Art Meets Science

A Match Made in Sound Thinking

Prof. Gena Greher consults with music major Maria Price and computer science major Chris Adoretti on their project.

Prof. Gena Greher consults with music major Maria Price and computer science major Chris Adoretti on their project.

05/27/2011
By Sheila Eppolito

A music student and a computer science major walk into a classroom … nope! Not a set-up for a joke – this collaboration is the real thing.

Sound Thinking – a class co-taught by faculty including Alex Ruthmann and Gena Greher from the Music Department and Jesse Heines from Computer Science – aims to bring the often opposite worlds of music and computers together.

Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the Gen Ed course helps to identify what brings the two disciplines together – not what sets them apart. For example, music students learn about logic, loop statements and how music notation can be augmented by a computer program, while computer students come away with a working knowledge of the pentatonic scale, musical intervals and form.

Students recently shared their final projects with a group that included some very impressed Lowell High students.

“It’s great to see the mutual respect – and terrific collaborations – that come from students with different areas of expertise,” says Greher.

The teams did live demonstrations of their projects – featuring everything from musical pongs bouncing around screens to a computer generated Mbira – an African instrument sometimes called a thumb piano.

“By working with Scratch – a software program from MIT’s media lab – and the IchiBoard – a sensor input device developed by a computer science doctoral student – participants interacted with music and changed it in real time,” says Heines.

Sound Thinking has been offered three times – its popularity ensures its return in the spring.