Music 128

The moment man ceased to make music with his voice alone, the art became machine-ridden. Orpheus’s lyre was a machine, a symphony orchestra is a regular factory for making artificial sounds, and a piano is the most appalling contrivance of levers and wires this side of the steam engine.”

Jacques Barzun, “A Request for the Loan of Your Ears” (1961) in Critical Questions

Over 40,000 years ago humans used stone tools to fashion flutes from animal bone; since then music-making has continued to motivate and to be shaped by technological innovations. The undergraduate course “Music and Technology: From Bone Flute to Auto-Tune” surveys the relationship between music and technology from the Paleolithic Age to the present day. The course examines the origins and impact of diverse musical instruments, with particular attention to the connections between musical and technological developments, and to debates about the enhancement or destruction of music by technology. By studying the history of such instruments as the violin and piano, clavichord and glass harmonica, electric guitar and Moog synthesizer, we gain a window onto musical cultures of the distant and recent past, and an understanding of the interplay between technological change and the enduring human need for music.

This website provides a companion “textbook” to the course. The Introduction and Final Projects pages are public; access to other pages is reserved for course participants. First offered in Fall 2012, version 2.0 was offered in Spring 2014, together with a conference.

Professor Deirdre Loughridge (dloughridge at berkeley dot edu)

Spring 2014

Week 1 Introduction (public page), Music 27 Review
Week 2 – Origin Myths; Bone Flute and Other Prehistoric Technologies
Week 3 – Monochord; Carillon; Castrato
Week 4From Animal Horn to Valved Brass; String Families
Week 5 – Music Writing
Week 6 – Organ ‘King of Instruments’; Tuning and Temperament
Week 7 – Glass harmonica, ‘So Celestial a Tone’; Aeolian Harp, ‘Instrument of Inspiration’
Week 8 – Time Machines; Orchestras
Week 9Saxophone; History/Ethnography/Design; CNMAT
Week 10 –  Accordion and Globalization; Electric Guitar and Reconceptualization
Week 11 – Player Piano and Phonograph; Tape and Multi-Tracking
Week 12Theremin’s Musical and Military Instruments; Moog’s Mainstreaming
Week 13 – MIDI and Analog/Digital Hybrids; Samplers
Week 14 – Composing with Computers; Auto-Tune

Final Projects (public page)

Conference 2014