21M.380 | Spring 2016 | Undergraduate

Music and Technology: Sound Design

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21M.380 Music and Technology: Sound Design as it was taught by Dr. Florian Hollerweger in Spring 2016.

In this course, students learned how to build sounds and sound effects from scratch, using the open-source graphical programming environment Pure Data (Pd). They also learned how to analyze and synthesize sounds and encapsulate them in dynamic sound objects that can be embedded into computer games animations, movies, virtual environments, sound installations, and theater productions. Their work was guided by Andy Farnell’s book Designing Sound.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Reflect upon and analyze everyday sonic experiences and articulate them to others.
  2. Design and implement computer music applications using essential sound synthesis and programming techniques.
  3. Identify suitable synthesis techniques to develop a design strategy for a specific sound design problem.

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

This course prepares students for projects and further study in games, film/video, theater, music, and other fields that employ sound.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied

  • GIR
  • HASS


21M.380 Music and Technology is offered every fall and spring semester, with topics that vary each term. The Sound Design topic has been taught each spring for the past few years, alternating with a fall course focused on recording techniques and audio production.

Instructor Insights

"Our process is similar to the work of visual artists, who have always tried to recreate and represent the world around them using various media and tools. Painters use brushes. Sculptors use hammers. We use a programming language."
— Florian Hollerweger

Below, Dr. Florian Hollerweger describes various aspects of how he teaches 21M.380 Music and Technology: Sound Design.


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 5% Written responses to readings
  • 20% Two quizzes
  • 40% Sound Design exercises and Pure Data assignments
  • 10% Written assignment & Recording/Editing assignment
  • 25% Final project in four parts (FP1-FP4)

Instructor Insights on Assessment

Read Dr. Florian Hollerweger’s insights about assessing student learning.

Student Information


16 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly undergraduates

Breakdown by Major

Students tend to come from a variety of majors, with a significant number from computer science and engineering.

Typical Student Background

Students typically have an interest in the intersection of sound and technology, and the uses of sound in creating environments.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 25 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • Class sessions included brief lectures, group work, discussions, and hands-on sound design experiences.

Out of Class

  • Written assignments
  • Preparation for quizzes
  • Sound Design exercises
  • Pure Data assignments
  • Recording/editing assignment
  • Final project
  • Consultation with instructor during office hours

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2016
Learning Resource Types
Exams with Solutions
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples
Instructor Insights
Demonstration Audio