Krisztián Hofstädter

laptop performance

Sep 24, 2016

09/2014 – 06/2015 @ ARU

In this 15 credit module students develop their knowledge of digital audio and traditional music theory by creating and performing their own musical works using the laptop computer as the main musical instrument.

L: Lecture (tutor’s time)
W: Workshop (tutor and class discusses issues) and
SML: Student Managed Learning (students work on assignments/read/…).

Week 01 | Introduction


Me & You

Me: You: To get to know your musical backgrounds, technical, compositional and performance skills I’ll fill in a few columns here. Let’s talk a bit :)


(1) Email: Preferred is university emails. When you email me please follow this guide. (2) Facebook: (optional) - please find the group now and join!

Backing up work

It’s crucial to back up work. Set up a Dropbox or a similar account.
Q: Do you have this?


Let’s check the rest of the pages and the module guide to clarify a few things! Please ask questions while we go through these or take notes and ask questions later.


Chapter 1-6 in Hewitt, M. (2008) Music Theory for Computer Musicians. Boston: Course Technology (revision)

DeSantis D., 2015. Making Music: 74 creative strategies for electronic music producers. Berlin: Ableton (link).

Week 02 | Improvisation


Today at 4pm we have a concert. Do we have 1-2 groups? You need to play a piece that is around 5 minutes long, in any style. You have to make sure that each of the group members has a presence in the composition.

Once group in Hel029 (Rec), 2nd group in Hel041 (DPL).

Do you have any idea who is in a group? Do you need a computer? Do you know what options you have for spatialisation i.e. making sound?

How do you improvise? What is improvisation? How do you create something meaningful on the spot? How does intuition work for improvisation? What is intuition? How do we know how long we should play? Do we need to know the form of the composition? Does structure help to tell a story? Is your performance a story, what is the plot? Are there any relationships in the story? Why do we need stories to tell? Does structure help creating a flow?

Is the performance for the audience or for the performer, or both? How important is it to keep the location/space in mind when performing? Is your performance site specific?

Do you allocate a frequency spectrum to one player? (Do you play together or do you play after each other e.g. on a different beat?)

What is the relationship between improvisation and life? If we don’t improvise cars can hit us. All our life we are improvising, … how do we improvise well?

Technician/no technician/technical skills…


Chapters 2 (‘Aural Awareness’) and 6 (‘Performance’) in Huggil, A. (2007) The Digital Musician: Creating Music with Digital Technology. Abingdon: Routledge

DeSantis D., 2015. Making Music: 74 creative strategies for electronic music producers. Berlin: Ableton (link)

CD Booklet to Schaeffer, P. (1998) Solfege de l’objet sonore. Paris: INAgrm

Week 03 | Melody


Introduction to Task 1 - let’s check the module guide together.

How do we create clear melodies?

Revision of the concept of melody in music in relation to harmony and harmonic rhythm.

Vertical and horizontal harmony.

Waves> Musical Tones / Noise > Chords (Intervals/Triads/ …) > Chord Progression (knowledge of harmony)> Listener.

Today you will use the C major scale for your composition. Do we know what notes we can use? (Logic Template here).

Also, as all of you so far have used Logic, let’s talk a bit about how to set loops in Logic, here a quick video that could help with form and moving cycle range.

Also, have we managed to change the tempo with a MIDI knob while playing?


Let’s start working on Task 1. 1/2 groups work separately (Hel029 and Hel041). Today we’ll set up the mixer in Hel029.


Revise chapters 13 (chord voicing), 18 (chord progressions) and 23 (complex harmony) in Hewitt, M. (2008) Music Theory for Computer Musicians. Boston: Course Technology

DeSantis D., 2015. Making Music: 74 creative strategies for electronic music producers. Berlin: Ableton (link).

Week 4 | Recap and rehearsals

Group rehearsals of Composition 1 Groups rehearse in readiness for Composition 1 performance next week.

Have you you formed your groups? If you haven, let’s create some now.

Remember to check to module guide for what you need to have in your first composition. Here again:

As you have experienced last week, working together on a composition requires organisation. Please take the time to play/rehearse together in order to address the above criteria for this task:

Identifiable musical form

Make sure there are a few sections in your composition which everyone in your group knows about. Last week you choose to use a sound effect to indicate a move to the next section. This is good if you do not want everyone to keep track of where exactly you are in the piece. As discussed in week 2, you could also think about other ways of communication, using physical gestures, signs on paper, etc… There are also ways to synchronise software on different machines, however to do this on Logic (most of your preferred DAW) doesn’t seem to be too reliable, but explore if you have the time…

Clear harmonic structure

A simple idea would be to use one scale/mode, which everyone utilises. This way you do not have to worry about certain parts of your composition to sound disharmonious, unless this is the aim. To make sure you have an interesting vertical harmonic structure, employ some chord progressions in your composition (use at least four chords).

Clear melodies

As discussed in week 03, here ‘melody’ indicates horizontal harmonic structure.

“…at least four chords.”

This can mean two things:

1) You utilise 4 different types of chords in your part of the composition.

2) The notes you play in your composition form a chord with someone else’s notes (played on another computer) and these are a part of a chord progression. (Here again at least 4 different types of chords.)

Here an approach:


1) Form a group

2) Find out when people are available

3) Book a room

4) Book equipment if needed from technicians


1) Don’t be late. Make sure you had some food, drinks, emptied your bladder … so you can fully focus on the task and your collaboration.

2) Find a scale/mode that you all stick to.

3) Outline a rough form/structure. e.g. ABBA;

4) Come up with a tempo.

5) Find out how you indicate the end/beginning of a new part in your form.

6) Create motifs.

7) Create phrases

8) Edit, refine, self-reflect, discuss.

9) Edit, refine, self-reflect, discuss.

10) Edit, refine, self-reflect, discuss.

Week 5 | Performance

Performances of Composition 1 All groups to perform the first composition.

Your work can be found here.

Week 6 | Noise and Drone Music

What mark do you expect for your submission? Do you think there is room for improvement?


What do you think the function is of these pieces?

Why R U Mix
Analogique A et B
Cosmic Ritual

Introduction to Task 2

From the module guide:

Task 2 Guide

This assignment invites you to experiment with
1) different types of listening modes and with
2) creating unusual sounds, motifs, phrases… a composition.

Let’s examine the keywords in the task description:

‘Structured composition’ that ‘has a clear and identifiable beginning, middle and end’
This means the composition’s form is restricted to three parts. This can be ABC, ABB’, ACC’, AA’A’’, … Note that the guide also suggest that the length of these parts should be the same. Do you remember how long your composition can be? Check here if you forgot.
‘Focuses on noise and drone’
‘… rather than pulse’ here indicates, that the composition shouldn’t be beat driven like the compositions you prepared for task 1. It instead should be based on musical expressions that create some kind of continuous flow (drone music), where the music is rhythmically still and slowly evolving.



In connection to the listening modes, here Pauline Oliveros talks about deep listening:

Do you remember the difference between Musique Concrete and Elektronische Musik?
What does noise actually mean?
Do we remember what the difference is between periodic and the aperiodic sounds?
Is there a connection between noise and drone sounds?
Can a drone sound be made of noise and of musical note?

How does drone music effect our mind (Demers, 2010)?

Drone music and the mind in Demers (2010)

Are there traditional instruments that can create drone sound? (1, 2, 3, 4, … )

Is the concept of drone sounds used in (more) modern music?

(1965) La Monte Young - Inside The Dream Syndicate Volume I Day Of Niagara - link
(1972) Tangerine Dream - Zeit - link
(1984) Coil - How to Destroy Angels - link
(1994) Aphex Twin - Spots - link

To sum up drone music, here some words from Andrew Keiper:



Q: Now, how would you start making drone/noise music?

Demo in SuperCollider. Files used here.
SuperCollider tutorial here and here.

In your preferred software how can you experiment with?

To think about:


Music to listen to:

Some drone music written about in the book Listening through the Noise (Demers, 2010):

Éliane Radigue: Trilogie De La Mort (1998) link
Jim O Rourke - Long Night (1990) link
Charlemagne Palestine: Schlingen Blängen link

Video documentary:

Documentary about noise making people:

Week 7 | Rehearsals

Group rehearsals of Composition 2
Groups rehearse in readiness for Composition 2 performance next week.

Warm up

Practice in groups (A, B, C in three different rooms).

Have you managed to

Also, how is task 1 for group C? Is there any progress?

Jaimin’s presentation on Indian music

Informal presentation about a different musical system.

Refresh concepts

As discussed last week, some have used drone sounds in music for altering states of mind. Therefore let’s see what sound therapist consider the function of the building blocks of music:

BBofM01 in Leeds(2010)

BBofM02 in Leeds(2010)

More information on this topic can be found in Leeds (2010) and Gardner (1990).

Have you heard about frequency following response (FFR), binaural beats?

SuperCollider Demo

4 channel granular synthesis demo (code here)

Now, let’s form the groups and make some tunes!

Week 8

Performances of Composition 2
All groups to perform the second composition.

Week 9



Do you know how to use the library?
Login, physical vs digital copies, Harvard referencing, … )

Here are a few books from the 3rd floor, please visit the library if you haven’t yet.


Books (quick check)
Title, author, date & publisher, back-cover text, content page, … find relevant content > read that or the whole book.
Journal papers (quick check)
Title, author, date & publisher (journal), keywords, abstract, introduction, summary, references, if relevant > read it, if not > look for other paper or organise in folders for later. Example.

Can you please update me with your progress on task one and two?

Today’s theme is remixes/mashups, let’s start with something intererting.

Here an interesting remix/composition:

What’s the purpose of this video clip?

Task 3 guide:

Task 03 Guide

Manzo and Kuhn (2015) differentiate between simple remix and mashup. In a simple remix you use only one acapella track and create your new instrumental accompaniment, where in a mashup you use materials from at least two different musical pieces (acapellas or instrumental tracks) and combine these materials (in a new way).

To think about:

Why do artists use recognisable samples, samples from other compositions?

Do you need to know the key (musical scales) of the music you use in your mashup?

Is a musician who uses samples a thief? Where do you start becoming original when you use other peoples motifs/samples?

When you remix a piece of work, how far do you (can you) step away from the original idea/feel provided in the original music?

What is the relationship between memory, collective consciousness and popular samples used in music?

What is your experience with remixing music?

Remix examples

1-Acapella track is not used, only an instrument sample.

Holger Himmelblaud (Karl Laeufer) - Fondillo de Mujer


2-Acapella and instrumental track used:

Victoria and Jacob - With no Certainty (ARU CMT Alumni)


How are the remixes different to the original music?

Mashup/plunderphonica/reduced listening

Ideas of sound collage/mashup/remix can be found these example:

Cinema for the Ears

Can you recognise any of the samples used?
[Note that these tracks are free downloads i.e. not for sale in order to avoid copyright issues.]

Can a new context for a sample change it’s meaning and if yes, why would an artist want to do that?

Samples for task 3

For task 3 it is crucial to use samples that are copyright cleared. How can you find samples from “existing music” for this task?

1) Public domain music. Check this, this and google.
2) Remix competition. Google.

Advantage/disadvantage of PD and remix competitions

When you use PD music or samples from PD music you should be able to use it freely (even to make money with it). However, make sure you research copyright information for the material you use before you merchandise. Some info here. Sometimes you simply just have to credit the author of the original artwork/sample. There is also Creative Commons and Fair Use, please familiarise yourself with these.

Best to always check where your material comes from to avoid problems as sometimes legalities can change. Youtube guide to fair use here.

If you have music your’d like to check whether anyone uses it, you could use Content ID administration, but check alternatives as well!

In a remix competition when you don’t get into the finals, it’s very likely that you won’t be able to use the samples provided to sell your remix on your own website. Of course you can negotiate.

When you do remixes for money already that is great. If you need to boost your portfolio, you could start with remix competitions or even remix your friends work (ARU Electronic music society). The more people listen to your track, the more feedback you get, the more people can support your career - this is crucial, don’t be shy - JUST DO IT!

To finish, here an interesting TED video with the author of book ‘Remix. Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy”, Lawrence Lessig:


To watch

Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky) - Google Talk

To listen to

Future Sound of London - Dead Cities and Lifeforms

To read (suggestions from module guide)

Revise chapters on meter and additive rhythm (chapters 7, 14) and the circle of fifths (chapter 19) in Hewitt.

See chapters 6 (electroacoustic music) and 13 (remixing and loop sampling) in: Manzo V.J. and Kuhn W., 2015. Interactive composition: strategies using Ableton Live and Max for Live. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

DeSantis D., 2015. Making Music: 74 creative strategies for electronic music producers. Berlin: Ableton (link).

To do: 1) Visit library together.
2) Performances from last week?

Week 10

Group rehearsals of Composition 3
Group rehearsals in preparation for performances the following week.


Week 11

Performances of Composition 3 All groups to perform the third composition.

Week 12

Portfolio tutorials
Bring your logbook to class for a tutorial session.


Now & Then: Electronische Musik (video in German)
Musique Concrete (1, 2, more)


Demers, J. 2010. Listening through the Noise. Oxford University Press
Leeds, J. 2010. The power of sound. Healing Arts Press, Canada
Gardner, K. 1990. Sounding the inner Landscape. Caduceus Publications.
The outline above is based the course leader’s, Tom Hall’s 2015 outline for this module.