Musical Expression via New Interfaces

Creating and Composing Unique Interactive Performances



This course will walk students through the process of creating a new interface for musical expression, or nime, and use it to compose and perform an original musical work. Students will learn skills in both technical and creative fields in order to effectively capture sensory data and transform them into sound. Various topics in electronic music composition will be covered to give students a wide range of possible directions in which to develop their nimes. This includes computer programming for audio, sound design and effects processing, musical structure, fabrication, and electronic circuitry. The course concludes with a concert in which students perform original compositions for their nimes.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will demonstrate...

Software Requirements

This course will focus on two tools: Max and Arduino. These tools are powerful and flexible, and are therefore standard in nime courses throughout the world. While aspects of the Arduino platform are free (schematics and software, primarily), Max and the Arduino board are not. A software-based nime utilizing Max and Arduino sensors might cost as little as $99, but could cost more, depending on the kind of nime you choose to create.

If, on the other hand, you design a nime using other hardware (Wii Remotes, Kinect Sensors, etc), found objects, off-the-shelf parts, or some combination of the aforementioned items, your cost could be next to nothing. It will be up to you what tools and hardware to use to realize the vision of your nime.


Important Dates

Class Topics Homework
  • nime: A Documentary of New Instruments for Musical Expression: I, II, and III.
  • Open GitHub account
  • Discuss the midterm assignment
  • Extended techniques
  • Using space as a nime:
  • How to get help
  • Revisit previous week’s nime videos, discussing the electronics of it all
  • Electronics and Arduino basics
  • Arduino lab 1
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Mapping interactions to music
  • Fundamentals of computer programming
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Alfredo Marin’s Real Empowerment
  • Looping: David Lang’s Just by Shipsea
  • Intro to Max/MSP/Jitter
  • Hands-on practice: Max/MSP/Jitter
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Pitch ideas
  • Departing from traditional Western musical constructs
  • The computer is a nime!
  • Sound synthesis
    • Sine waves
    • Square waves
    • Sawtooth waves
  • Sound processing
    • Filters
    • Sound modulations
  • Midterm q&a
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Shaping sound electronically
  • Max
    • Tutorial
    • Forums (for help)
  • Arduino labs 5 – 6
  • Max lab 3
  • Midterm presentations
  • Midterm feedback
  • Project check-ins
  • Arduino programming
  • Max programming
Work on final project performance/presentation
  • Tech refresher
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Project check-ins
  • Using unconventional methods to trigger nimes
  • Serial communication: usb, midi, and osc
  • Thinking ergonomically about your nimes
  • “Is a NIME?”
Work on final project performance/presentation
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Project check-ins
  • Mapping body movement to analog or digital audio
Work on final project performance/presentation
  • John Cage’s 4'33", as performed by Dead Territory. Video
  • Project check-ins
  • Processing and filtering audio through Max and/or plugins
Work on final project performance/presentation
  • Listen/watch previous nimes
  • Project check-ins
  • Scoring your nime compositions
Work on final project performance/presentation
  • Project check-ins
  • Open lab
Work on final project performance/presentation
  • Thanksgiving recess
None. Enjoy the break!
  • Open lab
Thoroughly test your final projects
  • Final project presentations/performances
Have a happy and safe break!

Assignments and Grading

The midterm, a set of weekly check-ins, and a final performance of your nime make up 80% of your grade. Course Participation makes up the final 20%. The full breakdown of your final course grade is as follows:

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