Introduction to Computer Music and Digital Audio: Instructor: Robert Esler email



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Introduction to Computer Music and Digital Audio:
Instructor: Robert Esler

email: resler@ucsd.edu

Meeting time: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:00pm

Office time: Wednesday 5-6:30pm

Website: http://www.robertesler.com/computer

Location: Mandeville, rm. b206 (located in the basement of the music building)

Materials: Laptop Computer, MIDI keyboard (optional), lab access is possible for non-laptop owners but is not free.


Class Description:

If you own a computer, then you own a musical instrument. Making music with a computer is easy. This is a class for beginners to world of computers and audio. During the quarter we will learn several concepts, techniques and aesthetics such as: digital audio and MIDI concepts, recording techniques, audio editing, audio effects processing, mixing, sound design, and composing music. Students will use free cross-platform software packages such as: Audacity, VST, Pure Data, Soundhack and others. During the course students will complete short exercises both in class and at home that will accumulate towards the final project. Classes are lab settings, computer access may be provided, laptops are encouraged. A MIDI keyboard is optional but recommended.

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Grading Percentages:

10% - attendance

60% - assignments

30% - final project
Grade Scale:

A+=100-97 A=96-93 A-=92-90

B+=89-87 B=86-83 B-=82-80

C+=79-77 C=76-73 C-=72=70

D+=69-67 D=66-63 D-=62-60

F=59-0
Assignments: The class will consist of six guided assignments. Each assignment is worth 10% of your grade. Together the skills and techniques learned will exemplify the many different areas of audio production, composition, and design. You are highly encouraged to be creative and imaginative.
Audio Software:

Audacity - wave editor, digital effects processor (audacity.sourceforge.net)

Pure Data - audio synthesis programming language and application (crca.ucsd.edu/~msp/software.html)

Soundhack - Digital Signal Processing (soundhack.com/freeware.php)

FL Studio - audio/midi sequencer and synthesizer (flstudio.com)

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Class 1: Digital Audio

Audio concepts, and techniques

Introduction to Audacity

Audio editing basics

assignment: download Audacity, wave editing practice
Class 2: Digital Audio II, aesthetics

Musical Examples: Schaeffer, Henry, Cage, Aphex Twin, and the Beatles

Recording Basics

Digital Signal Processing Basics

Assignment: create a two minute collage using samples provided and other found samples
Class 3: Computer Music

Musical Examples: The Who, Charles Dodge, John Chowning and others

MIDI concepts and techniques

Synthesis Basics

Introduction to Pure Data

Assignment: download Pure Data, create a two minute piece using the provided synthesis generator


Class 4: Computer Music II, Digital Signal Processing

Musical Examples: John Oswald, Dennis Smalley, Trevor Wishart, Aphex Twin, and others

DSP basics

Introduction to Audacity effects and Soundhack

Assignment: Using both Audacity and Soundhack, create a two minute piece that uses six or more DSP effects.
Class 5: Sequencing

Musical Examples: Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Bjork, and others

Loops and MIDI sequencing

Sampler concepts

Software: Garage Band for Mac users, FL Studio 6 demo for PC

Assignment: Create a two minute drum n' bass track, you can use all the other techniques learned thus far to enhance your song.


Class 6: Sound Design and Mixing

Examples: Star Wars, Matrix, Lord of the Rings

Aesthetics and concepts of sound design for video, and the basic concepts behind mixing audio

Assignment: Create a collage of sounds for three fictional fantasy characters.


Class 7: Computers and Interactivity

Examples: Manoury, Scanner, Pleasurehorse, etc.

Concepts, and software applications of real-time processing.

Assignment: None, focus on final project.


Class 8: Final Discussion, Review, and Presentation of Projects
Uploading assignments:

Everyone enrolled in this class has been set-up with ftp access to a folder on www.robertesler.com. You need to upload all files to this folder, please name the files assignment1a.mp3, assignment1b.mp3, etc. Make sure your files are in mp3 format, this will save significant space. Each of you have 10MB, which is very small. Always keep a backup of your assignments. Also, make sure you do not upload viruses (this should be common sense.)


Using the command line ftp use the following prompts:

  1. ftp www.robertesler.com

  2. type username (last name all lowercase, if last name is less than 3 characters use 1st letter of first name + last name. If last name is greater than 8 characters, use the first 8 letters of your last name.)

  3. type password (music07)

  4. type binary, this will make sure you convert the file properly

  5. put ~/Desktop/computermusic/assignment1a.mp3 (example of file name and path)

  6. ls (this will show you the files in this folder, check to make sure your file was uploaded)

  7. bye (this closes the connection.)

  8. To retrieve an assignment (perhaps you need it for some reason), type: get assignment1a.mp3 – this will place the file in whatever directory your working in (i.e pwd)

  9. If you need help type: help – or look online for a manual.

Using another ftp client software:



  1. set www.robertesler.com as your host

  2. user name is your last name all lowercase

  3. password: music07

  4. click and drag all files from your hard drive to the folder on the server. This should give you a progress report as well




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