This is the course FAQ—we’ll update it as the semester goes along.

What’s LENS?

More concretely, LENS is a course in computer music making and laptop performance open to ANU students in music, art, computer science, and anywhere on campus you can take a COMP elective.

Laptop Ensemble links:

You can see more vids of the ensemble at work on their YouTube channel.

What reference format is used in this course?

We prefer ACM reference format:

Some example references are as follows:

# References

1. Alice McGuffing. 2022. Ideas for creating the animated ripple effect
2. Jerry Wang. 2022. Background Artwork (artwork.jpg)
3. Howzit (StackOverflow user). 2018. p5js-image-array (CC BY-SA 2.5). Retrieved from:
4. p5 Reference. No Date. MouseWheel Example (CC BY-NC 4.0). Retrieved from:
5. Scott Bauer. 2004. Photo of Potatoes (Public Domain). Retrieved from:
6. Aaron Wu. 2018. Boat Photo on Unsplash. Retrieved from:
7. Wikipedia. 2022. J M W Turner Article. Retrieved from:

What music background is required?

There are no specific music pre-requisites, and we will teach things from the ground up. Although some music experience is useful, we use musical concepts that are not taught in a standard music curriculum.

Obviously, if you’ve never done anything with music/sound before then there’ll be some extra reading (and noise-making!) to do to stay on top of things, but if you’re willing to put in the work it shouldn’t be an un-manageable workload.

What computing background is required?

If you have a background outside of computing, we will teach things from the ground up. However, we recommend COMP1720 Art and Interaction Computing as an appropriate starting point for a creative computer journey.

I’m a musician/programmer and I’m worried that I don’t have the required programming/music skills—will I be ok?

After reading the previous answers you still might be worried. And everyone’s different, so it’s hard to give a definitive answer to this question. Still, one key question to ask yourself is do you like the thing you’re worried about not having the required skills in, and do you want to learn more about it?

If you’re a muso, do you like thinking about patterns, structure & “compositional rules”? Do you want to learn more about programming and computers and use them in your creative practice?

If you’re a programmer, do you like music? Do you like thinking about patterns in art & music and always wondered if that structure could be expressed in a computer program? Do you want to learn how to use your computing & logic skills to create music?

If the answers to these questions are yes, then I think you’ll be fine. You’ll be motivated to learn the things you don’t know already, and you might surprise yourself about how much you enjoy learning about how to put computers to work in making your own music. Imagine actually enjoying & being motivated to learn something—who’d have thought that uni could be like that 😜?

Who shouldn’t take this course?

In LENS believe that computing (including creative computing) is for everyone, and so no-one should rule themselves out because they think they’re not “technical” or “musical” enough to make music with computers.

Having said that, this isn’t a standard CS course, so if you’re expecting:

  • nice, “one right answer” assignments where you just write code to pass a bunch of unit tests
  • a “closed” syllabus where everything you’ll need to get a good grade is a fact you can memorise from the lecture slides
  • to work as a “lone wolf” without having to interact with your classmates (this is a collaborative course)

then this probably isn’t the course for you. No hard feelings, but if you sign up for LENS then you’ve been warned!

What does this course look like, week-to-week?

Each week, you’ll:

  • learn about a particular computer music concept (in your own time)
  • make & submit a creative response which explores that concept (in your own time)
  • listen to, play with & discuss the things that you and your classmates have made (during the class workshop timeslot)

In addition, over the course of the semester you’ll:

  • create a software/hardware tool for making music in a laptop ensemble context
  • write a report reflecting on your design process
  • perform (live!) with your tool and ensemble classmates at the end-of-semeseter LENS concert

Do I have to do a live performance if I take this course?

Yes, the main course assessment is to use the computer music instrument/system that you’ve built in a group performance alongside some of your LENS classmates. The “present it in concert” part of that is one of the course learning outcomes.

What are the time commitments for LENS?

The primary weekly contact hours are the 2-hour workshop session. If you’re enrolled in the class, you must be there every week.

Outside of that workshop, the class will be delivered in “flipped” mode; we’ll give you some reading material & videos to look at, then you’ll create something in response (as described above).

This is a standard 6-unit course, so the ANU expectation is around 130 hours of work over the semester (around 11 hours/week, on average). This means that you need to make the time every week to read the workshop material in advance, think about which bits make sense and where you have questions, and make some noise.

Can I take this course if I’m a remote student?

Unfortunately not, this course is only offered in-person on ANU campus.

What music software will we be using in the course?

In this course you’ll learn to use both:

Which one you use for your final performance is up to you; you’ll get to decide what fits your creative purposes best as the semester progresses.

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