CAMS/MUS 378: Deconstructive Audio: The Aesthetics of Outmoded Technology

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Taught September 2014 to December 2014

Glitch­core, bit­crushing, circuit bending, hardware hacking, tape splicing, record scratching­­in response to the hegemony of laptops and high­functioning software among contemporary digital media producers, many musicians and sound artists are now turning for musical expressivity to electronic objects thought to be long­obsolete, decayed, or, at the very least, technologically limited or "consumer­grade": the beat­up synthesizer, the rewired amplifier, the Speak & Spell toy, the 8­bit Nintendo system. In this course we will investigate this trend by looking backwards, towards the histories of these kinds of objects and their relationship to the earliest forms of musical expressivity with electronics. We will trace a complicated historical path through radio studios, telephone labs, audio research facilities, computer mainframe manufacturers, toy manufacturers, and encryption agencies to discover the impacts technological innovations (and failures) in other 20th­century arenas had upon the aesthetics and techniques of a wide variety of electronic musicians. In addition to developing a rigorous understanding of the history of electronic music through the parallel technological adolescences of other electronics, we will also learn to build electronic music­making machines of our own, using largely analog and outmoded technologies, as well as emulating the unpredictable, glitchy, decayed and often hauntingly beautiful sounds of the past using both analog synthesizers and audio formats, and present­day digital materials, including Arduino microprocessors and digital audio workstations. This course is open to beginners and experts alike; in­class discussions and presentations will be paired with appropriate workshops in beginning electronics and/or programming and individualized instruction as needed.

PDF icon CAMS/MUS 378 FA14 Syllabus

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