Advanced Computer Music and Acoustics

ARTS-6963, Spring 2001

Weds.4:00-7:50, DCC 161

Dr. Curtis Bahn


Office Hours, Thursday 10:00-12:00



This course examines music, in particular computer music composition, from the point of view of acoustics, cognitive psychology and psycho-acoustics. The theoretical concepts discussed will be put to test through student projects ranging from musical compositions, sound installations and interactive performance structures, to the development of new devices for sonic display based on spherical speaker arrays and sensor/speaker arrays. Prerequisite: Arts and Architectural Sonics graduate students and EMAC undergraduates by permission of instructor. 4 credit hours.

My hope is that this course can be held as a true graduate seminar in composition. This is dependent on everyone in class being active in their compositional work and excited about sharing their discoveries. With this in mind, we will schedule the course freely and pace it according to the class level and interests. In this, I hope to give you the maximum amount of time to focus on your musical work. I expect everyone to spend a minimum of an hour a day -- approx. 8 hours a week – on their own music, and to be able to show substantive development from week to week. This time may not all be spent in the music studio but be divided between research in your area, listening, analysis, and structural sketching away from the computer. If this model does not work, we will have to go to a more formal grid of assignments and deadlines.

Every member of the class will have a different level of experience with music and technology. I can’t evaluate you on your musical knowledge but will rather evaluate you on your disciplined approach to your compositional work.

Basic knowledge of studio techniques is expected.

Interest and active participation in the production of music is demanded.


Produce musical compositions and present them to class and other venues.

Develop more knowledge of the relationship of sound/acoustics/perception as it relates to musical composition and sound installation.

Examine the relationship of space, sound and structure from musical point of view.

Increase knowledge of resources for musical composition at iEAR and elsewhere.

Student Presentations

Throughout the semester we will have student presentations on various musical topics to be announced. I would like each of you to examine and analyze a piece of electro-acoustic music on the listening list for the class, or some form of electronic music that you feel is important to your work, and present it to the class.

#1 Choose an artist and piece of music that is important to your work. Present a background of their work to the class and examine/analyze one piece of music in detail.

#2 Present your own work in progress throughout semester.

Final Composition

Over the semester you will be expected to complete at least 1 major composition and be able to present and articulate its relationship to acoustic concepts discussed in the course. The composition can be an aspect of other work, such as thesis or capstone development, but it must stand on its own as a completed and developed sound idea by the end of the semester. Of course, you are encouraged to present this musical work at EMAC or MFA shows or other performances.


Physical and "on-line" readings will be assigned in class. Sometimes the material will be to technically advanced for your level, sometimes it may be to simplistic. Skim the readings for your level and engage them to your best ability.

I will be drawing heavily from these texts, you are not required to buy them but may find them interesting:

"Auditory Perception: A New Analysis and Synthesis," Richard M.Warren. Cambridge University Press 1999. (auditory example CD included)

"Auditory Scene Analysis," Albert Bregman. MIT Press, Second Edition 1999. (and separate auditory example CD)

"Music, Cognition, and Computererized Sound: An Introduction to Psychoacoustics," Perry R. Cook ed., MIT Press, 1999.

Listening and Discussion

Each week we will listen to music and discuss it. The music will range from classical electronic and computer music, to acoustic music, world music, soundscape composition, new electronica, "dj" drum ‘n bass. Whatever. I ask you all to look for interesting music to share with the class, throw a few cds in your backpack and spring them on us; educate me… Involvement in the sharing your music will be looked upon favorably in your grade.

Private Lessons

Be prepared with new material and questions for scheduled private lessons. If you are not prepared – cancel the lesson in advance.


Grading is based primarily on the demonstration of disciplined development in the development of your music over the course of the semester and preparation of private lessons (25%), your final composition (30%), your 2 presentations (20%), attendance, participation in class activities and discussions (25%).


Tentative Schedule:

Jan. 10th - Introduction

What is music

What do we listen for in music

Vocabulary for musical analysis

Classes of musical instruments

Assignment: prepare a short written proposal for your work over the course of the semester. This is subject to change but should get you started towards your goals.

17th History of Computer Music, studio orientation

24th Digital Audio and Acoustics

Basic Vocabulary

Synthesis techniques

Studio/ Software introduction

History of Electronic Music,

Prof. Jeffrey Hass, Indiana University School of Music

Suggested Further Readings:

(xeroxes in cmusic studio)

John Cage, Silence


Curtis Roads, The Computer Music Tutorial

Background: The History of Digital Audio Recording, pp. 7-14

Basics of Sound Signals, pp. 14-47

F. R. Moore, Elements of Computer Music

Introduction pp. 1-26

(pp. 23-26 Interdisciplinary context of computer music)

31th Perceptual Apparatus #1


Course Notes by David Worrall.

The Physiology of Hearing

Notes by David Worrall.

Feb. 7th Private Lessons

Richard Lerman Concert !

Feb 8th 10 am, Richard Lerman talk in arts basement.





14th Cognitive Views of Music

Sensation and Perception Tutorials John H. Krantz, Ph.D

A small collection of tutorials and demonstrations related to our senses.

Consonance and Dissonance

Notes by David Worrall.

21st Synthesis from Analysis/ Time and Spectral Domain Processing

28 Relationships of Sound and Space

Sound Sculpture

Sensor Speaker Arrays


Alternative voices for Electronic Sound

Sound Sculpture

David Tudor Articles and resources

About Max Neuhaus and Suspended Sound Line


March 7th Private lessons

14 Spring Break

21 TBA

28 TBA

April 4th No classes

11 Student Presentations #3 – final compositions in progress

18 short meeting TBA (Toni Dove)

25 short meeting TBA,

MFA show, all pieces due on CD or appropriate medium

Class Concert?

may 2nd (MFA crits)


IEAR Graduate Computer Music Studio (CMUSIC)

The Computer Music Studio is a graduate music and sound product facility for hard-disk (digital) audio recording and editing; MIDI control of samplers, synthesizers, and processors; computer music programming; and electronic music composition. This is a fully automated, digital audio studio with timecode sync directly to digital video.

The equipment includes the following:

Computers, Studio mixer and monitors:

Macintosh G3

Yamaha 02R 24 channel, 8 bus digital mixing console

KRK E8 Expose Loudspeakers [studio monitors (4)]

Tascam DA-88 with SY-88 Sync Card

Digidesign Pro-Tools 24 System with 888 interface

Tascam CD-RW5000 [CD player/recorder]

Panasonic SV-3700 [DAT machine]

Nakamichi MR-1 [cassette deck]

Panasonic AG-1980 SVHS Recorder

Sony DSR-80 [DVCAM Recorder]

192 point analog patch-bay, 48 point digital audio patch-bay

Sound Modules and MIDI equipment:

E-mu Proteus/2 [sound module]

Kurzweil K2000-RS [sampler]

Yamaha TG77 [synthesizer]

Lexicon PCM-70 [multi-effects processor]

Yamaha SPX-900 [multi-effects processor]

Lexicon PCM-80 [multi-effects processor]

Fatar Studio 1100 [MIDI keyboard]

Mark of the Unicorn MIDI Time Piece II [MIDI

Mark of the Unicord Digital Time Piece

Aardvark Master Digital Sync Generator


Pro-Tools – Digital recording, editing and sound processing software

Max – Construction kit for live interactive composition/performance

Logic Audio Platnum, Studio Vision Pro, Digital Performer – MIDI