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Dear Collected Wisdom!
This year I’ve started teaching a non-major, first-year course called “Music, Mathematics, and Computation.” My plan for the course was a mixture of mathematical music theory (e.g., tuning and temperament, the Golden Section, etc.) and computational music analysis (key finding, similarity measures, etc.). When I first offered the course in the fall, what I found to be the most successful was to talk about post-1965 pieces with some mathematical angle: I’d lecture on the relevant mathematics (translating them for students who may not even have calculus), we’d listen to the piece together, and we’d talk about the experience of listening. We did things like ratios of tempo in Nancarrow, temperament in Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano and Partch’s Barstow, fractals in Ligeti’s Disordre, fractals in Norgard's infinity series, and algorithmic composition in Pärt’s Cantus, John Luther Adams’s For Lou Harrison, and the postcard pieces by James Tenney.
Since this material was the most successful, I’d like to add more of it (probably double it) and ditch things like key-finding, which I'm starting to think only people who read this board care about. Can anyone think of other concepts/pieces I might add to the syllabus?
Thanks so much!
University of Denver
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