(laptop) fall 2011 syllabus

MMP 440: Advanced Topics in Computer Music

Laptop Ensemble

Meets MWF 12:00 – 12:50, Studio 9 (Media Lab)

Instructor: Keith Kothman (MU 109B, or MU 207)

Course Site: http://teachingmusic.keithkothman.com (category = laptop ensemble)

Course Description and Objectives

Laptop Ensemble will focus on performing experimental music written for computers, composing music for computer performance, and developing new technologies for computer performance. Background work will focus on a survey of current performance, compositional, and technological practices in laptop ensemble performance. Of particular interest will be issues relating to collaborative composition and improvisation, aesthetics of laptop ensembles, and networking systems for sharing of compositional and performance information during performance. The manner in which participants contribute to the ensemble will vary, but will comprise of at least one of the following areas: composition, performance, instrument and sound design, computer programming for interactive performance, human-computer interface design, networking for collaborative performance, speaker design and live-sound configuration for performance, and/or explanatory notes and documentation of ensemble activity.

The ensemble will perform publicly during the semester. Dates and times will be announced. Attendance at these events will be required. We should be traditional and non-traditional venues.


We will mainly focus on Macintosh computer systems, Max/MSP/Jitter, and Chuck. Other synthesis and programming tools are possibilities depending on user experiences, including commercial virtual synthesis systems, external MIDI controllers, pure-data, SuperCollider, and Processing.

Reference Ensembles and Artists

A growing collection of ensembles practice laptop performance. We will be examining a number of these during the course of the semester. They include:

We will also pay attention to experimental commercial electronica and idm. The following list is certainly not exhaustive, and reflects my interest. We will add to this over the course of the semester.

  • Matmos
  • Merzbow
  • Bjork
  • Aphex Twin
  • Autechre
  • DJ Spooky

Class Schedule and Concerts

Information forthcoming.


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