Student work on this page is presented courtesy of the students and used with permission.

Music Technology Case Study

A written research paper (at least 2600 words, or about 10 double-spaced pages excluding citations and bibliography in a 12 point serif font with one inch margins) offering original and critical analysis of an artifact or system of music technology, including specific instruments, instrument manufacturers, industrial processes, performance practices, software systems, or new musical interfaces or networks. The paper must be based on substantial research, offer an original and unifying argument, and must, at least in part, employ approaches to investigating the aesthetic and cultural context and construction of the music technology.

The music technology must be critically examined. Opportunities for critical examination include the following: investigations into the cultural, political, economic, and aesthetic contexts that led to the development, success, and/or failure of a particular technology; histories of paths and networks of development, as well as comparisons to similar alternative and/or failed technologies; examinations of aesthetic and creative constraints and opportunities embedded in technologies, as shown through comparative design analysis and/or musical applications in composed or performed works.

Student Work

"From Physical Law to Artistic Expression: An Analysis of the Theremin" by anonymous MIT student (PDF)

"A Historical and Technical Analysis of the Guitar Pickup" by anonymous MIT student (PDF)

"The Fate of Auto-Tune" by Joe Diaz (PDF)

"From the Rhythmicon to the TR808: How electronic rhythm reached maturity" by anonymous MIT student (PDF)

"Duration in Composition" by Greg Perkins (PDF)

"From Kitsch to Kanye: The Meteoric Rise of the TR-808" by Jillian Reddy (PDF)

"What makes an iPhone Instrument Interface Successful?" by Andrew Sugaya (PDF)

Sonic System Project and Presentation

This project includes the creation of an original sonic system that functions as either an instrument with a performance interface or as a static or dynamic musical work. This project can be created with mechanical and/or acoustic tools, electrical circuits, creative extensions of conventional musical instruments and processors, or original software designs in any language or system. Students will present and demonstrate their system to the class and provide a written report describing their approach.

The project report is a written assignment (around 800 words, or about 3 double-spaced pages excluding citations and bibliography in a 12 point serif font with one inch margins) consisting of at least the following components.

  1. A discussion of personal, musical, and/or aesthetic motivations.
  2. An analysis of the system's main components, interface, and/or sound production techniques.
  3. Comparisons to related historical or contemporary music technologies.
  4. An evaluation of the aesthetic quality of the results and a description of how the system might be improved and expanded.

Students must also prepare and deliver a ten to fifteen minute aural presentation on their sonic system. The presentation should include main points from the project report. Additionally, students must demonstrate the sonic possibilities of the system, treated in isolation and/or in the context of other sound sources and/or music.

Student Work

"A Breath-Controlled Arduino Theremin: The Airemino" by anonymous MIT student (PDF)

"Sonic System Report: Mellotron PureData Patch" by Joe Diaz (PDF - 1.4MB)

"The XY Drum" by anonymous MIT student (PDF)

"Shaped Vocoder" by Greg Perkins (PDF)

"Turbo-Sonic Whopper" by Jillian Reddy (PDF)
Audio demo of the Turbo-Sonic Whopper
Internet Archive (MP3) (WAV - 5.77MB)
iTunesU (MP3)

"The ChordMaster" by Andrew Sugaya (PDF)