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Copyright © James Boyk 1991-2003

Fall Term, 2003 - the 25th year of this course at California Institute of Technology
"Projects in Music & Science," EE/CS 107a, EE/CS/Mu 17a
Information for Students, Partial List of Requirements (Subject to Changes and Additions)
Field Trip to Pasadena Symphony rehearsal

Last Modified: September, 2003. Sections modified are marked by *.

Note 1: You can enroll in this course in two different ways, as shown above. It is the student's responsibility to be sure that the course satisfies needed requirements; to enroll in the correct course; to enroll appropriately for letter grade or P/F. If you have questions, consult the Registrar and/or the relevant Division at the beginning of the course. Do not leave it to be sorted out later.

Note 2: Read everything here before the second meeting.

Subject of this term:  Analytic listening to live and reproduced music.

Theme:  Comparisons focus perception. Thus, students will compare the sound of the Pasadena Symphony as heard from on-stage to the sound as heard from the hall; the sound of the SAC Rm 1 piano live to the same piano recorded; the image and "stereo stage" of an orchestral recording made with "single-point" miking to a parallel recording which was "multi-miked"; and so on.
      Because it's difficult to talk about these matters without some understanding of music and performance, basic instruction in these subjects is provided. Also included is information about the basics of the piano; about microphones and stereo; concert-hall acoustics, and other topics.
      Discussions of various technologies will be held as needed; e.g., on the tonal qualities of various makes of piano (Yamaha vs. Steinway vs. Boesendorfer); the relative virtues of various kinds of microphones; tubes vs. transistors; analog vs. digital recording; and so on. The focus, however, will always be on having students listen to and evaluate as much live and reproduced musical sound as possible.
      The instructor is known internationally as a concert artist and recording engineer/producer, audio consultant, researcher, writer and teacher of this course and of music performance.

James Boyk & class discussing major scales.

Mottos of the Music Lab:
       1. Perception Precedes Analysis; Analysis Informs Perception.
       2. When you can reliably tell two things apart, then you get to have an opinion on which is better.

Class meeting times and locations:  Weds., Fris., 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. in the Music Lab, Winnett Center basement, rooms 2C and 2D (access via outdoor stairways on west side of building). Attendance is required in class and on field trip(s).

Auditing:  Requires written permission of instructor. Due to severe limitation on facilities, permission will generally not be given.

Instructor:  James Boyk. I am available before or after class, or whenever I'm on campus; by email; and by phone to x. 4590 (lab); home phone 310/475-8261 (OK to call Sun. through Fri., Noon - 5 p.m., or any time in an emergency).

Teaching Assistant:  Joshua Adams '04. TA's sessions meet twice weekly at mutual convenience of TA and students.

Two-sentence listening reports. Eight are due in the term. The first one is due at the 2nd meeting, and four must be submitted by the 8th meeting. Each week, listen to 60 minutes of live, unamplified music. Write two sentences saying whom you heard, playing what pieces, on what instruments, in what place; and making one or more observations about the sound as it reached your ears. (We'll discuss this in class.)


Class Meetings Dabney Lounge, California Institute of Technology
(References to "early birds" mean material provided for those who arrive before class begins. The same material is repeated in class, and is also available to students during the TA's two sessions each week.)

Writing assignments are given an upper limit of length to encourage writing which is succinct, and therefore good. After the 4th meeting, all assignments must be submitted with line length between 40 and 45 characters. (Using a non-proportional font is helpful.)

Passing-scores on perceptual tests are set so that, when you look back on the course in future days, you will be convinced that you did acquire the perceptual skill in question.

Group project
Starting from a recording of good audio quality, listen to and describe the degradations arising from the processing in a FM broadcast signal chain; e.g., "dynamic compression" and "limiting." What negative effects are created by each? Write a group paper on this. (If we cannot borrow the equipment for this, we'll do a different project.)


Class & James Boyk at Pasadena Symphony rehearsal
The class was disposed in various places about the stage at the Pasadena Symphony rehearsal. Also see picture at top.

Field Trips

Further reading by JB (not required):

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Copyright © James Boyk 1991-2003