Course: MUS314 / COS314
Instructor: Jeff Snyder
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

In this course, students learn how to create and appreciate electronic and computer music. In the first part of the semester students learn how to write music in ChucK, a simple language based on C. ChucK is like the MS Paint of computer music; it’s not very flashy, and it can take a lot of effort to produce a product, but it’s surprisingly powerful in the right hands. The second half of the course is dedicated to programs that are not as flexible as ChucK but are more highly developed, which makes it easier to produce music more quickly. Here you will largely use Max/MSP (the Adobe Photoshop of computer music), PD (the Adobe Photoshop knockoff of computer music), and MobMuPlat (the python of computer music). At each stage the material you learn will largely be driven by your own creativity; the assignments will require that you dive deeper into different aspects of these programs in order to make a polished final product, though the specific aspects you focus on will be up to you.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

The course consists largely of lectures and irregularly-spaced assignments. The lectures are often discussions of listening assignments or code-along demonstrations. It’s important to attend these lectures as Jeff’s demonstration of the features of these different programs are typically more accessible than explanations in their manuals, and the code you write in class can serve as an important starting point for an assignment. The discussions of the listening assignments can be pretty lively and are also useful to gain a greater appreciation for music that might seem off-putting or strange at first listen.

Learning For and From Assignments

Prior coding experience does not seem to be a requirement for this course, but if your coding background isn’t very strong it’s important that you take charge of the coding aspect of your assignments early on. Most assignments are partner assignments and it can be tempting to divide tasks based on each person’s strengths, but this will be to your detriment later in the course when you need to be comfortable coding on your own.

Creativity is probably the most important skill you can bring to the table in this course overall; assignments are typically very open-ended which means you’re really only limited by yourself. Even if you choose projects that are a bit ambitious the course instructors are typically very receptive to questions and won’t hesitate to show you advanced features of these programs so that you can realize your idea. Computer music also has its roots in experimentalism, so the assignments and larger projects are a great way to get out of your comfort zone musically and explore new sounds and means of composition.

External Resources

The course instructors are an invaluable resource for this course; while the basics are discussed clearly and accessibly in lecture, it is rare for a student to progress through this course never needing an object or function that was not discussed in lecture. While the programs used in the course have documentation and sometimes examples online, it can be difficult to know exactly what to search for, and so the instructors’ encyclopedic knowledge of advanced functions in these programs is essential for creating more complicated pieces and programs.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This course is really fun overall; partner assignments can sometimes be a bit of a drag, but apart from scheduling difficulties that may arise from coordinating two random Princeton schedules there isn’t too much to take into consideration. The course is by application, but the Jeff appreciates having a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences in the classroom, so even If your music background or your computer science background isn’t very strong it may still be worth applying. This course also fulfills one of the performance course requirements for the Music Performance certificate.
Computer and Electronic Music through Programming, Performance, and Composition

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