Eli M.B. Marshall, Lecturer
Email: elimarshall AT

Teaching Assistants:
Joshua Biggs — jmb834 AT — Office Hours: F Noon – 3pm
John Eagle — je336 AT — Office Hours: R 3pm – 5pm

Course website:
— please visit the website and register a username

Music 1421 is an exploration of classical and state-of-the-art techniques for making music with computers . As such, a substantial portion of our time will be spent working with software directly, although “learning software” is not our explicit goal. Our primary focus will be making and understanding music, facilitated by Tuesday lecture/discussions and Thursday practicums.

In developing techniques for recording, manipulating, and mixing sounds, we will be working with several software metaphors: the sound file editor, the digital audio workstation (DAW), the synthesizer, the sequencer, the audio patchbay/mixer and the graphical programming environment, among others, developing a personalized creative toolkit. In addition to commercially available software, students will be introduced to a number of excellent free software tools, many with unique designs and functionality.

Course requirements include three composition projects, one for each of the three parts of the course (see the semester schedule). The last of these will be presented at the Sound Art Forum concert at the semester’s end. In addition, weekly or bi-weekly assignments to be carried out on the student’s own time. Studios are available for this purpose and students may sign up for individual time slots (no more than 2 hours per day and 6 hours per week). Visit the course website and follow the “Studios” link to sign up online.

Grading for the semester is broken down as follows:

10% Attendance and class participation
30% Weekly/bi-weekly assignments
30% Two mid-semester projects (15% each)
30% Final project and performance (see semester schedule)

All work must be turned in on time. Late work will be given one letter grade lower; beyond one week it will not be accepted. The final performance is mandatory and non-participation will result in automatic failure (participation and final project grade percentages lost).

Facilities: Studios B25B, B25C, and B25D in Lincoln Hall will be our primary studios with additional “overflow” workstations in the Cox Music Library teaching lab. You are highly encouraged, of course, to use your own home or mobile systems where appropriate and available.

In addition, students will be asked to purchase a hardware controller with bundled software for use after the Thanksgiving campus departure and for the final semester projects.

Suggested devices, aiming for low cost and high quality while bundling the needed Ableton Live Lite 10 include:

  1. Novation Launchpad Mini or Launchpad X
  2. Akai APC mini
  3. APC Key 25 (of interest to student with desire for a traditional keyboard)

Students are free to choose another device, but it must include Ableton Live Lite 10. Cornell discounts may be available for Cornell students through B & H Photo.

Update for Linux users: The Nektar LX25+ is another excellent controller and comes with Bitwig, an excellent DAW with Linux support that models much of the behavior of Live plus a few extra tricks. Excellent software!

For more details, visit the Semester Schedule.

Note to students with disabilities: Your access in this course is important to me. Please request an accommodation letter early in the semester so that we have adequate time to arrange accommodations.

Skip to toolbar