Peabody Conservatory

Computer Music Department

EC 350.837 Digital Music Programming I

Fall, 2013


Instructor: McGregor Boyle

Digital Music Programming will focus on the use and understanding software tools for composing interactive music and creating environments for interactive improvisation. Of these the class will spend the majority of its time on Cycling74’s Max programming environment. Since its origin at IRCAM in the mid-1980's Max has become a world standard for the design of computer music performance systems. Originally designed to process and generate MIDI data only, Cycling74 Max has since extended its capabilities to the generation and processing of digital audio with MSP. More recently added to the Max environment is Jitter, which adds real-time video and matrix processing to Max. We will also look at Ableton Live and their Max for Live software.

The class will begin with a review of MIDI performance software and MIDI input devices, followed by a detailed study of the most frequently used aspects of the MIDI specification. This knowledge of MIDI will then be applied to the creation of musical applications using Max, Max/ MSP and Jitter.


There will be regular reading and programming assignments. Programming assignments will be due one week after they are given. Assignments turned in one week late will receive one-half credit, while those turned in two weeks late will receive one-quarter credit. No credit will be given after two weeks. A running list of the class assignments will be posted on the instructor's web page at


MIDI 1.0 Detailed Specification.

Cycling 74 Co. Max/MSP 6.0 Manual.

Winkler, Todd. Composing Interactive Music. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1998.

Class Times

Digital Music Programming is scheduled to meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 to 1:50. The class will meet in room 314 (the Teaching Studio). Some adjustment to the Tuesday time will need to be made to allow the instructor to attend committee meetings. The class may be rescheduled entirely should the student’s request it.


Grades will be determined by the quality of the assignments (35%); two exams, a midterm (25%) and a final (25%); and class attendance and participation (15%).