Studios accessible to students of Music 1421

A reminder for studio signups:

Studios available to students of Music 1421 include Studio B (B25B), Studio C (B25C), and Studio D (B25D). Please be sure to choose one of these three from the drop-down menu at the top of the page when reserving a time.

If you sign up for time slots in Studio A (B27) you will be unable to access it as it is on a separate key and security.

Studio access with your ID should be available today at the latest.

Prof. Ernste

Music 1101, a class alternative

To all students looking to join a music course this semester but who were unable to get into Music 1421–particularly Frenshman and Sophmores who might be thinking of a major or minor in music–I have a recommendation: 1101 Elements of Music, taught by Prof. Andrew Hicks.

As a past a future guest of the course, I can highly recommend it for its nicely-intermingled historical and hands-on/practical approach. A syllabus for the semester is attached for your perusal. Feel free to ask me or contact Prof. Hicks if you think the course might be right for you.

Music 1101 Syllabus

Ernste music

Here is some further listening from today’s class.

My band from college was called “Milk of Amnesia”. We performed primarily in the MidWest (Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee) where all three of the band members went to college together (UW-Madison). The song excerpt I shared in class today from “Kamikaze Airplane” can be heard again here: Kamikaze Airplane.

My piece for solo guitar and electronics, Roses Don’t Need Perfume, uses sounds of the guitar as an electronic backdrop for a live solo guitar part. All electronic sounds are “acoustic”, i.e. they are derived from guitar. You can hear the recording from the commercial CD, Draw the Strings Tight–which I engineered myself here in Barnes Hall–on my website. A score is there also, or linked here.

The piece is long (15 minutes), so I encourage you to listen to the first 3 minutes (Movement #1, first page of the score) only.

Here, too, since I mentioned this method in class previously, is an image from that recording showing the microphone placement…two near mics (12th fret, behind the sound hole) and a third large diaphragm condenser mic further away).

The second piece I played, called The Awful Grace, is based on a commemorative sculpture in Indianapolis, IN, where on the night of MLK’s assassination, Robert Kennedy announced the terrible news to a large crow, speaking from the back of a pickup truck. 

With that speech, Kennedy calmed his audience from rioting, channeling his own experience losing his brother, JFK, who was assassinated 5 years earlier in 1963. Partway through, he quotes Aeschylus … lines that would late appear on his own gravestone after his own sad assassination just months later.

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” – Aeschylus

My central ideal with this piece was to channel that mutual empathy, which seemed to me important to our current moment.

My piece is for viola, percussion, and unmanned piano. The piano is used as a resonator (speakers placed inside and under) as well as being played *inside* by the percussions (fingers, sticks, mallets, his ringed finger, eBows).

In the excerpt you will hear, the first part is made up of these “inside the piano” sounds. Then you’ll hear Robert Kennedy’s voice, from his April 4th 1968 recitation of the Aeschylus, resonated into the piano. The voice is circulated back to the piano repeatedly (feedback) to enhance the frequencies of the voice (those “partials” we’ve been talking about) as they make the piano strings ring sympathetically. To hear this effect yourself, find a piano, put down the pedal, and shout into it! Finally, in the last section, the percussionist uses the eBows to play the strings directly, creating a singing melody. The drone sound in the background is derived from MLK’s voice, from his last speech (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”), given the day before his death. It’s specifically derived from the word, “see” in the line:

“…only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars”.

My Project 1

Hey Everyone,

This is what I did for my project 1, looking forward to listening to whoever also posts there’s. If anyone has any comments/questions about my project, feel free to reach out to me. Always happy to chat with others and bounce ideas off each other.Beware of Dog.wav

P.S. As with most people’s tracks, mine sounds way better over headphones/earbuds rather than the regular cpu’s speakers, so keep that in mind.

Free Ableton Live Lite

Hi all,

It looks like Ableton Live Lite is free if you make a (free) account on Splice.


Assignment 3: Melissa Gao

I listened to and analyzed one of my favorite songs, Paris in the Rain. It’s about the euphoric feelings of being young, in love and spontaneous in a foreign city. It’s a chill, vibey pop song off Lauv’s debut album, which is about the progression of someone falling into, being in and falling out of a relationship. The song is the epitome of his slower, stripped-down, electro-pop style. Lauv is an up-and-coming indie artist and songwriter who you might recognize as the guy who sang “I Like Me Better”. I like his music because it’s somehow relaxed, hype and emotional at the same time. I would recommend his collab with blackbear, “if i were u”, “Make It Right” with BTS, and “Feelings” for further listening.

Lauv also released a short video explaining how he made Paris in the Rain. I think it’s interesting to hear an artist talk about their creative process and how the song came together.

lgw33 assignment 3

I figured I’d share my assignment 3 since I wanted to finish it early and I really like this song. The album is about the frontman’s past problems with addiction and subsequent disillusionment with drug use. This song, Partners in Crime, is about the emptiness of relationships that stem primarily from a common interest in drugs.

Assignment 3



Project recorded in lecture

Several of you have asked about having access to the recording made in lecture in order to play around with the results yourself, exploring basic panning and mixing.

Click here to download the Ableton Live project.

(The raw materials are from Cindi Lauper’s True Colors.)

Note: see here for an FAQ about saving Ableton Live projects with all project audio files included.

Some links to listening from this morning’s lecture

Edgard Varere’s Poeme Electroninique … the precursor for our conversation on “What is music?”

Pierre Henry’s “Symphony for a Man Alone”


“I believe that the [tape] recorder is currently the best instrument for the composer who really wants to create by ear for the ear.”

“It is necessary to destroy music”.

Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “elektronische musik”, Studie II (1954):

Pauline Oliveros, we listened to several tracks in lecture, but I wanted you to hear music made in the underground cistern, with 60+ seconds of reverb!

Ableton Live Trial

Below is the link to download the Ableton 10 Suite trial – this will be available on your computer for 90 days, by which point you will have purchased one of the instruments for this course that is packaged with Ableton Live Lite:

Please download and install before Thursday’s lab (09/17).

Zoom audio settings

In order to get the most audio capability out of Zoom, there are a few things to check:

  1. Make sure you are running the Zoom desktop client (not the web client). This means that when you start a Zoom meeting, a standalone application should open (not just a browser window). If you don’t have it, the latest download is available here. For more on the differences between the web desktop client, read here. When you sign in on the Zoom desktop client, select “Sign in with SSO” and follow the instructions for signing in with your Cornell account.
  2. Update your client settings through Cornell’s Zoom portal. Click on ‘login‘, then select ‘settings‘ in the menu bar. Click on ‘In Meeting (Advanced)‘ and scroll down until you see ‘Allow users to select stereo audio in their client settings‘ and ‘Allow users to select original sound in their client settings‘. Make sure both of these are enabled by checking the button on the right and, if not, clicking on it. You will need to restart Zoom for these settings to update.
  3. Inside the Zoom desktop client, open ‘Preferences’ (from the Zoom dropdown menu, or “⌘,” on a Mac) and click on ‘Audio’. There’s a lot you can do here and, depending on which version of Zoom you are on (5.2.3 is the most recent as of this posting), these options will look a little different and may be laid out differently (go to the Zoom dropdown menu and select “check for updates” if you want to make sure you’re running the most recent version). The desired settings might vary based on what you are trying to do, but two settings should be enabled for most applications (these may be under ‘Advanced’, depending on your Zoom version): ‘Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone‘ (disabling Zoom’s automatic noise filtering) and ‘Use stereo audio‘ (otherwise any audio you share will automatically be mono, regardless of the source). If you have a higher speed, stable internet connection, enable ‘High fidelity music mode‘ as well. If you get into doing more advanced audio sharing through Zoom, you may end up changing your mic input to a virtual bus (like Blackhole, Soundflower, or Voicemeeter), in which case you’ll probably want to disable ‘Automatically adjust microphone volume‘, and maybe adjust the ‘Suppress background noise‘ setting. In your meeting, if you’re using your mic for music you’ll need to click on ‘Turn on original sound‘ in the upper left corner (which will read the opposite—’Turn off original sound’ when it’s enabled).
  4. In a meeting, if you want to share your computer sound, click on ‘Share screen‘ and then you can either share a screen (make sure ‘Share computer sound‘ is selected) or click on ‘Advanced’ and select ‘Music or Computer Sound Only‘). If you are sharing sound from Ableton Live or some other program, you need to have the Zoom Audio Device selected as the output (Under ‘Preferences’, ‘Audio’) for this to work.


Zoom 5.2.3 audio settings (click on ‘Advanced’ for second window):



Zoom 5.0.2 audio settings:


George Floyd was a musician

George Floyd’s death has been invoked, with good reason, by many movements including this letter signed by at least 500 staff, grad students, and faculty this week at Cornell.

But his music isn’t mentioned much; while media have mentioned his most recent work as a truck driver and security guard, in the early 2000’s he was known as Big Floyd, a member of a group in Houston led by an artist named DJ Screw.  This group, the Screwed Up Click, is widely cited for a technique called “chopped and screwed,” where original samples are slowed down for a hypnotic effect – a musical effect which has seen a resurgence in the last few years.

Floyd’s own work is here.

For those of you in Intro to Computer Music, I’m sharing this recording of George “Big” Floyd to offer perspective on both variety of technique and expression accessed by the human voice; and to suggest that the semantic of recording is horrifyingly poetic, considering that Floyd’s voice was again captured by a microphone in the last minutes of his life and shared with the world. So it’s good to be aware of his real voice, with artistic agency (and artistic license – be aware of some profanity and graphic subjects).

Unofficial lyrics to this album can be seen on by searching for “Sittin On Top Of The World Freestyle,” by DJ Screw.

And here is a news report on Floyd’s connection to the Screwed Up Click of Houston’s Third Ward.

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