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MMEDIA 2G03 IntroductionToDigitalAudio

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Lewis Kaye


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Tuesday, 2:30-4:00PM Office: TSH 333

Course Objectives:


Introduction to techniques in sound recording and digital audio editing, focusing on uses of audio in Multimedia projects. Readings, presentations and discussions will support the creation and critique of digital audio.



The twentieth century witnessed a remarkable transformation in the conceptualization, production, and reception of music. The advent of electronic, and eventually digital, technologies empowered composers and performers to elaborate fundamentally new forms of creative output and expression. The diversity of musical forms has fundamentally transformed society's ideas of what music is, and how it should be listened to. This course will introduce students to this fertile terrain of creativity, and allow students an opportunity to explore technical, thematic, conceptual and aesthetic perspectives on electronic music through a series of hands-on composition and production exercises.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All assigned readings will be made available to students in electronic form through the course's Avenue To Learn page.

Method of Assessment:

Remix/Unwanted Noise composition                                  20%      DUE    Week 5

Soundscape composition                                                   20%                  Week 8

Movement, Densities and Ambiences composition            20%                  Week 12


Final Written Assignment                                                    25%                Week 11

Participation                                                                         15%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

All assignments are due AT THE BEGINNING of class, meaning students must come prepared to present their work at the commencement of class. Electronic copies of composition assignments are to be uploaded to the course's Avenue-To-Learn page. All written assignments are expected to be legible (e.g. in dark ink, on white paper, NOT printed out with empty toner cartridges, etc.), properly identified and correctly stapled. All formal assignments must make consistent use of an accepted citation format (preferably APA style). For information about how to do this, please see


There will be a penalty deduction of 2.5% per day (including weekends) for late assignments. To avoid extra late penalties, email a copy of the late assignment (or a link to where it's hosted online) to me when completed, and in the case of paper assignments bring a hard copy next class (if necessary). We will NOT be responsible for printing out copies of assignments for students, if your email file is corrupt or for your failure to attach the file. Failure to submit a paper copy after having submitted an email copy of any assignment will constitute failure to submit the assignment.


Deadline extensions will be granted only for a compelling reason and with authorized documentation. Such reasons include illness (documented with a Doctor's note) or family emergency. Extensions will NOT be granted for reasons such as computer crashes or breakdowns, inability to print the file on time, or other such technical problems. ALWAYS MAKE SURE TO BACKUP YOUR FILES AS YOU WORK!

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1, Jan. 10                      Course Introduction


Week 2, Jan. 17                      Computers and Audio: An Introduction

Eno, Brian (1979) "The Studio as Compositional Tool"

Hosken, Dan (2011) "Digital Audio Software: The Digital Audio Workstation", chap. 6 in An Introduction to Music Technology. New York: Routledge.

Matthews, Max (1963) "The Digital Computer as a Musical Instrument". Science. vol. 142, iss. 3592. pp. 553-557.

Nyman, Michael (1999) "Electronic Systems", chap. 5 in Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Early Computer Composers

Max Matthews

Lajeren Hiller


Digital Audio Workstation Platforms


Pro Tools

Logic X



Week 3, Jan. 24                      Noise as a Conceptual Question in Electronic Music

Cascone, Kim (2000) "The Aesthetics of Failure: 'Post-Digital" Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music". Computer Music Journal 24(4), pp.12-18.

Russolo, Luigi (1967 [1913]) The Art of Noise (futurist manifesto, 1913). R. Filliou (trans.). Great Bear Pamphlet #18. New York: Something Else Press.




Luigi Russolo


American Avant Garde

John Cage

Harry Partch


Microsound and Digital noise

Ryoji Ikeda

Kim Cascone

Alva Noto [Carsten Nicolai}


Week 4, Jan. 31                      Sampling and Remixing

Cutler, Chris (2000) "Plunderphonics". in Music, Electronic Media and Culture. S. Emmerson (ed.). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

Navas, Eduardo (2012) Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling. chapters 1 and 2, pp.11-61. Vienna: Springer.



Musique concrète

Pierre Schaefer

Pierre Henry



John Oswald


The Tape Beatles

Evolution Control Committee


Old-School Hip Hop

Grandmaster Flash

The Dust Brothers

The Bomb Squad


Week 5, Feb. 7                       Presentation of Unwanted Noise/Remix Compositions


Week 6, Feb. 14                     Field Recording & Soundscapes

Demers, Joanna (2010) "Site in Ambient, Soundscape, and Field Recordings". chap. 5 in Listening Through The Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fontana, Bill. (1990) “The Environment as a Musical Resource,” resource.html

Truax, Barry (2002) "Genres and techniques of soundscape composition as developed at Simon Fraser University". Organised Sound. 7(1), pp. 5-14.


Field Recording And Soundscape Composers

R. Murray Schaefer

Hildegard Westerkamp

Bill Fontana


Feb. 21                                                READING WEEK, NO CLASS

While there are no classes during Reading Week, I highly recommend you use the time to gather some field recordings that can be used in your Soundscape composition assignment.


Week 7, Feb. 28                     Space and Ambience

Eno, Brian (1978 & 1986) liner notes to Ambient 1: Music for Airports (AMB 001, Editions EG, 1978) and Ambient 4: On Land  (EGED20, Editions EG, 1982)

Kahn, Douglas (2013) chap. 13 "Pauline Oliveros: Sonosphere" in Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Oswalt, Philipp (2002) "Iannis Xenakis' Polytopes". Contemporary Music Review. 21(2/3). pp.35–44. T. Skorupa (trans.).



Architecture & Physical Space

Iannis Xenakis & Edgard Varese, The Philips Pavilion and "Poeme Electronique"

Alvin Lucier, especially his composition "I Am Sitting In A Room"

Bernhard Leitner


Ambient Music

Brian Eno

Chihei Hatakeyama

Pauline Oliveros


Week 8, Mar. 7                       Presentations of Soundscape compositions


Week 9, Mar. 14                     Synthetic Sound

video, "I Dream of Wires" dir. Robert Fantinato (Scribble Media, 2013)





Ondes Martinot


Instrument Designers and Composers

Robert Moog, and Wendy Carlos

Donald Buchla, and Morton Subotnick

Hugh LeCaine, and Hugh LeCaine


Synthetic Sound in Popular Music & Media

Tangerine Dream


Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills and Detroit Techno


Week 10, Mar. 21                   Performing Electronic Music 

Grossmann, Rolf (2008) "The tip of the iceberg: laptop music and the information-technological transformation of music". Organised Sound. 13(1), pp. 5-11.

Ostertag, Bob (2002) "Human Bodies, Computer Music". Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 12, pp. 11-14.

Truax, Barry (1999) "Composition and diffusion: space in sound in space". Organised Sound. 3(2), pp. 141-6.

video, "Digital Liveness: Philip Auslander (US) about digital liveness in historical, philosophical perspective". Transmediale Festival, Berlin (2011)


Laptop performance



Multichannel Performance

Barry Truax

ZKM Institue for Music and Acoustics: Sounddome and Zirkonium  Control Software


Turntablism and DJing

Grandmaster Flash

DJ Q Bert & Invisibl Skratch Picklz

Otomo Yoshihide, "The Multiple Otomo Project"


Week 11, Mar. 28                   Making Sound for Film, Video, Multimedia & Gaming

Chion, Michel (1994) chap. 1 "Projections of Sound On Image" in Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. New York: Columbia University Press.

Collins, Karen (2008) "Press Reset: Video Game Music Comes Of Age", chap.4 in Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.



Film & TV Sound

Walter Murch

Ben Burtt

Randy Thom

Delia Derbyshire


Video Games

Koji Kondo

Junichi Masuda


Week 12, Apr. 4                      Presentation of Movement, Densities and Ambiences





Week 2           DAW familiarization

Week 3           DAW familiarization pt. 2: parameter automation

Week 4           Sampling and sample manipulation

Week 5           Noise/Remix composition consultations

Week 6           Digital field recording techniques

Week 7           Reverb, echo and spatial effects

Week 8           Soundscape composition consultations

Week 9           Digital synthesis

Week 10         Realtime parameter manipulation

Week 11         Working with multimedia

Week 12         Movement, Densities and Ambiences composition consultations