Music 680: Special Topics in Music - Compositional Algorithms (Fall 2007)
Mondays 4:30 - 7:10 pm, Music B40
Christopher Burns (cburns at uwm dot edu)
office hours: Wednesday, 2-4 pm, Music 367 or by appointment

Course description: Aesthetics, analysis, technique, and composition of musical works embodying algorithims, with an emphasis on the close study of pioneering works from the 1950s to the present. Practical programming for algorithmic composition using Lisp and the Common Music environment. Students will complete short composition / programming assignments and a final creative project.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students in the Music Department and the DIVAS program; others admitted by consent of the instructor. Prior experience with programming is not required. Qualities that will be essential for the course include curiosity, diligence, creativity, and aesthetic open-mindedness. Please let the instructor know as soon as possible if you need any special accommodations.

Learning goals and measurement:
Upon successful completion of this course, students should:
1. be familiar with the course's repertoire of algorithmic music from 1950 to the present;
2. be able to discuss the technical application and aesthetic purpose of the algorithms in these works;
3. be able to recreate these algorithmic techniques using the Lisp/Common Music environment;
4. be able to realize specific compositional ideas of their own in Lisp/Common Music.
Student attainment of these objectives will be measured through participation in classroom discussion, programming and creative assignments, and a final creative project.

Course requirements:
1. Please attend all classes and arrive on time. If you need to miss a class for any reason, please let the instructor know in advance. Students who miss two or more classes will receive reduced grades (one reduction for each absence, beginning with the second). Special events listed on the syllabus are also included in this attendance requirement (though other instructor-approved contemporary music concerts can be subsituted if absolutely necessary). Please be sure to find the instructor at each event and make sure your presence is counted.
2. Please prepare for class by completing all reading and listening/score reading assignments. Remember that listening is an active process; if you are multitasking you are unlikely to get much out of the experience. The best way to complete a listening assignment is to listen in the Music Library while simultaneously reading the score. With short works, you are strongly encouraged to listen to the work multiple times. You may also wish to take notes on your listening - what are you hearing? How do you make sense of it? How does it change over time (what is the form of the work?) Please arrive for class ready to participate in the discussion; this will count for 15% of your final grade.
3. Please complete all programming assignments in a timely fashion. These assignments constitute 40% of the final grade. Assignments are due on time; late submissions will receive reduced grades (10% reduction per day). If you are having difficulty completing an assignment please contact the instructor as soon as possible, and before the due date.
4. Students should be prepared to propose a project which addresses a specific creative issue involving algorithmic composition, to compose a work addressing that challenge, and to present their work as part of the Electro-Acoustic Salon on Thursday, December 20, at 7:30 pm. The final project is worth 45% of the final grade.

Course materials:
Listening and reading assignments for the course are available online from the UWM Library electronic reserves; scores are on reserve in the Music Library.
UWM Uniform Syllabus Policies:
Common Music website:
Aquamacs website:

Course schedule:
September 10: course introduction
topics & activities:
historical overview of algorithmic composition: isorhythm, canon, variation, etc.
introduction to Common Music
assignment 1 (due September 17):
develop a Common Music function with a musical application
class notes
code resources: lisp code, interaction transcript
September 17: integral serialism - Boulez & Stockhausen
topics & activities:
context and precedents for integral serialism
Ligeti's analysis of Structures 1a
serial technique and its implementation in Common Music
listening/score reading:
Karlheinz Stockhausen Kreuzspiel
Pierre Boulez Le Marteau sans maitre
Robert Morgan, "Analytical Comments [Kreuzspiel]," Anthology of Twentieth-Century Music, pp. 381-385
Pierre Boulez, "Schoenberg is Dead," Notes of an Apprenticeship, pp. 268-276
György Ligeti, "Decision and Automatism in Structures 1a," Die Reihe 4, trans. by Leo Black (Pennsylvania: Theodore Pressesr), 1960: 36-62.
assignment 2 (due September 24):
compose a CM etude deriving all musical parameters from a single series of numbers
class notes
code resources: lisp code, interaction transcript
September 20: Unruly Music - Chris Froh, guest artist, 7:30 pm, Recital Hall
September 24: indeterminacy - Cage
topics & activities:
aesthetics of and strategies for indeterminacy
Cage's relationship with Boulez and Stockhausen
stochastic techniques in Common Music
listening/score reading:
John Cage Music of Changes Book III
John Cage Williams Mix
James Pritchett, The Music of John Cage, chapter 3, pp. 74-104
Jean-Jacques Nattiez, ed., The Boulez-Cage Correspondence, letters 26-43, pp. 80-144
assignment 3 (due October 8):
compose a CM etude which is pervasively indeterminate, but possesses "individual personality"
class notes
code resources: lisp code, interaction transcript
October 1: canon I - Nancarrow
topics & activities:
isorhythm and canon in the player-piano studies
novel canonic forms: tempo canon, sound-mass constructions
canonic structure: convergence points
listening/score reading:
Conlon Nancarrow Studies for Player Piano selections: #21; #37; #41a, 41b, 41c
Kyle Gann, The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, chapters 5-8, pp. 85-239
class notes
code resources: lisp code, interaction transcript
October 8: stochastics - Xenakis & Tenney
topics & activities:
Xenakis' critique of serialism
indeterminacy (Cage) vs. stochastics (Xenakis)
stochastic techniques and Formalized Music
Tenney, Bell Labs, and stochasticism in computer music
listening/score reading:
Iannis Xenakis ST/4
James Tenney Phases
Iannis Xenakis, Formalized Music, chapters 1, 5, pp. 1-42, 131-154
Larry Polansky, "Computer Music," excerpt from "The Early Works of James Tenney," in Soundings 13 (1984), pp. 151-171.
assignment 4 (due October 22):
compose a CM etude balancing randomness and control ("chaos" and "order")
class notes
code resources: lisp code, interaction transcript
October 15: [no class meeting]
October 22: canon II - Ligeti & Holliger
topics & activities:
Ligeti's critique of serialism
changing approaches to micropolyphony and canon
comparative sound-mass constructions: Nancarrow, Ligeti, and Holliger
listening/score reading:
György Ligeti Atmospheres
György Ligeti Lontano
Heinz Holliger Scardanelli-Zyklus selections: Sommer III, Winter I, Frühling I [no scores]
György Ligeti, "Metamorphoses of Musical Form" [excerpt], in Source Readings in Music History, Leo Treitler, ed., pp. 1376-1384.
assignment 5 (due November 5):
compose a canonic CM etude
class notes
code resources: lisp code, interaction transcript
October 25: Unruly Music - Roger Admiral, guest artist, 7:30 pm, Recital Hall
October 29: collaborative realization - Cage, Cardew, Sharp & Freeman
topics & activities:
composition, improvisation, collaborative realization, and metamusic
listening/score reading:
John Cage Variations II [score only]
Cornelius Cardew Autumn '60 [score only]
Elliott Sharp Digital [score at]
Jason Freeman Graph Theory []
James Pritchett, The Music of John Cage, chapter 4, pp. 105-137
class notes
code resources: lisp code
November 5: minimalism - Aperghis, Johnson, La Barbara, Oliveros
topics & activities:
algorithm and (ir)rationality
constructive vs. perceptual complexity
contexts for minimalism
listening/score reading:
George Aperghis Recitations nos. 1, 12, 13, and 14
Tom Johnson Rational Melodies
Joan La Barbara Klee Alee
Pauline Oliveros Bye Bye Butterfly
Rosalind Krauss, "LeWitt In Progress," The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, pp. 244-259.
Alvin Lucier, "Origins of a Form," Leonardo Music Journal vol 8, pp. 5-11.
assignment 6 (due November 19):
compose a CM etude addressing the relationship between "simplicity" and "complexity"
class notes
code resources: lisp code
November 8: Unruly Music - EAMC 25th Anniversary Celebration, 7:30 pm, Recital Hall
November 12: complexity - Ferneyhough & Dillon
"the new complexity": context, aesthetics, and analysis
collaborating with Ferneyhough: LISP and Patchwork code for Shadowtime
listening/score reading:
Brian Ferneyhough Terrain
Brian Ferneyhough Lemma-Icon-Epigram [no score]
James Dillon East 11th Street NY 10003
Brian Ferneyhough, "Duration and Rhythm as Compositional Resources" and "Responses to a Questionnaire on 'Complexity'," Collected Writings, pp. 51-71.
Richard Toop, "Brian Ferneyhough's Lemma-Icon-Epigram," Perspectives of New Music vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 53-100.
code resources: lisp code
class notes
November 19: computer music - Xenakis, Chafe, Scaletti & Burtner
topics & activities:
algorithms and style replication
algorithms as radical extensions of existing techniques
listening/score reading:
Matthew Burtner Glass Phase [no score]
Chris Chafe Transect [no score]
Carla Scaletti sunSurgeAutomata [no score]
Iannis Xenakis S.709 [no score]
David Cope, The Algorithmic Composer, chapters 6-7, pp. 205-266
Bill Schottstaedt, Automatic Species Counterpoint, STAN-M-19
assignment 7 (due November 26):
write a one-page proposal for your final project (to be presented December 20)
code resources: lisp code
class notes
November 26: networking - The Hub
topics & activities:
network rules as algorithmic composition
algorithms in an improvisational context
listening/score reading:
Tim Perkis Waxlips [no score]
Phil Stone Borrowing and Stealing [no score]
Mark Trayle Simple Degradation [no score]
Mark Trayle Crybaby [no score]
Chris Brown and John Bischoff, "Indigenous to the Net: Early Network Music Bands in the San Francisco Bay Area,"
Scot Gresham-Lancaster, "The Aesthetics and History of the Hub: The Effects of Changing Technology on Network Computer Music," Leonardo Music Journal 8 (1998), pp. 39-44.
code resources: lisp code
December 3: later Ligeti
topics & activities:
algorithmic specification and compositional intervention in the piano etudes
listening/score reading:
György Ligeti Etudes for Piano Book I
Hartmuth Kinzler, "György Ligeti: Decision and automatism in Desordre," Interface 20/2 (1999), pp. 89-124.
class notes
December 10: later Cage
topics & activities:
Cage's time-bracket works, and algorithmic work in other media (mesostics, opera, film, etc.)
John Cage Fourteen
"Cage and the Computer: a Panel Discussion," in David Bernstein and Christopher Hatch, eds., Writing Through John Cage's Music, Poetry, and Art, pp. 190-209
code resources: lisp code
class notes
December 20: Electroacoustic Salon 23, 7:30 pm, Music B60 - final project presentations