1. Silent Day

Choose one day (24 hours) between now and the next class. During this time, you should not intentionally initiate any sound producing event that involves music in some way. This means, no iPods, no CDs, no iTunes, no TV, no video games, etc. Please set your cell phone ringers to something generic. In other words, do not initiate passive music consumption.

At the end of the 24 hour period please write the following:

  • How this change affected your life? (1 page)
  • Observe the sounds around you. Observe how our sonic landscape is shaped. Is it possible to escape music in our contemporary environment? (1 page)
  • Feel free to address anything else that came up as you did this assignment.

After completing this, you're free to resume your normal music listening habits.

2. Soundwalk

Write a soundwalk. A soundwalk is a set of instructions that tells someone where to go, what to listen for, and possibly what to do.

Example: Location-specific

Go to MIT room x-xxx and listen to the ventilation. Then, go to the hallway outside room x-xxx and listen to the acid waste pipe over your head. Etc.

Example: Context-based

Go to one end of MIT's Infinite Corridor hallway and listen for the sound that is farthest away from where you are standing. Go to that sound and listen for the sound that is farthest away from where you are standing. Repeat until ???.

Example: Action-based

Go to the MIT Stata Center and listen to the sounds made by tapping on the bricks in the outside amphitheater, etc.

Your soundwalk should create a 30-minute experience for the person following your instructions. The 30 minutes should include the time it takes to get to the starting point from our classroom, and the time it takes to return to our class after the soundwalk is done.

We will randomly exchange these and perform the walks.

3. Graphical Representation of Sounds

Find three sounds. One sound should be easy for you to reproduce (drop a pencil, shuffle your feet, exhale loudly, etc.); one sound should be from your environment; and one sound should be a short excerpt from a piece of music of your choice.

Graphically represent these sounds. Do not use any words.

When you bring them to class, put the label on the back of the page. We will try to guess the sounds based upon your representation.

Think about how to represent some of the following parameters: duration, envelope (attack, sustain, decay), dynamics (softness/loudness), frequency (high/low), timbre (quality of the sound), layers (how many different things are happening at once).

Neatness counts. If it looks like you sketched these out in the 30 minutes before class, you will be graded accordingly. The goal is to represent a sound in some graphic/pictorial fashion so that someone who does not know the sound can have some idea of what it might sound like.

4. Graphic Notation Composition

Two people in your group will be the composers (the two whose last names come first in the alphabet). The other three will be the performers. Composer 1 will write a piece for 1 performer. Composer 2 will write a piece for 2 performers.

Composers: Write a piece approximately 2-3 minutes long using some sort of graphic notation of your creation. You can write for voice, the body, percussion, any instruments your performer might play, or the piano. If you write for the piano, you may not use the keyboard. In general, avoid thinking about pitch or melody.

Your notation must be legibly and intelligible. There will need to be instructions or a key explaining your notation. You will receive a grade as a composer/performer team. In other words, I expect the composers and performers to collaborate on their projects. You should make sure you spend enough time rehearsing the piece to give a convincing performance.

5. Text Sound Composition

If you were a performer for the graphic sound composition assignment (and did not compose a piece), you need to do this assignment.

Using the Schwitters "Ursonate" as a model and the other pieces you listened to for voice, compose a piece for one or two voices, 2-3 minutes long. You may use any sounds that the voice can make (phonemes, syllables, words, noises). You can incorporate some sort of graphic notation if necessary.

Make sure that your score is neatly presented, with clear indications of timing, dynamics, synchronization if more than one performer, and performance instructions. Think about affect and the way in which sound can be produced with the voice.

Pieces are due to be turned in Lec #11. We will perform the pieces in class on Lec #11 and Lec #12.

6. Manipulating Sounds

Download SPEAR, a free program for MacOS and Windows. (SPEAR = Sinusoidal Partial Editing Analysis and Resynthesis)

Download the accompanying sound files (ZIP) (This Zip file contains: 10 .aif files.)

Choose one sound file that you like. Make 10 different altered versions of the file. Five of those versions should use only two steps to manipulate the file. The other 5 can be manipulated as much as you want. For all 10, please write down what steps you took to produce the altered file.

7. Audacity Project 1

Create a piece in Audacity. Use your sounds from your last assignment. You should also create another batch of sounds in SPEAR based on a different starting sound file. The piece your create should focus on the interplay between the two sets of sounds. 2 minutes or so in length.

Following the reviews by fellow students, please submit a revision of this project.

8. Audacity Project 1 Review

Write a one-page review of one of a fellow student's piece for Audacity Project 1. Comment on the person whose name appears after yours in our class list, alphabetically. Describe what you hear, what you like, what you don't like. Be kind, but be constructive. You are not grading your classmate. You are demonstrating your critical listening facility.

9. Audacity Project 2

Create a piece in Audacity with SPEAR using ritornello form. Use the 1st movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto 5 as a model.

Wikipedia definition of ritornello

Suggested recording: Buy at Amazon Bach, J. S. Bach: Six Concertos for the Margrave of Brandenburg. Trevor Pinnock, European Brandenburg Ensemble. Avie, 2007.

Schematic of the ritornello form of Concerto No. 5, 1st movement. (Listening chart 4 accompanying Kerman, Joseph. Listen. 3rd Brief Edition. Worth Publishers, 1995)

You can use any sound sources that you like. However, the sounds cannot appear unmodified. There should be a main "theme" or "refrain" which is a thicker texture. There should be a contrasting "solo" texture. You should alternate refrain and solo a total of either 5 or 7 times, ending with the theme. Restatements of the theme should be shorter than the initial presentation at the beginning of the piece. The last solo section should contrast with the whole piece in a similar way that the harpsichord solo in the Bach breaks the form.

Two minutes or so is long enough.

10. Rhythm Homework

See Buy at Amazon "Meter and Rhythm." Chapter 7 in Techniques and Materials of Music, 7th ed. Edited by Thomas Benjamin, Michael Horvit and Robert Nelson. New York, NY: Thompson/Schirmer, 2008. ISBN: 9780495189770. pp. 19-30.

Complete pp. 26 and 27 (Exercises 1 and 2) in this chapter.

Download the 30-day trial version of Sibelius First. Try to do Exercise 3 (p. 28) in Sibelius, and bring the printout to class.

11. Rhythmic Piece

Write a piece that is 16 measures long, for two rhythmic parts. The two parts will combine together to make a composite rhythm. Each part should be notated on a different staff. Use either Finale or Sibelius.

Final Project

You have a choice of final projects:

  1. Compose a text-sound piece for 1-3 performers. Use the rhythmic notation we have learned. 2-3 minutes long.
  2. Compose and produce a piece using SPEAR/Audacity. You are free to use any sounds you would like, any form you would like. 2-3 minutes long. It should be in stereo, without any clicks or clipping.

On Lec #21 let me know which project you would like to do. We will create groups in class that day. Even if you choose the Audacity project, you may be called upon to perform.

On Lec #24 and Lect #25 we will workshop/play your pieces in class. If you choose the SPEAR/Audacity final project, please upload it by Lec #24. Based upon what we discuss in class, you will revise your piece for the final performance on Lec #26.