What’s Sound and Music Computing?#

Sound and Music Computing is a course in computer music making and laptop performance open to ANU students in computing, music, art, and anywhere else on campus who meet the prerequisites.

During the course you will create small pieces of computer music weekly while collaborating with your peers to learn about sound and music computing.

At the end of the course, you will present a concert of collaborative laptop music works as the “ANU Laptop Ensemble”. You can see the final performances from other students here on our Youtube Channel

What reference format is used in this course?#

We prefer ACM reference format: https://www.acm.org/publications/authors/reference-formatting

Some example references in Markdown format 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: <https://stackoverflow.com/questions/51233447/p5js-image-array>
4. p5 Reference. No Date. MouseWheel Example (CC BY-NC 4.0). Retrieved from: <https://p5js.org/reference/#/p5.Element/mouseWheel>
5. Scott Bauer. 2004. Photo of Potatoes (Public Domain). Retrieved from: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato#/media/File:Patates.jpg>
6. Aaron Wu. 2018. Boat Photo on Unsplash. Retrieved from: <https://unsplash.com/photos/_8rjlHwN4uk>
7. Wikipedia. 2022. J M W Turner Article. Retrieved from: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._M._W._Turner>

What music background is required?#

There are no specific music pre-requisites, and we will teach any musical concepts required 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 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 computing journey.

Is there anything I can do before the course starts to get prepared?#


  1. Enrol in the course on ISIS and sign up for a workshop
  2. Make sure you have a laptop and commit to attending all lectures and workshops.
  3. Read through the tools page and install things on your laptop that you might need. Test them out and see if you can make a sound.
  4. Have a look at the references page and browse through some of the reference material to start a head start on learning about sound and music computing.

Then show up in week 1 ready to make some computer music!

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 musician, 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.

Who shouldn’t take this course?#

In SMC, we 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:

  • simplistic, “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 SMC then you’ve been warned!

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

Yes, the biggest course assessment is to use the computer music instrument/system that you’ve built in a group performance alongside some of your classmates.

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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