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Course taught by James Moyer, associate professor of music, allows a variety of majors to encounter music in new ways

“I think composing is fun. It’s like writing a poem but with music, not words. There really is no right and wrong,” says chemical engineering major Romeo Urias ’10 (Glen Burnie, Md.).

The students of the Music Technology course taught by James Moyer, associate professor of music and director of bands, explore the use of computers to compose music. While creating original works in a digital format, students are exposed to music sequencing and sampling software. The class also examines the basics of melody, harmony, and rhythm as they relate to computer-assisted music composition.

Moyer takes particular interest in the use of technology in regards to music because of his past experience. “As a musician and a former employee of Apple, I have been engaged in music technology for 20 years. I use these skills and software for many of my publications, whether they are articles in national journals or music publications.”

The course is not based on lectures, but instead is completely interactive. Students begin composing and arranging multi-track electronic music with the latest technology on the first day.

Stephanie Morillo ’08 (Bronx, N.Y.), who designed her own major of creative media and social justice, has enjoyed her encounters with the technology.

“The software is very user-friendly and makes it possible for people to produce quality pieces in the touch of a button. Professor Moyer is an amazing resource. It is more than helpful to learn from someone who knows the software very well.”

At the conclusion of each lesson, weekly projects are assigned to further enhance the students’ techniques and skills. The final project for the class is a large scale composition that utilizes all facets of the computer software and hardware as well as compositional skills covered in the class. The pairs of students will create multi-track musical compositions, convert a mix-down to stereo, and burn the file to a CD-ROM in a variety of standard audio formats.

The projects and assignments are all original compositions based on the creativity of the students.

Urias has enjoyed this encounter with creativity. “This course has taught me the creative side of music. Having to make your own song within three weeks takes you out of the norm and puts you in a place where you have the control of what the music will sound like. It teaches creativity in the sense that it allows you to choose the sound and mood to your liking. It made me see what really is inside of me; that being my creativity.”

The class is also entirely paperless. All studies, exercises, resource materials, and assignments are done either online or directly in the Digital Music Center in the Williams Center for the Arts.

The course is not required for music majors, but instead is geared toward those with limited or no background in music. Most students take the class to fulfill their humanities requirement.

Morillo feels that the class is a good experience for anyone despite their musical background. “This course has enriched my musical experience. It has made music democratic; those with or without a background have the opportunity to engage and develop an appreciation of music as well as creating their own music.”

The current students in the class represent a variety of majors. They are physics major Keith Bloom ’08 (Monaca, Pa.), psychology major David Brooman ‘09 (Ardmore, Pa.), philosophy major Nigel Bryant ’09 (Dade City, Fla.), economics and business major Jeffrey Canfield ’09 (Kinnelon, N.J.), electrical and computer engineering major Michael Cazzola ’09 (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), anthropology and sociology major Marvin Clecidor ’09 (Lakeland, Fla.), Brittany Futterknecht ’11 (Demarest, N.J.), mechanical engineering major Timothy Hatch ’10 (Glens Falls, N.Y.), mathematics major Andrew Mitofsky ’08 (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.), electrical and computer engineering major Jeffrey Neithammer ’09 (Media, Pa.), government and law major Caitlin O’Brien ’09 (Niskayuna, N.Y.), economics and business major Marcel Quarterman ’08 (Philadelphia, Pa.), government and law major David Stamm ’08 (Holland, Pa.), music major Kisha Thomas ’08 (Baltimore, Md.), mechanical engineering major Andrew Vrachimis ’08 (Ho Ho Kus, N.J.), economics and business major Maurice White ’09 (Maple Heights, Ohio), economics and business major Ryan Williams ’08 (Harrisburg, Pa.), and English major Eric Wilson ’09 (Newtown, Mass.).

Moyer hopes that the course will have positive effects with the students’ overall interactions with music. “I hope that the analytical skills and composition skills developed in the class along with the technology training is something students can use in their every day contact with music, whether as a hobby or an activity.”

“I believe more people should take it, especially those who have come to believe that they ‘aren’t creative’ or ‘don’t understand music,’” says Morillo. “Today many people are creating their own music outside of the music industry giants and, with the Internet, are making it available to others. Producing and sharing one’s own music is a rewarding experience that equates interactive learning with creative thinking.”

Urias concurs, “I recommend this class to anybody who wants to have fun, be challenged to come out of your shell, and be creative with music. You have the chance to play what really is inside of you.”

  • David Stamm ’08 shares his experiences in Music Technology
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