AME students showcase Interactive Music Programming projects

December 22, 2014

thomas and cuerdo
Samuel Thomas, at the MIDI, and Marjorie Cuerdo, at the laptop with joystick, complete their performance of Cuerdo’s “City,” a compilation of street sounds that depict fast-paced city life. They performed during a showcase of projects from the Interactive Music Programming class.

As the first snowflakes of a winter storm swirled against the windows of Rettner Hall, Molly Nemer’s “Winterchill” seemed especially appropriate.

Weaving violin, flute, and ambient wind sounds created from ChucK audio programming language, with her own narration from The Kalevala, Finland’s epic poem, Nemer offered an eery, ominous depiction of winter that was both musical and theatrical. She and classmate Alexis Montes performed it with a laptop, wiimote and cellphone.

“Jack Frost, Windblast’s son, icy son of Winter,
do not freeze my fingernails, do not demand my toes . . .”

This was one of the projects showcased at an end-of-semester presentation by students in an audio and music engineering class entitled Interactive Music Programming. The class, offered for the first time this fall,  is part of a  new major that draws on the expertise of Eastman and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty -- including Grammy- and  NY Emmy-award winning musicians and studio engineers – to train students in the audio, music and sonic arts.

In the class, Visiting Assistant Professor Ming-lun Lee and master’s student David Heid help students explore digital audio synthesis and real-time interactive technologies with two audio programming languages, ChucK and Pure Data, and learn to manipulate sound with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controllers, laptops, mobile devices, joysticks, mice, and Wiimotes. 

This interdisciplinary course does not require any programming experience, and attracted students from other majors as well.

Nemer, for example, is a sophomore in digital media studies who is also pursuing a major in film and media studies. She said the interactive music programming class enabled her to take her “first stab at not only designing and coding my own music, but composing it as well.”  These are skills she anticipates using throughout her career, she said.

Montes is a public health major who will begin a teaching job next year with Teach for America, the program that places recent college graduates in under-resourced urban and rural public schools. He’s planning to introduce his students to the same free programming language he used in the interactive music programming class -- perhaps in after school projects, using the students’ universal interest in music as a springboard to interest them in programming as well.

Below, Molly Nemer and Alexis Torres perform “Winterchill” during a recent showcase of projects from an audio and music engineering class entitled Interactive Music Programming.

nemer and torres