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The Musical Web: Season Two Update

February 27, 2024 Fall 2023

The Musical Web explores the many new ways that sound can exist on the internet. Taught by myself and Chloe Alexandra Thompson, it’s an opportunity to go deeper into a less formalized area of sound studies and acknowledge the influence that our new networked realities exert on music composition. While developing the syllabus, we realized that the material felt necessary and important, but also missing from the standard computer music curriculum. It was exciting, there seemed to be so much new ground to explore, and we first had the opportunity to discover these new forms with two groups of participants at SFPC in the spring of 2023.

In this multi-person piece by Carlos players can explore a virtual space and tune oscillators that modulate each other. It is inspired by the Dimi-S instrument designed by the Finnish inventor Erkki Kuriennemi.

One challenge we faced when attempting to bridge these two distinct practices, web programming, and music composition, was finding a way to develop lessons that could introduce base concepts in both areas, and build upon them sufficiently enough to leave students with an expressive toolset. This was difficult in part due to the very diverse creative backgrounds of our cohort. In the first groups we had trained composers who had never written a line of code, and professional programmers who were inspired but admittedly new to music making. While this created an excellent group dynamic, a significant amount of class was spent on level setting and introductory concepts. A writeup reflecting on, and detailing the works of the first class can be found on the SFPC website here.

ascii_theremin by uses hand tracking to allow users to interact with an ASCII videoscape, generating sounds and visual through the position of their index fingers.

In the most recent iteration of the class, offered over the past spring, Chloe and I decided to require that all participants have some familiarity with HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This prerequisite gave us the ability to assume some basic understanding of web development and allowed us to go deeper into more advanced concepts, such as networked multi-person music and API data sonification, topics which were only partially introduced in the previous cohorts. While final projects from both semesters navigated the new terrain of web-based music creatively, this most recent group was able to find more consistently fluid methods of interrogating music through the unique materiality of the internet.

Projects submitted to the final showcase can be viewed here.

The showcase website was created by moochie and Tuan Huang.

A special thank you goes out to Cycling ‘74 for making Max licenses available to students for the duration of the course.

With Rotation Mekko aims to depict a dynamic landscape. As the environment shifts from day to night, time seems to stutter, stop, and speed by in a non-linear fashion. This continuous fluctuation of color, sound, and perspective activates memory using very few visual signifiers.