Sound and its concomitant, noise, define our spaces of interaction and creation, provide clues to social roles, enhance or inhibit sensuality, produce and modulate emotion. Sound can not only define spaces of action but can create plausible worlds. In this course we study a broad range of topics under the general rubric of sound, but we will focus on using sound as a machine for creating active space, sonic environments through which one physically moves, which may change in response to human presence and action, and which evoke emotional response. We will use computers, sensors, and objects we make as means to achieve this. You will learn to think in 3-d; these aural spaces are analogous to the environments you would create if you chose sound design for film as your work.

The course is in ACTLab studio format. This means we teach that thinking doesn't only take place in the head, but that our entire bodies are involved in learning (action methods), so besides making stuff you will have reading and listening assignments and movement exercises. For the first part of class we will discuss assigned readings. For the remainder of the time (i.e., most of class time) you will make stuff. What you make and how you make it will emerge from our interactions in class. You will produce a project every month -- a simple one, a more complex one, and a final project that sums up what you have learned during the semester. All will involve sound (or noise) in some form. You may team up for the final project provided that it's sufficiently complex to represent a semester's work for each team member and provided that we can clearly tell who did what. You will have four weeks to construct the final project. Final presentations will be open to the public. There are no written exams. We'll take some field trips. We'll show some films and play a lot of recordings.

Soundscapes Syllabus

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Soundscapes Idea Sheet

Large Hot Pipe Organ

Steam whistles and Large Hot Pipe Organ

Blast Finale


More Hydraulophone

Singing toilet flush valve

Underwater Violin

Vegetable Orchestra

Death of High Fidelity

Images of computers in popular music




Concerto for Washing Machines

Circuit Bending

Cacophony Society

Startup Sound

Lecture Musical

Library Musical

Food Court Musical

Theory: Bifurcations of a sonic nature

Many, many organ ideas, some good, some not

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Steve Reich: Clapping Music

Steve Reich: Clapping Music performed by jugglers

Steve Reich: Clapping Music performed by Evelyn Glennie

Steve Reich: Piano Phase (1967)

Steve Reich: Come Out (1966)

Hero of Alexandria's "Pneumatics" (10-70 a.d., see in particular 14 & 15)

Clara Rockmore plays "The Swan"

Thai Elephant Orchestra

Loading the Mellotron

Interior working view of Mellotron

Russolo Intonarumori (Noise Makers) Reconstruction

Ligeti Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes

Ellen Fullman and the Long String Instrument

More Long String Instrument showing use of lighting

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