A Match Made in Sound Thinking
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.