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Electroacoustic Composition Programs

musictechdadmusictechdad Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
edited July 2012 in Music Major
My rising junior son is very interested in electroacoustic, electronic, and computer composition. He is into music technology but doesn't want to do recording engineering. He definitely wants to stay on the composition/creative side of technology. He loves vintage analog synths but also programming (puredata, max/msp). He likes playing with alternative interfaces and physical computing devices like iPhones, Kinect, Arduino. He is interested in 21st century composition, electronic music but not commercial dance music (no hip hop, dance, DJ stuff but he does like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Aphex Twin). He has strong academics so far (4.0 GPA, 30 ACT). Bass is his primary instrument but he also plays piano and guitar. He will probably audition on Double Bass.

This summer he attended Oberlin's SonicArts and Composition camps and is currently at UMich mPulse PAT camp. On paper, UMich PAT sounded perfect but he finds PAT too recording/engineering focused (at least the camp) but liked Oberlin's Timara.

On websites it is often difficult to determine the real focus of a program. The options seem to be:
*A technology/composition program like Timara
*A composition program that embraces technology
*Dual major

But it seems like the personality of the program is more important than anything. He wants to study composition but in an environment that embraces technology, embraces experimentation, and embraces 20th and 21st century composition.

Any suggestions for programs we should check out?
Post edited by musictechdad on
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Replies to: Electroacoustic Composition Programs

  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    Check out UC Berkeley, Stanford, and CalArts on the West Coast. I'm not sure of the access as an undergrad to the electronic composition programs at Stanford and Berkeley - but they're world class for grad students. Also look at UC San Diego.

    He might also look into the electronic music department at Bard College (not the conservatory.) Richard Teitelbaum is a professor there. Pauline Oliveros teaches at Rensselaer. I've heard Brown is heavily into electronic music as well.
  • kmcmom13kmcmom13 Registered User Posts: 3,915 Senior Member
    Musictechdad, I know we've talked a bit before about PAT. I should let you know that there was a change of department heads 2 years ago when the program founder retired whereby my sense is that the "flavor" of the overall program reflects a little more of the engineering competency of the new dept head, who is an awesome person, but is perhaps less electro-acoustically inclined than his predecessor, who had a stint at Stanford's Computer Music program, etc. in her repertoire;).

    My son is very oriented toward the composition/creative side of tech and feels he gets everything he needs from Curriculum B, (as opposed to A perf or D Eng).

    So your son may wish to visit the actual departments and shadow some of the students who are NOT in the ENG stream and sit in on some of the e/a and computer comp classes. If he goes back for a visit during the school year, I'm certain my son could assist him, so do let me know.

    In terms of other E/A oriented comp/tech programs, I believe Spirit Manager's son may have similar leanings, if I recall, and I believe is very happy in his program -- might be worth contacting SM by PM for info.

    Also, the Society of ElectroAcoustic Music might be a good way (by checking out members in school departments) to find suitable comp profs/programs that are a little tech/e/a oriented. Here's their website: Seamus Online About SEAMUS
  • kmcmom13kmcmom13 Registered User Posts: 3,915 Senior Member
    ^Cross-posted with Spirit Manager ;)
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    Actually, my son is not studying electro-acoustic music, but Compmom's daughter is at Harvard! However, having been involved in the New Music scene in the Bay Area for many decades I know lots of composers/improvisers/performers who are deeply involved with the electro-acoustic music scene on the West Coast. It does seem to be oriented towards grad school studies, however.
  • musictechdadmusictechdad Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    Thank you SpiritManager and Kmcmom13. Very helpful (as always). It seems like undergraduate programs that are heavier into E/A lean towards BA instead of BM. Do you think the BA vs BM divide is less of an issue for undergrad Composition students?

    He has had his eye on Bard since he was a freshman. It seems like his kind of place. But he has always thought about the Conservatory. I don't know that he has every really considered the music department option.

    Other places he has expressed interest in (that haven't been mentioned yet) are Sarah Lawrence, Mills College, Cornish, and Oregon.
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    Bard College would be a much better place for him as a composer than the conservatory. The basic opportunities are the same for composers in both programs - but in the college there is the opportunity to specialize in electronic and experimental music. About the Music Program at Bard

    I just checked out some of the fall course offerings which I thought would give you the flavor of the department http://inside.bard.edu/academic/courses/current/:

    MUS 320 Musical Electronics: Analog Synthesis & Processing/ Robert Bielecki

    This course concentrates on the creative use of electronic circuitry and the construction of devices for musical applications. Students will develop an understanding of how basic electronic components are used in audio circuits and how to read schematic diagrams. We’ll discuss topics such as Voltage Control, Synthesis, Filtering, Waveshaping, Phase Shifting, Ring Modulation, Theremins, Circuit Bending, etc. We’ll work from existing designs and also create new devices as we hone our skills of soldering, point-to-point wiring and layout. Familiarity with basic electronics and the use of hand tools is helpful but not a prerequisite for this class.

    MUS 304 Arithmetic of Listening /Kyle Gann

    This course is an introduction to the overtone series and the history of tuning. Learn how tuning shapes the course of a culture’s music; trace the parallel development of music and the number series back 2500 years to the teachings of Pythagoras. Hear how Bach's and Beethoven’s music sounded in its original tunings. Learn how to discriminate the pitch subtleties that differentiate Indian music, Balinese music, and even the blues from our conventional European tuning, and discover how American composers like Harry Partch, Ben Johnston, and La Monte Young have created a new tonal universe from the “in-between” pitches. Most importantly, sensitize yourself to aspects of listening that we 21st century Westerners have been trained to filter out. Final project in this class may take the form of a tuning-based analysis of either European (pre-20th century) or world music; design and/or construction of a musical instrument; or a performance of original work involving alternate tunings. Basic ability to read music is strongly recommended for this course, though it may be compensated for by a background in mathematics or acoustics

    MUS 217 Voice, Body, Machine:

    Women Artists and the Evolution of the Composer-Performer /Marina Rosenfeld

    This class explores the works and legacy of a diverse group of artists, mostly female, whose hybrid, often interdisciplinary practices challenged conventional ideas of embodiment, performance, expression and technology, and redefined the fields of experimental and electronic music during the last half-century. Course work includes critical writing as well as creative compositional and/or performance work. Artists considered include Pauline Oliveros, Yoko Ono, Joan La Barbara, Alison Knowles, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Diamanda Galas, Laetitia Sonami, Pamela Z. Terre Thaemlitz, Slits, Kembra Pfahler, Kaffe Matthews, Fe-Matt, Sachiko M, and others

    MUS 363 John Cage and His World
    Richard Teitelbaum

    Cross-listed: Science, Technology & Society Long reviled as a charlatan or a madman, John Cage, born 100 years ago this year, has finally achieved recognition as probably the most influential composer and musical thinker of the mid-latter twentieth century. The course will focus primarily on analysis of Cage’s music, encompassing such innovations as the prepared piano, chance, and indeterminacy. It will be set in the context of the work and thought of his numerous teachers and influences, as well as colleagues and collaborators from the worlds of music (Satie, Schoenberg, Varese, Cowell, Harrison, Feldman, Brown, Wolff, Tudor), visual arts (Duchamp, Futurism, Dada Fluxus, Rauschenberg, Johns), dance (Cunningham and others) religious thought (Meister Eckhard, Hinduism, Taoism, the I Ching, Zen Buddhism) literature, political and social writing (Thoreau, Joyce, Fuller, McLuhan). Student work may take the form of papers, analyses, realizations and performances of Cage scores, or creation of new works inspired by Cagean examples. Texts will include Silence, A Year from Monday, and other writings by and about Cage

    MUS WKSPX Music Software for Composition and Performance
    Miguel Frasconi

    4 credits This class will explore popular software used in music today. The main focus will be on Ableton Live, both as a composing/performing tool and as a host for software instruments and audio plugins. Programs such as Kontakt, Absynth, Reason, and Reaktor will also be explored as well as the use of hardware controllers and smart-phone devices. Through weekly assignments, students will learn how to integrate audio processing with acoustic instruments, use audio clips and re-sampling in an interactive environment, and mix finished compositions. Creative use of these techniques will be encouraged and the student's own work shared through weekly listening sessions and a final concert. Students should have their own copy of Ableton Live (Intro or full version) or arrange regular access to the department's computers.
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    Mills College is a graduate program only - undergrad is only for women.
  • musictechdadmusictechdad Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    SpiritManager thanks again. You are right about those classes at Bard. He would be in heaven :) I forgot about Mills undergrad being for women. Some of the staff at his Oberlin camp graduated from Mills and he had mentioned that as a place he was interested in. It will have to wait until grad school, I guess.
  • musicmom3000musicmom3000 Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Arthur Kreiger (a fantastic electro-acoustic composer) teaches composition and electro-acoustic music courses at Connecticut College, so if your son is interested in a BA program, he might want to take a look at that.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,860 Senior Member
    Well, my first suggestion was going to be Oberlin's TIMARA!

    Brown has a BA in music with 3 strands:theory/history/ composition, ethnomusicology and technology/multimedia, and might be a good fit. Students do one of these tracks after completing a traditional music curriculum, probably after two years (I'm guessing).
    Brown University Department of Music The head of the Brown composition department strongly counseled my daughter to do a BA, not a BM. He was so opinionated though that she did not apply! (That's a personality thing, and he was probably right in her case.)


    New England Conservatory's BM in Composition includes electroacoustic composition:
    ecmusic.edu/faculty/john-mallia?lid=2&sid=3 Look at any conservatory, and I imagine you will find some electroacoustic classes, even Juilliard:
    Juilliard Music Technology Center Presents Festival of Electro-Acoustic and Multimedia Art

    Harvard has HUSEAC, directed by Hans Tutschku: HUSEAC

    Now, my daughter claims to wreck computers when she walks in the room. She writes music by hand on big old manuscript paper. She spent the first three years at Harvard doing the theory, history, score analysis, and composition classes that she had originally expected to take. Along with classes on modernism, contemporary art, European history and other classes that interested her.

    In fall of Junior year, she took electroacoustic composition, an act of courage in her case.She is deeply involved with and loves 20th-21st century music, and wanted to give it a try.Hans Tutshku told her that it was musical ideas that mattered, not technological expertise (and there was help around, all the time, in the lab). She loved it! The small class composed pieces based on paintings in the Harvard art museum, and the concert was also held in the museum, with the paintings projected. She is actually doing more work independently, bringing sheets of meta, string, balll and buckets etc. in with her.

    I think that most conservatories and college music departments these days will have some element of electroacoustic composition. Everywhere from state universities to LAC's to Ivies to freestanding conservatories.... But I would guess that most will also have a rigorous traditional music curriculum of theory, history, ethnomusicology, and so on. Some may have performance w/instrument for composers as a requirement, others won't.

    My daughter kept her options open and applied to both BM and BA programs and chose at the very last moment. You can read a good piece about double degrees/majors and BA versus BM at the Peabody admissions site: Peabody Institute - Conservatory Admissions: The Double Degree Dilemma

    It is good to think about how your son's pieces will get played, wherever he chooses. At Harvard, my daughter and another student had to make their own "composers collective" and then seek funding for musicians. Spirit Manager's son and friends have their own orchestra, though Bard also provides musicians.

    To sum up, after rambling a bit here, finding a program that focuses exclusively on electroacoustic music or music and technology may be hard. Others who come on here may have suggestions. In our experience a few years ago, as I have said, electroacoustic composition was offered almost everywhere- college or conservatory - as part of a comprehensive general music program for undergrads. TIMARA came closest to what you seem to be looking for, for a kid who wants to stay on the creative end but do a lot of electronic/computer work. And you will find graduate programs in electroacoustic work (NYU, USC Thornton, Harvard, many conservatories).

    ps Just noticed your son is looking at Sarah Lawrence. I would add Bennington and maybe Hampshire to the list. (Full disclosure: one of my other kids is at Bennington) And, of course, Bard...

    pps Here is the site for USC Thornton music/tech., but not sure if it is grad or undergrad: http://www.usc.edu/dept/publications/cat2011/schools/music/courses/muea.html
  • musictechdadmusictechdad Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    Compmom and Musicmom3000 thank you.
  • kmcmom13kmcmom13 Registered User Posts: 3,915 Senior Member
    Lol, sorry, spirit manager and comp mom, I seem to have morphed/cross-pollinated your interests and children ;) Spirit manager, I knew you were somehow quite familiar with ea music and assumed if your son was fooling around with max/msp that he had ea leanings, but of course, as comp mom points out, tech leanings and ea leanings are not necessarily one in the same ;)

    Also, I didnt know that Pauline Oliveros was at RPI - for some reason I associated her with Mills College. That might be an interesting place to check into (it's also where the former PAT head is now a dean...)
  • kmcmom13kmcmom13 Registered User Posts: 3,915 Senior Member
    Btw, musictechdad, there was a poster here a few years ago who matriculated to Mills for her masters.I believe her partner also matriculated, and recalled that he had studied undergrad at Stetson in Florida (she had sent me a link of his music at the time; my son was going to visit Mills for future masters program investigation.) I don't see her post much, but I'll see if I can pm her for additional undergrad suggestions if I can dig up the message.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,860 Senior Member
    So musictechdad, does your son want a program that is focused on electroacoustic music? Would he be open to either a conservatory composition major or a college BA in general music? As I said before, "ea" music is part of the curriculum or course offerings in most schools, so he could really go anywhere he can be admitted, for either a BM or BA.

    If, on the other hand, he wants a more focused program that concentrates heavily on "electroacoustic, electronic and computer music" at an undergrad level, there would be only a few places where he could go, and perhaps others can chime in.

    Overall, I think the background of a traditional "classical" music curriculum is very helpful though.

    Often, this kind of specialization happens at a grad level. Again, TIMARA and Brown's programs do offer this track for undergrads, and there must be other good programs. HUSEAC is mainly grads but undergrads can take courses there and also do independent work (such as a thesis).

    I think maybe your son could choose schools he wants to look at and then read the music dept. website carefully, even make some calls, to see how much he can work in those areas electronic/tech. in his 4 years there. There will be many choices, I would think.

    kmcmom, I don't think you mixed up our kids: I have never mentioned my daughter's "ea" class and from my other posts about her writing by hand, noone would have imagined that she would enjoy it as much as she did....Spirit Manager's son is, I am sure, much more adept at this kind of thing...
  • electricbassmomelectricbassmom Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    CCNY has a program that involved computers and music. I didn't pay much attention to it when my son was looking at that school, becasue computers aren't his thing, but it might be worth a look.
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