Intellectual Impropriety – Electronic Music Composition Workshop

Dates: November 13 & 14, 2010

Time:12 – 6pm all days

Instructor: Bruno Ruviaro (

The class is a 12-hour weekend intensive cost is $20 per instruction hour. $240 for non-GAFFTA members and $216 for members.

Composing and recycling music: how far can sampling lead you? Can you be original through plagiarism?

Description: The goal of this weekend intensive workshop is to give students a basic practical understanding of (mainly Open Source) tools and techniques for the composition of sample-based electronic music. Hands on labs are interleaved with critical discussion on various topics surrounding the practice of sample-based composition: notions of ownership in music; alternatives to copyright such as Creative Commons and Copyleft; and the constant presence of musical borrowing throughout music history. Sampling will be discussed in its widest possible musical definition, including how it may change the nature of musical creativity and how it is affecting a wider culture.

The workshop is of an experimental nature: departing from your own musical background, you will be encouraged to creatively question underlying musical assumptions and to explore original (!) ways of composing music through the use of existing music. This workshop is intended for: beginners to intermediate level students. You don’t have to have any prior experience with the software mentioned above. No music theory background necessary. Please bring headphones. This workshop is designed for Mac or Linux users (unfortunately some applications used in this workshop are not available on Windows).

Workshop structure: The schedule will consist of short lectures followed by lab sessions. Participants will work on their own laptops to complete hands-on assignments and exercises. By the end of the workshop you will have a basic practical understanding of the fundamental operations of Audacity (sound editor), Ardour (digital audio workstation), and Pd and/or MaxMSP (graphical programming languages), with particular emphasis on the technique of concatenative synthesis (CataRT and timbreID). You will use these programs to compose a very short miniature which will be presented in class at the end of the weekend. An e-mail with software installation links and instructions will be sent to students in advance, having applications installed and tested will leave more time for creativity!

Software installation instructions.

Lecture/Lab 1: Audacity
- Basic operations
- Collage and montage techniques
- Working with multiple tracks
- Effects
Lecture/Lab 2: Ardour
- Intro to Ardour & JACK
- Overview of the interface
- Edit window and mixer window
- Starting a session
- Creating tracks or busses
- Importing audio
- Working with regions
Lecture/Lab 3: More Ardour
- Basic recording operations
- Volume automation
- Using plug-ins
- Understanding routing

Lecture/Lab 4: MaxMSP and Pd
- Introduction to MaxMSP and Pd
- Simple granulation patch
- Concatenative synthesis
- Catork: a CataRT skin/interface for composition and performance
- Recording the results
Lecture/Lab 5: Connecting all the dots
- Composing with borrowed samples: common issues (notions of ownership in music, alternatives to copyright such as Creative Commons and Copyleft)
- Choosing and editing samples
- Transforming and “recycling” your samples via concatenative synthesis
- Performing/improvising with your samples
- Composing your miniature in Ardour