MSM - Intro to Electronic Music Spring Semester

Spring Class 1:  Intro and Aesthetics of Mixed Music

Reading: History of Mixed Music Article

Historical Survey of mixed works:

Instrument + Tape

     - Steve Reich

Instrument + Amplification

Instrument + Processing

  • Static or analog control

  • IRCAM model (early digital)

  • Saariaho

Instrument + AI

Instrument + Commercial Software

Instrument + robotics/physical devices

Instrument + Video

Recent Mixed works

Spring Class 2: Notation of Mixed Music and Technical Riders

>>Template for Technical Rider<<

The Notation of Electronics

There is no standard way of notating electronics. However, the basic principle one should follow is to notate the electronics in a clear and concise way that provides all of the information the performer needs to synchronize and react musically. Each piece using electronics will require a slightly different approach, but the following list of items to consider may help:

• Rhythmic information

• Dynamic information

• Pitch information

• A time code if using click track or clock synchronization

• Graphical representation of the electronic sound

• Proportional notation

• Markings to differentiate sound files from real-time processes

• Loudspeaker assignment of the sound

• Textual description of the sound file or real-time process

• Cue number that links to the devices/software used (ie where new sound files may begin and end or some process is triggered)

Just like the technical rider, the notation of the electronics should present all necessary information clearly in such a way that the work could be realized without the presence of the composer.

Score examples:

Nina Young - Sun Propeller


Technical Rider

Nina Young provides all the basic information in her score and notates the electronics in the score itself clearly and succinctly for the performer. A separate technical rider is provided that goes into precise details and allows the piece to be realized by a third party technician without any additional information from the composer.

Mary Kouyoumjian - Dandelion

violin and tape

Mary Kouyoumjain provides a detailed Technical Rider in her score and notates the electronic component of the piece clearly. The electronic component is largely drone-like in nature, and is provided with a mixture of traditional and graphic notation.

Panayiotis Kokoras — Jet

recorder and electronics

Kokoras uses the combination of stopwatch markings with the visual indications of the spectrogram in the score. This is most effective for pieces that do not require precise synchronization but more of a general idea of the electronic sound.

Alex Temple - Willingly

flute, piano, and electronics

Temple notates the electronics in a hybrid fashion - providing notes, words, and rhythms in traditional notation where possible and embellishing this traditional notation with graphic illustrations.

Ethan Hayden - What Happened

3 voices and computer

More generalized instructions to a technician who acts as a performer of the electronics.

Dan Trueman - Nostalgic Synchronic Etude 1


midi keyboard

Electronic sounds are worked into the performers staff as smaller notes with triangle noteheads.

Kaija Saariaho - Nuits Adieux


four voices

Saariaho uses two microphones with different processing and indicated which microphone the singers should be singing into in the score.

Scott Worthington - A Different Infiniteness

ensemble and electronics


Electronics are clearly notated as a separate staff in the score, using a micture of traditional and box notation to synchronize the musicians with the tape part.

Spring Class 3: Microphones + Recording into Logic

Microphone Types:

Dynamic Microphone
Dynamic microphones use thick diaphragms and tend to accentuate the middle range of the frequency spectrum. These microphones tend to be highly durable and do not require phantom power.

Condenser Microphones
Condenser Microphones have thinner diaphragms than dynamic microphones and are therefor less durable but more capable of capturing high frequencies and generally record with a higher fidelity. Condenser Microphones require phantom power to boost the signal for recording.

Ribbon Microphones
RIbbon microphones use a long and thin diaphragm and generally provide a more colored or warm quality in their recordings. Ribbon microphones are usually quite fragile and can difficult to use. Ribbon microphones, like Condensers, require phantom power.

Recording Into Logic

Additional Microphone Resources:
Polar Pattern Summary
What is Phantom Power?
Microphone Frequency Response
What is Proximity Effect?

Spring Class 4: Perception of Space and Stereo Recording

Mono versus Stereo Recording

Mono = one audio source
Stereo = two audio sources

Stereo Standard Microphone Techniques:

stereo recording patterns.jpg

Spring Class 5: Advanced Editing + MIDI

VST instruments
MIDI basics
MIDI piano roll in Logic Pro

Spring Class 6: Basic Synthesis

Analog vs Digital Synthesizers
Additive Synthesis
Subtractive Synthesis
Frequency Modulation Synthesis
Physical Modeling Synthesis
Wavetable/Vector Synthesis
Sample-Based Synthesis
Granular Synthesis

Spring Class 7: Spectral Techniques + FFT based Effects + Cleaning audio

Spectral Techniques

FFT based effects

Cleaning Audio - gating versus filtering versus spectral approaches

Spring Class 8: Preliminary Scores and Recordings Due

Review of scores, recordings, and technical riders.

Week 9: Synchronization (click) + Listening Session

How to synchronize the lie performer with your electronic part
Click Track
Score Following

Week 10: Listening session

Listening and critiquing your works in progress as a class

Week 11:  Mixing a multi-track concert recording

Balancing room mics and close mics
Using busses
Compression and Riding

Week 12: Class replaced by Individual Meetings