Spring 2015 courses

Interactive Music (Yotam Mann)

The idea of Interactive Music (empowering listeners/players to personalize, perform and explore composed music in greater depth) has been expanding in popularity in recent years with big name artists such as Brian Eno, Radiohead and Bjork taking advantage of the musical possibilities that interactive technologies afford. This is convergent with the democratization of music-making softwares and the rise of DJ’ing which has expanded the audience for interactive music to a growing group of people who don’t see music as something to enjoy passively, but to actively participate in. Interactive music is not necessarily about generative music or audio synthesis (though it does includes these) but about realizing a musical idea as a collaboration between the composer and the listener. This course will guide students to make their own interactive music and musical projects while considering how interaction enriches and augments the experience of the music.

The course will be structured around 1 final assignment in which students create an interactive music project/performance. They will be encouraged to use Javascript, but ultimately, the language or platform is up to the students. The initial assignment will be a low-tech / no-tech interactive music project followed by intermediary assignment in which students explore methods and dimensions of musical interaction which they can build off of for their final assignment. Intermediate projects will also give students a chance to learn and apply the lessons on Javascript and the Web Audio API (specifically a framework called Tone.js).

Possible projects might include: adaptive-length songs, music-based games, reactive/responsive compositions, interactive performances, collaborative jamming platforms, and interactive music boxes.

The format of the course will balance discussion, instruction and jamming. Topics will include exploring the spectrum of interactive music from playback to full-fledged instruments as well as relevant artistic questions such as “how much control should composers give to their players/listeners”. Students will be exposed to prior-art interactives in contemporary music, game pieces, and video game music.

The technical part of the course will focus on Javascript, Web Audio (an HTML5 specification for audio synthesis, processing and playback) and Tone.js. Javascript is well suited for the course both for its ease-of-use and its ability to create multiplayer, mobile, location-based and click-based applications, among many other possibilities. Additionally, the browser provides a built-in means of distributing musical works.

Making Sense of Wearables (Despina Papadopoulos)

After almost 2 decades of experimentation in wearable technologies we are seeing a renewed interest in the area. Both the apparel and technology industry are edging the market and yet, nothing seems to stick. Wearable environments are complex – their intimate relationship to the human body, their expressive potential, their ambivalent relationship to fashion, well-being and notions of selfhood, all bring into focus core questions of interaction design.

Making Sense of Wearables will review the current and past landscape of wearable environments, outline possible criteria of success and experiment with developing prototypes that account for their personal, social and material implications (and opportunities). The class will be structured around themes of personal (human senses, qualified self, well being, intimacy and communication) and social space (time and location, gestures, fashion and material culture): each week a new theme will be introduced, along with examples, historical evolution in the area, readings, and related technologies and their implications.

Students will be asked to respond to these themes with weekly assignments and fuse emerging technological possibilities with design considerations of the embodied human experience. Students will be encouraged to explore and expand their aptitude in physical computing and rapid prototyping techniques but deep experience in either is not a pre-requisite for the class.

Thesis (Kathy Wilson)

An ITP thesis is a demonstration of mastery of a particular project or problem of your design. It can take different forms—a physical prototype, a research paper—but the key is that there is a central concept, with a clear statement of purpose: in other words, 1) what it is, and 2) so what? Why are you interested in it? What need does it fulfill, what does it add to the world, a field, the literature? Your thesis does not have to be a finished product—that would be impossible in 14 weeks—but it should be a proof of concept. That is, you should show us how it could be achieved and we’d have confidence that you could. You will find a list of what is considered a proof-of-concept for different media on the blog, when it is up and running.

Unlike a dissertation at a more traditionally academic program, you do not have to defend your thesis to a committee. You do have to 'defend' it to your thesis class and teacher! They will help you hone your idea and get it in to shape. Many people think of their thesis as a platform—something from which you could write a grant, a business plan, a conference proposal or just show as part of your portfolio. It is the one thing that you do here at ITP that’s all yours: you generate the idea, you create the path towards implementation. The ITP thesis reflects our belief that you will leave here feeling comfortable as a creator, inventor, maker and thinker. And you will also be able to express your ideas to others in a variety of ways—in writing, in model, a prototype, in conversation, in a presentation.

Towers of Power (Benedetta Piantella)

In this two-credit course we will learn how the GSM network works and will explore cellphone technologies and how to get your projects communicating with a cell carrier. This course will mainly be structured in two parts, the first will be dedicated to learning about the current GSM infrastructure and how the communication between cell phones and the network happens; we will be introducing open source alternatives, both hardware and software, for setting up and deploying your own GSM network as a way to better understand the different components of the system. The second part will focus on getting a hands on experience with off the shelf GSM modules, modems and mobile hardware (possibly to build your own cellphone!) and on getting those devices communicating with cellphone networks via text message (SMS) and via data transfer (GPRS). We will have open workshop sessions for further developing your mini-project and presenting it to the rest of the class as well as guest speakers. Pcomp and basic programming skills are required.