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Peer Review

Music and Computers

by Phil Burk , Mary Roberts , Douglas Repetto , Dan Rockmore , Larry Polansky


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Mar 26, 2014 by Music
Overview: Music and Computers is a site authored by Phil Burk, Larry Polansky, Douglas Repetto, Mary Roberts and Dan Rockmore and maintained by the Computer Music Center at Columbia University. The site is an online textbook divided into chapters covering the basic concepts of computer music. The site includes text, graphics, audio examples and limited animation. The topics covered are: The Digital Representation of Sound, Sound and Timbre, The Digital Representation of Sound, Playing by the Numbers, The Frequency Domain, The Synthesis of Sound by Computer, The Transformation of Sound by Computer.
Type of Material: Interactive multimedia online textbook.
Recommended Uses: This site is an ideal online companion text for introductory computer music and/or music technology students. The site is a good reference for experienced computer music and/or music technology students, for individual study with ample examples and compositional/technological exercises.
Technical Requirements: The technical requirements to use this site are access to a computer, online connection and a standard browser. Requires Java for some audio examples and the JSyn Applet.
Identify Major Learning Goals: To learn the fundamental concepts of computer music. This is a resource and guide for those just beginning to look at the field of computer music as well as those advanced computer composers who might benefit from fresh insight
Target Student Population: Advanced high school or College level, Graduate School and Professional.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Students who are approaching computer music and music technology for the first time should find this site useful, especially with guidance from a teacher. Upper level students with prior knowledge of the music technology concepts will be a better equipped to gain the most from this site. Some math and programming and basic computer skills are helpful. There is a well written How To Use the Web Site chapter.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The quality of the content of this site is very good and accurate. The site presents the essential and significant concepts and models of computer music in a logical order. The site contains excellent quality graphics and audio examples to illustrate the concepts presented in the text. This site is a complete course that introduces the reader to the mathematical, physical and computer science challenges and achievements that have made audio and electroacoustic music possible (from the web site) Ample opportunities to learn by doing – including compositional and technological exercises.
Concerns: No concerns.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: This site provides a rich, concise study of the concepts and principals of computer music. The text is written in a conversational format that will engage students who might be intimidated by a more academic or formal writing style. This site would best serve as a companion textbook to a course where the teacher would define terms and jargon in detail. This textbook would also serve as a good reference or as a tool to reinforce concepts explained in the classroom. The site does not have one specific learning goal but instead exists as a study environment presented in a logical order. This approach increases the potential for teachers to create assignments that integrate into many different pedagogical goals.
Concerns: The text moves quickly and does not always explain new terms or jargon. Some analogies simplify a complex concept or idea and may require further explanation or a different analogy for a given class of students.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: This site is easy and intuitive to use. The layout is consistent and easy to navigate. The site does not require additional documentation, technical support or instruction to use. The site is very attractive and inviting to the user.
Concerns: Many examples rely on the JSyn applet which may not function on all devices.