Digital Music and Sound Art Composition
MUSI 2350 – Fall 2017 – University of Virginia

Lectures                                    Monday and Wednesday, 11-11:50pm, Wilson 402
Lab Sections                             New Cabell Hall 268

Peter Bussigel                   
Office Hours                                Tuesday, 1-3pm, Wilson 110

Teaching Assistants
Kevin Davis                      
Alex Christie                     
Ben Robertson                 
Becky Brown                    
Heather Mease                


This course is an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of electronic music and sound art. We will focus on the role of new technology in shaping musical thought, production, and culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. Listening examples are drawn from a broad range of styles and genres, including experimental computer music, ambient and dance music, sound art, and multimedia. In addition to exploring key concepts and technologies (microphones, acoustics, synthesizers, deep listening, controllerism, etc.), weekly studio sections and creative projects provide opportunities to actively explore current music production techniques. No previous music experience is required.


  • Develop both critical and constructive perspectives on the relationships between sound, music, and new technology.
  • Learn to think and write about sound and how we capture and process it.
  • Build the technical skills necessary for succeeding in upper-level music technology classes.
  • Take risks and experiment with various approaches to organizing sound and composing music.


Required materials 

  • Headphones (we strongly recommend over-ear headphones, not ear buds)
  • USB data drive (at least 4GB).


The lab computers below have Garage Band, Spear, MaxMSP Runtime, Reaper, and Audacity. They are available for student use through the building schedules.

  • Discussion sections are in New Cabell Hall, Room 268: there are 20 workstations
  • Bryan Hall, 235: 4 workstations
  • Ruffner Hall, 277: 4 workstations
  • Clemons Library (4th floor): 7 workstations
  • Robertson Media Lab (in Clemons): about 10 workstations

We generally use freeware, open source, and home-made software. You can download the tools to your own personal computer.

Software downloads

If you want to install the software on your own computers you can find the download links on the materials/technology page of this site. You can also use other software if you wish. The Collab resources contains a folder of home-made software designed for the class.

Recommended Text

  • Holmes, Thom. Electronic and Experimental Music: Technology, Music, and Culture. Fourth Edition. Routledge Press.

Helpful / Supplementary texts

  • Demers, Joanna. Listening Through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
  • Rodgers, Tara. Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. Durham: Duke UP, 2010. Print.
  • Introduction to Computer Music, Hass, Jeffrey. Online:
  • Cox, Christoph, and Daniel Warner. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. New York: Continuum, 2004. Print.



Attending lectures and lab/discussion sections is required.

We do not take attendance in the lectures, but the quiz and exam material will come directly from the presentations. While I will usually post minimal lecture slides – you need to attend class and take notes in order to do well on the exams.

The labs are an important part of this course and an opportunity to apply many of the concepts and techniques discussed in lecture. Your lab instructor will take attendance and assess a participation grade as part of the section grading.

All students are required to attend an approved concert/show/exhibition of electronic/computer music. There is a list of possible shows on the course website.

Composition Assignments – 30%        

Each student will compose three short musical studies worth 30% of the final grade. The weighting is graduated, so assignment 1 = 5%, assignment 2 = 10% and assignment 3 = 15%.

Assignments are due on Fridays at 5pm, giving every lab a chance to meet during the week an assignment is due. Assignments are submitted when posted in the proper format and in the proper location on the collab site. Assignments will not be accepted more than two weeks late for any reason. Be sure to export/ bounce your assignment to an mp3 and check that it will play in iTunes. Grading is based on the following criteria:

  • timely completion and clear organization. Turn it in on time and make sure your assignment is in the proper format and follows the naming convention as outlined by your TA. (“yourlastname_assignX.mp3”, for example).
  • complete all aspects of the assignment. Read the instructions carefully to make sure you are doing all the parts. Did it ask for a write-up in addition to the digital file?
  • take risks. As composers and technosonic experimenters it is your job to try new things.
  • evidence of work. composing music takes time and requires considerable thought and significant effort.

Exams – 25%

Both exams will consist of a listening section and a terms/concepts section.

Midterm    early electronic music history (10%) – 10.18 in class
Final          cumulative (15%) – 12.04 in class

Concert Write-up – 10%

Click here for a list of approved concerts and more information…

During the semester, attend at least one concert or show of electronic music. Choose a specific piece or set to focus on rather than the full concert and write about the performance. Shoot for between 2 and 3 pages (approximately 750-1000 words) and upload as a pdf to Collab by 5pm on 12.01. Your write-ups should include the following information…

  • A summary of the performance / piece / set that provides context (where? when? who?)
  • Background information on the artist (via online research, readings, or in-person interview / chat)
  • A discussion of the technologies employed and how the performance relates to the techniques and ideas covered in class.

Final Composition – 20%

The final project is your original composition using whatever tools you like from the class. Graded on 1) digital sound art composition technique, 2) compositional form, meets duration requirements (at least 2min), 4) imagination and creativity, 5) evidence of care and work put into it. Your piece should have a title and an idea. Along with your soundfile, submit a short text describing your idea and how it fits in the music.

Lab Section Grade – 15%

Your work in the Lab/Discussion Section accounts for 15% of the grade. This grade may include attendance, participation and lab work as defined by your TAs. Your TA will supply an additional specification that will describe how you will be evaluated for this element.


Honor Code: We expect you to follow the Honor Code. Production courses often call into question traditional notions of fair use, copyright, and plagiarism. If you have questions about a specific project, talk with us during office hours.

Communication: We will make every effort to reply to emails within 24 hours. If we don’t reply within 24 hours, please email us again.

Violence Prevention: We are committed to reducing incidents of violence, harassment, bias, and hazing at UVA and in the broader community. We also believe that every person can play a part in reducing these incidents. If you are interested in becoming a more active bystander ask Peter or Katie about the Green Dot program and other organized prevention efforts underway at UVA.

Just Report It: If you would like to make a report of bias, hazing, or sexual/gender-based harassment or violence, either anonymously or in your own name, you can do so through the university’s Just Report It website:

Circumstances: Let us know if you have a disability or another condition that might require modification to these course procedures and exercises. For information visit

Resources: If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual/gender-based violence or harassment, information on reporting options and resources can be found

Resources for people who have experienced bias related to age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or family medical information can be found here:

Resources for people who have experienced hazing can be found here:

Note that the schedule will change as we move through the semester. Be sure to check back weekly.