Spring 2010»CSCI 180 Homework 1

CSCI 180 Homework 1

Assigned Date: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010
Due Date: Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010
Due Time: 9:20am

Last modified on February 17, 2010, at 12:17 PM (see updates)

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


This assignment focuses on:

  • 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).


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.

Your composition should be in the musique concrète style:

"Musique concrète (French; literally, "concrete music"), is a style of avant-garde music that relies on natural environmental sounds and other non-inherently-musical noises to create music."

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 magnetic tape recordings. 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.

  • If you play a musical instrument, you may incorporate sounds that follow these proportions.
  • Or, make the lengths of clips used follow these proportions.

Experiment with different possibilities on paper first. Be creative, be original.

In addition to your music, you should include a short report to explain how your piece was put together and how these proportions are manifested in it.

Royalty-Free Sounds

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


You will submit your assignment via WebCT. Be prepared to demo your music to the rest of the class. Your submission consists of the following:

  1. A short report file (should be MS Word, PDF, RTF, or text) with:
    • The class, homework assignment, date, name of your composition, and your full names at the top.
    • Names and descriptions of original sound clips. Also, where you got them (include URLs, if possible).
    • Description of how you manipulated the raw clips (e.g., effects you applied, etc.), and how you combined them. This part is very important also (the job of an audio engineer depends on it).
  2. Your original audio clips (as named in your report).
  3. Your Audacity project file (call it Name_of_Your_Composition.aup, whatever the name of your composition is).
  4. Your final mixed-down audio file (see Audacity's Export menu). The format should be MP3 or OGG (no WAV files!).


Your assignment will be graded based on:

  • How interesting your music is.
  • 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.

A Few Interesting Submissions

There were several great submissions. Here are four that stood out: (regardless of grade earned - grading depended on more than just sound)

  1. Wind Chimes (by Courtney Miller and Caitlin Altman)
  2. Future Regrets (by Griffin Blackwelder)
  3. Daydreaming (by Samuel Brokaw)
  4. Terrorscape (by Kathryn Lawrimore and Mackenzie Huffman)