Music 6420/4420: Electroacoustic Techniques

Kevin Ernste, professor
Office: 337 and B27 Lincoln Hall
Office Hours: by appointment

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

Music 6420/4420 is an exploration of classical/historical and state-of-the-art tools for making music with computers. As such a substantial portion of our time will be spent working with software, although “learning software” is not our explicit goal. Instead we will engage several software metaphors – generalized categories of functionality – working toward developing individualized composer toolkits suitable for creative work.

In addition to commercially available software, students will be exposed to a number of excellent free software tools, many with unique designs and functionality. All tools are available for download on the course website.

In developing our facility with core techniques, we will examine a body of pieces from the classical electroacoustic repertoire, looking at them critically and analytically, teasing out the ideas and techniques that went into their design and performance. In certain cases, we will construct our own version or implementations of these pieces using course software and hardware.

Course requirements include: one early-semester  piece/study and one larger mid-semester piece for soloist and electronics, one end-of–semester composition, one in-class lecture/presentation on a composer, piece, or technique of your choosing presented at semester’s end. In addition, there will be weekly or bi-weekly assignments to be carried out on the student’s own time.

Grading for the semester is as follows:

20% Assignments and participation
20% Lecture/presentation
60% Three semester project pieces (20% each)

Class attendance is mandatory and your participation is essential.

Facilities: Studio A is available for compositional purposes and students may sign up for times online. Please visit the course website and follow the link to studio signup for Studio A (Lincoln B27) will be our primary studio for class and work. In addition, there is a mobile rig usable for performances and remote recording. To inquire about availability of additional equipment, please consult Professor Ernste or CEMC staff.

Lecture/Presentation Guidelines

The class lecture component for Music 6420/4420 requires the student to plan and deliver a class lecture on a topic related to the course. Please consult with Professor Ernste as soon as possible to discuss potential topics of interest.

Some topics of potential interest:

  • Historic tools and techniques for computer music
  • Microphones and recording techniques
  • Acoustics and acoustical modeling
  • Sound and the ear, sound and the brain
  • Sound spatialization and localization
  • Live coding and live improvisation
  • Controllers and interactivity
  • Custom hardware and embedded systems
  • Multimedia and video
  • Field recording
  • Analysis and re-synthesis (FFT, etc)
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