Fall 2008»FYSM 117

FYSM 117

Computers, Music and Art


TR 9:25-10:40AM / ECTR 109


What do Einstein and da Vinci have in common? Each was an artist and a scientist. If you are interested in connecting your right (intuitive, visual, musical, artistic, innovative) brain to your left (rational, analytical, logical, sequential, and mathematical) brain, this course is for you. We will explore the creative side of computing in the context of music, sounds, images, and other digital artifacts. We will learn about media modeling and computational thinking in the liberal arts and sciences. We will develop several digital artifacts. We will learn how to use computers to explore, visualize, speculate, and invent.

Course is open to all majors. No previous programming experience required.

Test Dates

  • Test 1: Thursday, October 2, 2008
  • Test 2: TBA
  • Final: 8-11am, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008


Sep. 2, 2008:
Homework #1 is now posted.

Readings & References

  1. fractal Intro to Fractals from Wikipedia.
  2. An introduction to pair programming. This 9-minute video describes what pair programming is, the do's and don'ts of effective pairing, and the pros and cons of pair programming. Here is the accompanying worksheet.
  3. CofC Library resources related to Computers, Music, and Art.
  4. Paper prototyping - what is it?
  5. Straight No Chaser A Cappella Dreaming: 10 Voices, One Shot The a cappella group Straight No Chaser has taken a not-so-straight path to a five-album recording contract. The members, now mostly in their 30s, began singing in the act while undergraduates at Indiana University.
  6. reactable The reactable hardware is based on a translucent, round multi-touch surface. A camera situated beneath the table, continuously analyzes the surface, tracking the player's finger tips and the nature, position and orientation of physical objects that are distributed on its surface. These objects represent the components of a classic modular synthesizer, the players interact by moving these objects, changing their distance, orientation and the relation to each other. These actions directly control the topological structure and parameters of the sound synthesizer. A projector, also from underneath the table, draws dynamic animations on its surface, providing a visual feedback of the state, the activity and the main characteristics of the sounds produced by the audio synthesizer.
  7. PLOrk The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) is a newly established ensemble of computer-based musical meta-instruments. Each instrument consists of a laptop, a multi-channel hemispherical speaker, and a variety of control devices (keyboards, graphics tablets, sensors, etc.).
  8. Phonautogram Researchers play song recorded before Edison. The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.
  9. TED | Speakers | John Maeda Simply, John Maeda The MIT Media Lab's John Maeda lives at the intersection of technology and art -- a place that can get very complicated. Here, he talks about paring down to basics, and how he creates clean, elegant art, websites and web tools. In his book Laws of Simplicity, he offers 10 rules and 3 keys for simple living and working -- but in this talk, he boils it down to one simply delightful way to be. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, California. Duration: 16:10.)
  10. Richards R. (2001), "A New Aesthetic for Environmental Awareness: Chaos Theory, the Beauty of Nature, and our Broader Humanistic Identity". Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 59-95.
  11. Spehar, B., C.W.G. Clifford, B.R. Newell, and R.P. Taylor. (2003). "Universal Aesthetic of Fractals." Computers & Graphics, vol. 27, pp. 813-820.
  12. Chazelle, B. (2006), "Could you iPod be Holding the Greatest Mystery in Modern Science?", Math Horizons, vol 13, April 2006. Algorithmic thinking is likely to cause the most disruptive paradigm shift in the sciences since quantum mechanics. The big ideas revolve around universality, duality, and self-reference.
  13. Intro to Python
  14. Yue-Ling Wong, Digital Media Primer.

Artifacts & Rules