Monday, November 26, 2007

Algorithmic composition

As we discussed in class today, for Wednesday please comment on this post with some possible data sets, and algorithms for manipulating them, that could generate some good-sounding music. Here are links to the Mozart Musikalische Wurfelspiel (Musical Dice Game); a general Wikipedia description; and an automated version that generates pieces for you automatically.

If you have time, also check out David Cope's Experiments in Musical Intelligence, a project at University of California at Santa Cruz in which a computer is "trained" to compose in the style of any composer, from Bach to Gershwin.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

12-tone composition

For Monday, please make a 12-tone row of your choice (or you can use the one we made in class together on Wednesday) and compose a short piece, say 10 or 15 measures. Try using several different forms and transpositions of the row - for instance, you could start with P0, then RI5, then R0, and end with I5.

You can write for any instrument you like, but don't try writing harmony (two notes at once) - just melody, at least for now. You can use Sibelius or other music notation software, or if you like you can write it out by hand. If you run into trouble, please email me - I'm often hanging out near the CAMIL lab, and I'm happy to meet with you for help on composing. Good luck!

Here's a wikipedia article on twelve-tone technique; and here is a page (UIUC net id required) with many listening examples, some of which are twelve-tone; try listening to the following as an introduction:
  • Arnold Schoenberg, Suite opus 25 for piano (7 short pieces)
  • Anton Webern, Variations for piano opus 27
  • Milton Babbitt, "All Set" (12-tone music for jazz band)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orbifolds in music

For Wednesday November 1, please check out the following article from the journal Science:

And you can find more background info at Dmitri Tymoczko's homepage:

Including animations (made with Max/MSP/Jitter) of Chopin's e minor prelude, mapped in several different dimensions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How to turn in your project

Turn your project in any way you can. For example, you can put everything in a folder, and then make a zip archive, and mail us the zip archive. To make a zip archive on a mac, highlight the folder, then do to File -> Create Archive. In unix, at the command line, type tar -czf myproject.tgz myproject to make an archive of a folder called myproject. Sorry, I don't know what to do on a MS-based computer.

Or, you can put the folder or files in the public area of your netfiles, and tell us how to find it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thousands of tuning systems!

Here is a folder of Max patches containing Victor Cerullo's microtuner object, which stores and plays tuning systems in the .mtx format. Included is an archive of thousands of different tuning systems, which boggle the mind.

Also included is a midi file player (the detonate object) and a few midi files to get you started, with Bach and Stevie Wonder; for now, playback is on a sketchy FM synth.

Please experiment with a variety of songs in different tunings, to get an idea of how the different tuning systems sound.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007


I met with a number of you in the last week or so to discuss your projects. I still need to meet with some of you though: let's make sure we get that arranged by the end of today's class. Remember these projects are due Wednesday Octobe 24.

This week I propose we continue to look at scales, chapters 5 and 6 of Benson. For Wednesday (so everyone has time to prepare), I'd particularly like to experiment with the claims in 5.11, about "classical harmony" and its relationship to various scales. So have a look at that section. And, let's see what Steve suggests.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pythagorean tuning

Here's a Max patch to try out for Pythagorean tuning. It uses the poly~ object, which you can read about in MSP tutorial 21.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mathematica notebook link

Professor Ando's Mathematica notebooks.

Assignment for Monday, October 1

As we've been discussing in class, please adapt your additive synthesis patch to model a musical instrument; you might find it necessary to add more sine wave oscillators to make it sound good. Use the formulas in Benson's text to calculate as many elements of the sound as you can; you can also analyze existing instrumental sounds to examine the amplitude and pitch envelopes of different harmonics in the sound's spectrum.

The University of Iowa has made a good library of instrument samples, which can be found here. You can load these into Max/MSP using the sfplay~ or groove~ objects; I've made a slightly revised version of the additive synth patch including with some playback capabilities, which you download here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Assignment for Wednesday, September 19

I've posted a mathematica notebook at Download a copy of this notebook, and work through it. Save it, and post it to the blog.
Try to do this for the 19th: we'll work on it in class today, Monday the 17th.

Assignment for Sept. 17

Sorry for the sound trouble on MSP - here is what you need to do: go to the Options menu, and select "DSP status..." under driver, the second option, select "CoreAudio Built-in Audio" or whatever your sound card happens to be - then the sound should work.

For Monday, if you haven't already made your sounds, please do so right away; go through tutorials 7 - 10; and take the additive synth patch I made, and modify it in some cool way: perhaps add level meters, so you can tell if you're clipping; try adding more partials to make better sounds; add a waveform object; explore some of the many options in the spectroscope object; add a noteslider to control your fundamental frequency - there's tons of stuff you could add!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Max/MSP assignment for Sept. 12

Updated - the patch should now work correctly on your own computers. For this Wednesday, Sept. 12, please download this patch (an adaptation of Tutorial 7, Additive Synthesis) and use it to record your own sounds. If you don't have a trial copy of Max/MSP on your own computer, you can use the CAMIL lab - also, this patch doesn't need to be edited, so you can even use MaxMSP Runtime. More instructions are in the patch itself. Have fun!

Please also work through the MSP tutorials 7 (additive synthesis) through 10 (vibrato and frequency modulation).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Updated web page

I updated the web page, see

Key features: for one thing, the first math assignment, due 9/10, is posted there. For another, I give a link to a couple of the Mathematica notebooks I've used in class, so you can download them and modify them yourself.

Cycling 74's MaxMSP

One of the programs we're using for this course, MaxMSP, is available as a free 30-day demo from You can download all the documentation for free as well. Please go here to download.

For Monday, please try to work through the first few MSP tutorials; if you can get all the way to Tutorial 6, that would be terrific. Both the tutorial patches and pdf files are found in the Documentation folder; the pdf file you need is called MSP46TutorialsAndTopics.pdf. You're also welcome to look through the Max tutorials as well, which are useful since they are more basic. Remember, the "Max" part of the program is for control data (things like on/off, addition/subtraction, etc.), while the "MSP" part of the program is for audio data, at 44.1 kHz; all of the MSP objects have a ~ after their name.

And finally, we would like you all to read the first chapter of the text for this course, Dave Benson's Music: A Mathematical Offering, available here as a free pdf file.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Welcome to Math and Music 199!

Professor Ando and I are both excited about this course; although we've taught many courses on math or music, we've never taught a course on both, so we will be relying on your input to shape and refine it. As part of Music 199 we will be hosting this blog; part of your homework will consist of posting comments and other material.

For the course syllabus, click here. Before Wednesday, please post a comment introducing yourself to the rest of the class: your major; any background you have in math and/or music; and what you hope to gain from this course.