21M.380 | Spring 2016 | Undergraduate

Music and Technology: Sound Design

Readings and Assignments

This page lists the reading, homework and final project assignments for the course. Sample student work is included for some assignments and the final project.


Reading assignments detailed in the table below are drawn from the following sources.

Required Textbook

Buy at MIT Press Farnell, Andy. Designing Sound. MIT Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780262014410. (Book and accompanying Pd example files.)

  • Note: We will make extensive use of Andy Farnell’s Pd examples, which accompany the Designing Sound book and can be downloaded from the MIT Press website. Many of these Pd examples are referenced and linked within the course lecture notes; please see the Lecture Notes page for detailed download and installation instructions.

Chapters 1 and 9–14, which provide a practical introduction to Pd, are also available from the author’s website: Excerpt from Designing Sound (PDF). Please note that the chapter numbers in this Excerpt version differ from those in the MIT Press textbook, and that the latter will be used for all references in the reading assignments schedule and any other course materials.

Additional Required Readings

Anderson, Chris, et al. Film Sound Cliches: Film Sound Stereotypes and Common Logic Flaws.

Crawford, Chris. “The Computer as a Game Technology.” Chapter 4 in The Art of Computer Game Design: Reflections Of a Master Game Designer (PDF). Osborne / McGraw-Hill, 1984, pp. 35–44. ISBN: 9780881341171. (Electronic edition of a text originally published in 1982.)

Ament, Vanessa Theme. “What We Use for . . . Performing the Props.” Chapter 8 in The Foley Grail: The Art of Performing Sound for Film, Games, and Animation. 1st ed. Focal Press, 2009, pp. 89–101. ISBN: 9780240811253. [Preview with Google Books]

Mars, Roman. “99% Invisible—Episode 15: The Sound of the Artificial World.” Podcast, 2011. 4'54".

Westerkamp, Hildegard. “Soundwalking.” In Autumn Leaves. Sound and the Environment in Artistic Practice. Edited by Angus Carlyle. Double Entendre, 2007, pp. 49–54. ISBN: 9780954807436. (Also available in a slightly different online version from eContact!, an online journal for electroacoustic practices.)

Written Responses to Reading Assignments

A short written response assignment accompanies each reading assignment, as listed in the table below. Your responses need not be very extensive (a short paragraph is enough), but it should demonstrate that you have actually read the material. Try to be concise and pay attention to form, grammar, spelling, etc. To support a good discussion, I plan to make your written responses to all readings viewable for all students in this class. (If that thought troubles you, please let me know before you submit your first response.)

Assignments Key

ED = Recording and Editing Assignment

EX = Sound Design Exercise

FP = Final Project

PD = Pure Data (Pd) Assignment

RD = Reading Assignment with brief written response

WR = Written Assignment

Assignments are listed by class sessions at which they are due; for the sessions at which each assignment is given out, see the calendar table on the Syllabus page.

Sample student work is from both the 2015 and 2016 versions of the class, courtesy of MIT students, and used with permission.

1 Why and how to design sound?    
2 The sound design process RD1: Sound design clichés and the computer as a tool (PDF)  
3 Everyday sound objects

EX1: Everyday sound object (PDF)

RD2: The art of foley and product sound design (PDF)

Compiled EX1 samples (PDF)
4 Introduction to Pure Data (Pd) RD3: Starting with Pure Data (Pd) (PDF)  
5 Physics of sound RD4: Physics of sound (PDF)  
6 Pd programming concepts PD1: Sequencer (PDF)  
7 Perception of sound RD5: Perception of sound and Soundwalking (PDF)  
8 Soundwalk PD2: Abstractions (PDF)  
9 Shaping sound with Pd WR: Soundwalk reflection (PDF)

WR Sample 1 (PDF)

WR Sample 2 (PDF)

WR Sample 3 (PDF)

10 Digital audio theory RD6: Digital audio (PDF)  
11 Sound recording and editing techniques PD3: Channel strip abstraction (ZIP) (This zip files contains: 2 .pd file and 1 .pdf file.)  
12 Quiz 1; review, preview    
13 Analysis and requirements specification ED: Radio play scene (PDF) Sample radio play (WAV - 8.2MB) (Courtesy of MIT students and MIT President Rafael Reif.)
14 Additive synthesis RD7: Additive synthesis (PDF)  
15 Research and model making EX2: Steam train whistle (PDF)  
16 Waveshaping and wavetable synthesis RD8: Waveshaping and wavetable synthesis (PDF)  
17 Final project: student presentations on FP1 FP1: Requirements specification document (PDF)

Laser sailboat soundscape: FP1 (PDF)

Electric motor: FP1 (ZIP - 1.1MB) (This zip file contains: 1 .mp3 file and 1 .pdf file.)

5-way pickup selector switch: FP1 (ZIP - 2.4MB) (This zip file contains: 1 .mov file and 1 .pdf file.)

Popcorn in a microwave oven: FP1 (ZIP - 2.6MB) (This zip file contains: 1 .wav file and 1 .pdf file.)

Rolling dice: FP1 (ZIP - 1.9MB) (This zip file contains: 1 .wav file and 1 .pdf file.)

18 Modulation synthesis (AM and FM) RD9: AM and FM synthesis (PDF)  
19 Method selection and implementation FP2: Research and Model (PDF)

Laser sailboat soundscape: FP2 (PDF)

Electric motor: FP2 (ZIP - 1.7MB) (This zip file contains: 1 .mp3 file and 1 .pdf file.)

5-way pickup selector switch: FP2 (PDF)

Popcorn in a microwave oven: FP2 (PDF)

Rolling dice: FP2 (PDF)

20 Steam train drive-by EX3: Steam train drive-by (ZIP) (The zip file contains: 12 .pd files and 1 .pdf file)  
21 Granular synthesis RD10: Granular synthesis (PDF)  
22 Final project: student presentations on FP3 FP3: Method selection and implementation (PDF)

Laser sailboat soundscape: FP3 (ZIP) (This zip file contains: 5 .pd files.)

Electric motor: FP3 (ZIP - 1.7MB) (This zip file contains: 6 .pd files.)

5-way pickup selector switch: FP3 (ZIP) (This zip file contains: 2 .pd files.)

Popcorn in a microwave oven: FP3 (ZIP) (This zip file contains: 6 .pd files.)

Rolling dice: FP3 (ZIP) (This zip file contains: 10 .pd files.)

23 Quiz 2; student presentations    
24 Thunder    
25 Music synthesizers    
26 Final project presentations FP4: Final submission, presentation, and documentation (PDF)

Laser sailboat soundscape: FP4 (ZIP) (This zip file contains: 14 .pd files, 1 .aup file, 1 .mp3 file, and 1 .pdf file.)

Electric motor: FP4 (ZIP - 1.6MB) (This zip file contains: 13 .pd files, 1 .mp3 file, and 1 .pdf file.)

5-way pickup selector switch: FP4 (ZIP - 4.4MB) (This zip file contains: 3 .pd file, 1 .wav file, 1 .mov file, and 1 .pdf file.)

Quadcopter: FP4 (ZIP - 5.0MB) (This zip file contains: 11 .pd files, 1 .wav file and 1 .pdf file.) [Note: This project uses Pd-extended]

Popcorn in a microwave oven: FP4 (ZIP - 2.6MB) (This zip file contains: 11 .pd files, 1 .wav file, and 1 .pdf file.)

Rolling dice: FP4 (ZIP - 1.9MB) (This zip file contains: 10 .pd files, 1 .wav file, and 1 .pdf file.)

Course Info

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