Bill Manaris : Fall 2010 / CSCI 180 Course Syllabus
College of CharlestonAugust 22, 2010

CSCI 180 – Computer Music

Course Syllabus


Dr. Bill Manaris


Room: 223 J.C. Long Building
Phone: (95)3-8159

Office Hours:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11 - noon & 2 - 2:30PM.
Other hours available by appointment.

Course Description:

This course is part of the LC10 Learning Community, Computer Music and the Quest for Beauty, (CSCI180 / MUSC131).

This community will explore connections between the "beautiful" in music and computing. Students will study the history of computer music, aesthetics, and elements of music theory. Students will investigate aspects of computing and computational thinking related to music making. Students will develop several digital artifacts and elementary musical compositions.

CSCI 180 introduces the creative side of computing in the context of music and algorithmic composition. Students will be exposed to computational thinking and computer programming in the liberal arts and sciences. Students will write several programs that generate computer music.

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

Tentative Outline:

Syllabus, Survey, Intro to Computer Music (History, Electronic Music, Music Technology, Audio Recording, Music Publishing, MIDI Sequencing, Algorithmic Music, Sound Synthesis, Live Performance, jMusic); Representing Music in Code (Intro to Python); Melody and Rhythm (Simple Programs – Sequence); Polyphony and Repetition (Iteration); Randomness and Choices (Selection); Sound and Timbre (Data Structures); Soundscapes (Functions, Encapsulation, Information Hiding); Algorithmic Music Composition (Modularization, Top-down Design, Testing); Computer Music Performance (Classes, Events, GUIs); Music and Nature (Sonification, Kepler’s Harmony of the Spheres, Zipf’s Law, Fractal Music), and other topics as time permits.


  • Andrew Brown and Bill Manaris (2011), ''Making Music with jMusic", draft manuscript.


  • 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.
  • 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.

Additional reading materials will provided via handouts and the class website.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Familiarity with appropriate data, information and knowledge-gathering techniques and research skills in the discipline.
    • This course will introduce you to computer data modeling, algorithmic techniques, and computer-related research in the context of music, sounds, and other digital artifacts. You will:
      • Learn how to creatively transform media such as music, sounds, and other digital artifacts.
      • Learn how to use computers to explore, visualize, speculate, and invent.
      • Develop an appreciation for computational thinking.
      • Gain experience with a scripting programming language and tools.
  2. Use of academic resources and student support services at College of Charleston, including the library, information technology, the Center for Student Learning, the Academic Advising and Planning Center, the office of Career Services, and other appropriate academic resources, student support services, and cultural resources.
  3. Using appropriate critical thinking skills and problem-solving techniques in a variety of contexts.
    • See (1) above.
  4. Understanding the goals of liberal arts and sciences education and the core values of College of Charleston.
    • This course is designed mainly to serve non-majors in the liberal arts and sciences by immersing them in creative computational thinking and design.
      • Given that our civilization runs on software (and that this will be even more so 10-20 years from now), it is becoming necessary for liberally educated people to be able to engage in computational (algorithmic) thinking, as the effects of this thinking (i.e., software intensive systems) touch nearly every other discipline, and permeate nearly every aspect of our civilization.
      • You will begin to gain appreciation of the fact that such systems can amplify human intelligence, but they cannot replace human judgment.
      • Readings will explore the intersection between computing and the liberal arts and sciences.
  5. Using effective skills and strategies for working collaboratively.
    • You will participate in various collaborative activities, such as collaborative written exercises, team programming in-class activities, and group projects.


To receive a passing grade for the course, you must average a passing grade on each of the following: assignments, tests, and final exam.

Scale: A: 90-100; B: 80-89; C: 70-79; D: 60-69; F: <60. The grades of B+/–, C+/–, and D+/– may be given at the professor's discretion.

Final Grade Computation: Assignments (4-6) 30%, Tests (2) 40%, Comprehensive Final Exam or Final Project 20%, and Class Participation 10% (includes Active Learning Events - see below).

Active Learning Events:

You need to attend, at least, three campus events related to music.

  • These events have to be on campus or be campus-sponsored to count.
  • You should bring an artifact from the event (program, ticket, etc.).
  • You should also hand in a notecard (choose your size) with a summary of what you went to and a short reaction.

Honor Code:

  • You must do your assignments alone (or with your teammates, for group assignments).
  • You are not allowed to discuss assignments and possible solutions with any person other than the instructor (or with your teammates, for group assignments). Any violation of these rules is an honor offense.
  • On assignments you will be asked to identify the person(s) you received help from, if any.
  • Also see the College of Charleston Student Handbook, especially sections on The Honor Code (p. 11), and Student Code of Conduct (p. 12). There is other useful information there.

Test Policies:

  • Attendance at tests is mandatory. You must complete tests with no discussion or sharing of information with other students.
  • Calculators, computers, cell phones, etc. may not be used during a test, unless otherwise directed.

Classroom Policies:

  • You are expected to take good notes during lecture.
  • You are expected to participate in class with questions and invited discussion.
  • You are expected to attend all classes. If you miss class, you must get an absence memo from the Associate Dean of Students Office; also, you are responsible for announcements made in class, assignment due dates, etc.
  • You should turn off all electronic devices (e.g., cell phones, pagers, etc.).
  • Since we are in a lab, you must use the computers only as directed (e.g., no checking email, or playing games) during class.
  • In summary, you should contribute positively to the classroom learning experience, and respect your classmates right to learn (see College of Charleston Student Handbook, section on Classroom Code of Conduct (p. 58)).

Assignment Policies:

  • Assignment grades will be based on creative inspiration, design, style, and correctness of result.
  • Submission instructions will be provided for each assignment.

Late Policy:

  • You have four "late" days for the whole semester. You may use these days as you wish for assignment submission. If you use them up, no late assignments will be accepted.
  • If you submit everything on time (i.e., use no late days), you will earn an additional 2.5 bonus points on your course grade.
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