Spring 2018»CITA 180

CITA 180

CITA/CSCI 180 - Computers, Music and Art


  • Section 01: MWF 9:30-10:20am / HWE 301
  • Section 02: MWF 10:30-11:20am / HWE 301


A course introducing the creative side of computing in the context of music, sounds, images, and other digital artifacts. Emphasis will be given to computer programming for music making, live performance, and interaction. Students will develop several digital artifacts and elementary musical compositions. Course is open to all majors. No previous programming experience required.

Prerequisites by Topic:

  1. Basic computer experience, including file organization and software installation.
  2. Interest in developing intelligent-listening and sound-structuring skills.

Additional Course Requirements:

  1. Bring your laptop to class
  2. Bring headphones to class

Course syllabus

Test Dates

  • Test 1: Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018
  • Test 2: TBA
  • Final:
    • Section 01: 8:00-11:00am, Friday, Apr. 27, 2018
    • Section 02: 8:00-11:00am, Monday, Apr. 30, 2018


Homework #1, Homework #2, Homework #3, Homework #4, Homework #5, Final Project.

Homework #1, Homework #2, Homework #3, Homework #4, Homework #5, Homework #6, Homework #7, Final Project.

Readings & References

  1. CofC graduate Nafees Bin Zafar is a two-time Oscar winner for developing fluid simulation software used in movies that include "2012", "The Lord of the Rings", and "Pirates of the Caribbean", among others. His day-to-day tasks involve finding new ways to blow things up and create mayhem. He reads the script, looks at the movie's storyboard, and then writes code to create the desired effects. For more info, see
  2. Avant-garde cellist Zoe Keating demonstrates her intricately layered compositions. Using a computer, some 'janky code', a cello and her imagination, the classically trained musician shapes her music into something wonderful.
  3. JythonMusic provides software for music-making and creative computing. It is a collection of Jython libraries for music, images, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and connecting to external MIDI devices, smartphones, and tablets, among others.
    • Slides from SIGCSE 2016 workshop - single (one slide per page), and handout (4 slides per page).
  4. More than a hundred years ago an extraordinary mechanism was found by sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera. It astonished the whole international community of experts on the ancient world. Was it an astrolabe? Was it an orrery or an astronomical clock? Or something else?
  5. The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world. The epitaph has been dated variously from around 200 BC to around AD 100, but the first century AD is the most probable guess. The song, the melody of which is recorded, alongside its lyrics, in the ancient Greek musical notation, was found engraved on a tombstone (a stele) from the Hellenistic town Tralles near Aydın, Turkey, not far from Ephesus.
  6. TED Talk: How to read music - sheet music may look complicated, but once you've gotten the hang of a few simple elements like notes, bars and clefs, you're ready to rock. Tim Hansen hits the instrumental basics you need to read music.
  7. Evan Grant demonstrates the science and art of cymatics, a process for making soundwaves visible. Useful for analyzing complex sounds, it also makes complex and beautiful designs, and demonstrates how the universe is full of "music" - actually, particles that vibrate in different frequencies, where sound is only a small subset of a much larger (universal) phenomenon.
  8. The Harmonic Navigator is a novel, real-time system for exploring the harmonic space in J.S. Bach Chorales, and other music corpora.
  9. Monterey Mirror is an interactive music performance system with artificial intelligence capabilities - it is an electronic music generator, powered by computer programming, that mirrors a performer and takes the place of a human in a live performance. Like all mirrors, it reflects back aspects of the performer. It is different from a recording, in that it does not repeat musical material verbatim, but instead captures deeper patterns and makes them apparent.
  10. The CofC Laptop Orchestra performing Terry Riley's "In C". Also, other videos related to image sonification.
  11. The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) is an 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.).
  12. 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.
  13. Pat Metheny's Orchestrion project is a new, open-ended platform for musical composition, improvisation and performance. It uses acoustic and acoustoelectric musical instruments that are mechanically controlled through a guitar, pen or keyboard. This creates a detailed compositional environment, which allows spontaneously developed improvisation. On top of layers of acoustic sound, Pat Metheny adds conventional electric guitar playing as an improvised component - a new level for solo performance by a single musician.
  14. Intro to Python

Artifacts & Rules

  • Sounds - find sound effects and musical instrument samples.


  • jythonMusic provides software for music-making and creative computing. It is a collection of Jython libraries for music, images, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and connecting to external MIDI devices, smartphones, and tablets, among others.
  • Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.
  • Noteflight is an online music writing application that lets you create, view, print and hear music notation with professional quality, right in your web browser. Work on a score from any computer on the Internet, share it with other users, and embed it in your own pages.