Fall 2010»CSCI 180 Homework 1

CSCI 180 Homework 1

Assigned Date: Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2010
Due Date: Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2010
Due Time: 9:20am

Last modified on September 12, 2010, at 09:52 PM (see updates)

This is a pair assignment. You must work with a partner.


This assignment focuses on:

  • composing a contemporary piece of music
  • creating music with computers,
  • gaining experience with audio recording/manipulation software,
  • learning about different file formats,
  • exploring different filters and audio effects, and
  • exporting a mix-down (final audio file).


Create a musique concrète piece.

Your composition should be 57 seconds long.

Use Audacity to create music. You will record and/or import sounds, cut & paste (splice) them, process them (see Audacity Effects menu), and assemble (mix) them into a "musical" composition.

Pierre Schaeffer

For example, here is the first "musique concrète" piece. It was composed by Pierre Schaeffer in 1948 using train sounds. To do so, he used shellac discs. He experimented with "playing sounds backwards, slowing them down, speeding them up and juxtaposing them with other sounds".

Pierre Schaeffer was inspired by Luigi Russolo. He "emphasized the importance of 'playing' (in his terms, jeu) in the creation of music. Schaeffer's idea of jeu comes from the French verb jouer, which carries the same double meaning as the English verb play: 'to enjoy oneself by interacting with one's surroundings', as well as 'to operate a musical instrument'. This notion is at the core of the concept of musique concrète." (quoted from Wikipedia)


The theme of your composition should be related to the ideas of Pythagoras, Plato, etc. and the various proportions as described in the "Squaring the Circle" handout.

Also consider the discussion on J.S. Bach's "Praeludium II" from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1; and his possible use of the Golden ratio.

Compose your piece on paper first. Draw a diagram, a soundscape. Be creative, be original.

In addition to your music, you should include a short report describing your piece. Your report should include the name of your piece, the experience you try to create, a description of the sounds used, and a visual diagram of the composition's structure.

Royalty-Free Sounds

You can find great recorded sounds (audio files) here:


You will submit your assignment on paper and CD (or USB stick) to the instructor at the beginning of class on the due date.

Be prepared to demo your music to the rest of the class.

Your submission consists of the following:

  1. A short report file (MS Word or PDF only) with:
    1. Names: The class, homework assignment no., date, name of your composition, and your full names at the top.
    2. Experience: a description of the experience you try to create.
    3. Diagram: your soundscape design.
    4. Sounds: Names and descriptions of sounds used. Also, where you got them (include URLs, if possible).
  2. Your composition in MP3 or OGG (no WAV files please!).


Your assignment will be graded based on:

  • How interesting your music is.
  • How well your report (design document) is written.
  • Variety of ideas you tried in your composition.
  • How well you followed the above instructions.


For your in-class demo, you should:

  • Discuss your composition design.
  • Illustrate your design by discussing different components.
  • Play your music.