M415 Outline

Music 4170/5170: Computer Music Programing

Spring 2013 / Sec. #10916/10919
Dr. Mark Phillips, Instructor
MWF 12:55 - 1:50 p.m. Office: 475B Music Bldg.
Music Bldg. Rm. 475A, phillipm@ohio.edu

The primary component of this course involves learning how to use Max/MSP/Jitter to create your own custom-designed software — in other words computer programming! Fortunately for us Max is a more user-friendly, upper level programming language, but it still requires a proper balance between creativity and discipline. Though prior computer programming experience would likely be an asset, it is absolutely not a requirement for success in this class. I make no assumptions that students will have any programming experience before beginning this class. Students who have not had Music 4130/5130 should expect to spend some time looking at my E-A_MusicPrimer application used in that class and take advantage of extra help sessions when they are scheduled. (Students who have taken Music 4130/5130 will already have had some exposure using Max/MSP/Jitter, though not actually designing programs.)

Software: Max/MSP/Jitter (primarily). There is no text to buy for this course. However, if you have your own computer, I strongly recommend taking advantage of Cycling ’74’s student discount offer. It is a very good deal (cheaper than most textbooks — only $59) and you will definitely get more out of this class by tinkering around with the software at home during free time (perhaps in place of some of the time you usually spend of Facebook and/or Twitter) or even while you are watching or listening to media on some other device. You can get by without purchasing Max yourself, but probably only if you are willing to make the MIDI Lab your temporary home for spring semester. wink

Hardware requirement : a Lab computer -- or your own computer -- running Max/MSP/Jitter.

NOTE: Music 4170/5170 does not deal much with DAW, MIDI, or audio sequencer programs (i.e. Garage Band, Digital Performer, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, etc.). Students who are primarily interested in working on projects using these software programs would probably be happier enrolling in Music 4150, which does deal with such programs, or Music 4160, which is an independent projects course.


Course Overview

Class time will mostly be devoted to direct instruction on learning to program in Max. Depending on the background of students in the class, there will likely be sessions devoted to broader concepts such as the four common types of sound synthesis — additive, subtractive, FM, and granular synthesis — and how to they are implemented in Max.

There are no exams in this class. Individual projects, along with reading, study, and research in service of those projects, will occupy virtually of the time you spen on this class. Students will complete several projects of various size and scope, from short very small "overnight" homework assignments, through early small-scale projects, and culminating in a final project and class presentation. You should expect that many, if not all, projects will require draft submissions and revisions based on feedback from me.

The small-scale homework assignments and early projects are designed to get you acquainted with Max and to help you learn something of its intended use. Later projects are expansive and open-ended enough to give students a chance to pursue their own individual long-term goals relative to this technology, while at the same time providing a broader base of general knowledge and experience for those who may have no intention of ever becoming a MAX expert and no long-term professional goals that include Max.

Final Project: You should be thinking about your final project beginning early in the semester, as soon as you begin developing an understanding of the kinds of things you can do with Max. Your final project should represent your best, most advanced, and most creative work. You are free to structure your smaller-scale projects throughout the semester in such a way that they help prepare you for your final project ... or even use those projects to create some components of your final project. Consider your strengths as a creator when deciding what to do for your final project.

Grading Procedures:
My view on grades for this class is that they could hardly be more irrelevant. But the university (and many students) seem to expect them, so here is the system we'll use.
Grades are determined on the basis of a total point system. With the exception of your final project, you will not receive letter grades for your work. Instead, your projects will be subjected to a process of review and revisions until you receive an “OK” from me and/or you are satisfied with them. At that point you are awarded whatever points the assignment or project is worth.

Here is a summary of the points system.

5 Forum Homework
Assignments x 2 pts @

10 pts
Project #1 10 pts
Project #2 15 pts
Project #3 15 pts
Project #4 15 pts
Project #5 10 pts
Project #6 25 pts
Total points
100 pts


Attendance policy:

As long as you are submitting quality projects on time, attendance will not have a direct effect on your grade. However, poor attendance (at class, at help sessions, and time spent in lab) may have a direct affect your grade, if it's clear that your lack of attendance is having a negative impact on the quality of your work.

The exception is the Final Exam Presentation/Concert. The time of this meeting will be the university-scheduled final exam time. Everyone will attend and present their final project to the entire class.

Other Important Matters: