Introduction to Creating Electronic Sounds
(Winter Quarter 2017, Stanford University)


Instructors: Eoin CallerySasha Leitman

TAs: Victoria Grace, Mark  Hertensteiner
Course Assistant: Victoria Chang


Course Description:  

Introduction to Creating Electronic Sounds will allow students to explore their creative voice by learning the practical nuts and bolts of making sounds with computers and professional audio equipment. The class will survey some of the basic concepts, mixing and production techniques used in podcasts, documentaries, live performance instruments, electronic music and sound art. Students will put these nuts and bolts to use by creating a midterm soundscape project and creating a final class project that is focused around their particular creative interests.

Course Goals:

By teaching a basic step-by-step introduction to best practices and basic techniques with the standard sonic arts software, hardware, techniques, and tools we are seeking to enable students from the widest variety of backgrounds to explore further creative studies. Each assignment will encourage students to find their own creative voice through music composition and sound design while practicing the technical skills that they are learning. Students will be encouraged to integrate their own life experiences, imaginations and musical preferences into the work they create. Along the way, they will be exposed to different forms of sonic art and different approaches that might be unfamiliar given their previous musical experiences. Their final project will allow them to channel the material they have learned into whatever medium they choose – pop music, podcasts, a radio play, an interactive piece of sound art or a more traditional form of electronic music.


3 or 4. Students taking the course for 3 Units will not be required to complete sound/music advanced studies research paper review homework and presentations in weeks 9 and 10.

Office hours:

All office hours will take place at CCRMA.  CCRMA is located in the Knoll, 660 Lomita Ct., behind FloMo dorm.

Tuesday 10am – 3pm         Eoin – at his desk on the 2nd floor.
Wednesday 1pm – 6pm      Sasha – Room 201, The MaxLab
Friday 11am – 4pm              Victoria Grace, Studio C, 1st floor
Sunday 2pm – 7pm              Mark, Studio C, 1st floor, Call to get let into building 918-340-0940

ContactING us:

Sasha Leitman,, 650-207-5009
Eoin Callery,
Victoria Grace,
Mark Hertensteiner,, ,918-340-0940
Victoria Chang,


All office hours will take place at CCRMA.  CCRMA is located in the Knoll, 660 Lomita Ct., behind FloMo dorm.

Tuesday 10am – 3pm         Eoin – at his desk on the 2nd floor.
Wednesday 1pm – 6pm      Sasha – Room 201, The MaxLab
Friday 11am – 4pm              Victoria Grace, Studio C, 1st floor
Sunday 2pm – 7pm              Mark, Studio C, 1st floor, Call to get let into building 918-340-0940


Laptop: Students must bring their own laptops to class.  If this is a problem for you, please speak to the instructors.

Software:  For the first six weeks of class we will be using the Ardour 5 digital audio workstation software due to its low cost and cross platform capabilities – it will work with mac, pc and linux computers.

Headphones: It is highly recommended that students purchase Sony MDR-7506 enclosed muff headphones or something of a similar quality and type.  

Equipment Checkout: We have equipment such as portable recorders, audio interfaces, headphone and microphones available for checkout at Lathrop Library. Equipment Checkout Details And Instructions


Philosophy: The instructors of this class do not believe in assigning unnecessary coursework.  We strive to create course content that we really believe that you need to make electronic sounds.  This is the first time the course is being offered so if you find errors, have suggestions, or enjoy something, please let us know.  Please be aware that some of this material is quite boring but if you learn the boring details now, you will save yourself time later when you are in the midst of a creative project.  Also, please be aware that music and sound are temporal art forms – they take a lot of time.  This is a class where you cannot wait until the last minute – small technical difficulties, the time it takes to listen, re-listen, and edit and the very nature of sound means all-nighters before the due date are not the key to success.

Attendance: Attendance to each class is crucial to the development of technical and aural skills. Unexcused absences will result in a significantly lowered grade.  Students who plan to miss a class section (due only to illness, emergency, or approved non-recurring schedule conflict) must e-mail the TA prior to class time on the day of absence.

Participation: In addition to showing up to class, we ask that you are an engaged and considerate participant.  We will have a number of assignments where we ask you to listen to eachother’s work.  It is important to practice the art of giving good feedback.  Here are some good guidelines:

Be Generous – Try to imagine what the person is attempting and help them find a way to get there.
Be vocal about what works – Compliments are as useful as critiques.
Be specific -Vague feedback is rarely useful.
Be a good proofreader – Practicing the art of listening for “sonic typos” in other people’s work will help you be a better listener in your own work.

Online Tutorials: We will be posting tutorials on the course website on a weekly basis.  These tutorials will cover the technical details such as music software, hardware use, and sound examples.  Going through these tutorials is mandatory for your assignments and material from the tutorials will frequently be featured in the in-class quizzes.

Assignments: Assignments will generally come in the form of weekly sound compilation/composition exercises.  All work is expected to be completed on time.  You can request 2 late days for 2 different assignments. Any work submitted after that will not count towards your final grade but must still be completed.   All work must be completed for a passing grade.  

Readings and Listenings: Most weeks, we will assign several articles to read and several musical examples to listen to.  These are required and should be completed by the due date listed.   These examples will cover many types of creative sound practices. We will briefly discuss students’ reactions to these at the beginning of each class and they are assigned to offer examples/model artistic processes that will assist students to execute their midterm and final projects.

Quizzes: Most weeks there will be a short quiz in class on readings, online tutorials and other relevant course subjects.

Book Report: In addition to weekly readings, you will be expected to read one book from the list found at the end of this syllabus.  The books have been chosen to reflect a wide variety of genres and uses of electronic sounds.  They are meant to be inspirational and offer greater historical depth on a particular topic than we can provide in this class.  Students should select a book that most closely aligns with their creative goals for this class.  You will be required to submit a 3-5 page informal review of the text on 2/8.

Midterm Project: The midterm project will be a 90 second science fiction soundscape created in Ardour, due 2/10.

Final Project: The final project can be anything you want it to be.  It can be as long as you think it needs to be.  It can use any software or hardware you choose as long as a computer is involved somewhere in the process.



Attendance: 10%
Homework: 20%
Quizzes: 20%
Midterm: 20%
Book Response: 5%
Final Project: 25%

Students with documented disabilities:

Students who have a disability that may necessitate an academic accommodation or the use of auxiliary aids and services in a class must initiate the request with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). The DRC will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend appropriate accommodations, and prepare a verification letter dated in the current academic term in which the request is being made. Please contact the DRC as soon as possible; timely notice is needed to arrange for appropriate accommodations. The DRC is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (723-1066; TDD 723-1067)


Week 1: Acoustic to Digital Sound – Sound in the Time Domain

Monday 1/9

Class: Acoustics, Microphones/Recorders/Digital Sound Representation/Signal Level
In Class Listening:

Wednesday 1/11

Class: Connectors and Cables/ Field Recording
Listening 1 Due: Luigi Russolo: Risveglio di una Città (Awakening of a City – 1913), Halim El-Dabh:  Expression of Zaar (1944), Hildegard Westerkamp Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989)
Readings 1 Due:  Walter Murch: Stretching Sound to Help the Mind See,  Schaffer: Introduction to “The Soundscape”, Luigi Russolo: The Art of Noises,
Homework 1 Due: Careful Listening

WEEK 2: Digital Sound – Sound in the Frequency Domain


Class: Sound in the Frequency Domain
Listening 2 Due:  LeRoy Stevens: Favorite Recorded Scream (2009)
Chicken EDM (2016)
Selection of Radio/Podcast Excerpts
Readings 2 Due:  Chris Reider: What is Sound Art?
Tate Gallery London: What is Sound Art?
Wikipedia: What is Sound Art?
Online Tutorial 1 Due:  Ardour and Portable Recorders
Homework 2 Due:  Ardour, Field Recording, Commercial First Draft

WEEK 3: Signal flow and Location


Class: Mixer history and architecture/Mid-Side and Stereo
Listening 3 Due:  Eliane Radigue: Islas resonantes (2000), DJ Yoda: How To Cut And Paste Vol. 2 (2002)
Readings 3 Due:  Thom Holmes: In Praise of Hugh Davies
Online Tutorial 2 Due: Automation, Viewing Options, EQ
Assignment 3 Due:  EQ and Final Draft of Commercial


Class: Reverb/Foley Engineering
Listening 4 Due:  Louis & Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet Main Titles Overture (1956), Alvin Lucier: I am sitting in a room (1969),  Maryanne Amacher:  Sound Characters (1995)
Readings 4 Due:  Roger Beardsley and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson: A Brief History of Sound Recording
Assignment 4 Due:  Feedback on Commercial to Fellow Students, Research one Sound Artist

WEEK 4: Audio Effect and Synthesis


Class: Delay/Distortion/Pitch Shifting/Dynamic Effects
Listening 5 Due: Les Paul & Mary Ford on Omnibus (Talk and Song 1953)
Readings 5 Due:  Steve Schoenherr for AES: Recording Technology History,  Lisa Harries Schumann, Lecia Rosenthal: Magic on the Air, Attempt at a Radio Grotesque by Hans Flesch
Online Tutorial 2 Due: 
Assignment 5 Due:  Reverb and Soundtrack


Class: Additive/Subtractive/FM/Granular/Imaginary Sounds
Listening 6 Due:  Hamlet (1948 film), Otto Luening: Low Speed (1957), Throne of Blood (1957) Else Marie Pade: Faust (1962)
Readings 6 Due: David Katz: A beginner’s guide to Scientist, dub reggae’s experimental genius,  Brian Eno: The Studio as a Compositional Tool
Online Tutorial X Due: 
Assignment 6 Due: Plan your sci-fi soundscape midterm project

WEEK 5: Midterm work


Class: Question for Soundscape assignment
Listening 7 Due:  Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan: Song of the Second Moon (1957), Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan: Syncopation (1958),
Wendy Carlos:  Switched on Bach 1 (1968), John Chowning:  Stria (1977), David Tudor:  Pulsers (1976)
Readings 7 Due:  Dariusz Roberte: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY: A critical analysis of the film score (WATCH THE MOVIE OVER THE WEEKEND!!!)
Jason Kottke: The original score for 2001: A Space Odyssey
Assignment 7 Due: Midterm plan


Class: Book review class
Listening 8 Due: Vladimir Ussachevsky: Wireless Fantasy (1960), Pauline Oliveros: Bye Bye Butterfly (1965), Jerry Hunt: Song Drapes 1 (1988-? Recording 1999), Jerry Hunt: Fluud (1988),
Selections from Prince, Eurythmics, and more
Readings 8 Due:  BOOK REVIEW DUE
Assignment 8 Due: BOOK REVIEW DUE

Monday 2/13: Midterm Project Due

WEEK 6: Production


Class: Other SoftwareComments on soundscapes in groups.
Listening 9 Due:  Listen to the soundscapes of your listening group members.
Readings 9 Due:  Vera Wyse Munro (1897-1966) the pioneering New Zealand ham radio broadcaster
Assignment 9 Due: 
Feedback on Midterm to Fellow Students


Class: Physical Interaction and MIDI Controllers. Final Project proposals
Listening 10 Due: Donna Summer I Feel Love
Original and Remastered Versions of Popular Songs TBD
Heavy Compression Examples TBD
Readings 10 Due: Michel Chion: Chapter 4 of Audio-Vision, The Audiovisual Scene
Assignment 10 Due: Final Project Plan

WEEK 7: Input/output


Class: Intro to Compression/Limiting/SideChaining.
Listening 11 Due: Max Neuhaus – Radio Net (1978)
George Lewis – Interactive Trio (2011, based on his Voyager System 1986-1988)
Tarek Atoui – UnDrum (2009)
Trimpin – TBD
Readings 11 Due: Interview with Maryanne Amarcher
Interview with Paul DeMarinis
Assignment 11 Due: Compression

WEEK 8: The Experimental


Class: Sampling, Plunderphonics and Circuit Bending
Listening 12 Due:  John Oswald: Dab (1990)
Laetitia Sonami – Lady Glove (Built 1991, This Performance 2000)
Peter Ablinger – Speaking Piano “A Letter from Schoneberg” (Part of a Series Beginning in 1996)
Readings 12 Due:  John Oswald: Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative
Assignment 12 Due: TBD


Class: Installations and Experimental radio
Listening 13 Due:  Paul DeMarinis – Firebirds (200
Cathy van Eck – Wings, a performance for acoustic feedback (2008)
Diane Landry – Flying School (2000)
Readings 13 Due:  AMEN Break Musician Finally Gets Paid
Tonya M. Evans: A Brief History of Copyright Law
Assignment 13 Due: Final Project Progress

WEEK 9: the Future


Class: Future Sound Study Options at CCRMA and beyond.
Listening 14 Due:  Suggest an example from a Sound/Sonic orientated Site/Blog etc. or a podcast to listen to.
Readings 14 Due:  Select one academic research paper from a list provided.


Class: Progress report on Final projects

WEEK 10: Final projects 


Class: Questions and discussions – final project assistance
Final Project Presentations


Class: Final Project Presentations

Book Options:

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
Ahmir Thompson and Ben Greenman

Hip Hop
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
Jeff Chang

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
Bill Brewster

Singing Out: An Oral History of America’s folk music revivals
David King Dunaway, Molly Beer

Generation Ecstasy
Simon Reynolds

Recording studio
All you need is ears
George Martin, with Jeremy Hornsby

Louder than Hell
Jon Wiederhorn, Katherine Turman

Noise/Music: A History
Paul Hegarty

A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
George Lewis

Women in electronic music
Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound
Tara Rodgers

Critical studies
The Audible Past
Jonathan Sterne

Radio and Podcasts
Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio
Jessica Abel

Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound
Jay Beck, Tony Grajeda

The Foley Grail
Vanessa Theme Ament