Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Stylianos Manousakis
DXARTS 198
Seattle Campus

Digital Arts Seminar

Topics vary and are announced during the preceding quarter. Taught by UW faculty and visiting artists, engineers, scientists, and humanities scholars.

Class description

During this discovery seminar participants will learn to creatively appropriate commercial user-interfaces and use them as tools for artistic expression. The need for making digital technology more accessible and intuitive has been driving an ever-growing trend towards research and development of interfacing technology. In many aspects, musicians, composers and media artists are pioneers of this progression, constantly pushing forward design, usability issues and concepts.

This seminar will introduce participants to the rich history of human-machine interfacing in the arts while teaching them practical skills and providing them with a platform for hands-on experimentation. By the end of the seminar, participants will have created their own musical instruments, based on software they design specifically for ‘found’ interfaces of their choice - such as gamepads, joysticks, MIDI controllers, Wii-remotes or even iPhones. Each participant will compose a studio-based musical piece and make a short performance using his/her instrument, solo or in a band with other participants.

This seminar is ideal for students interested in music, media arts, computer science and engineering, or anyone with musical or performance interests. No prior knowledge is required. The course can be used towards completion of the Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA) requirement.

See a list of past student projects here: http://www.dxarts.washington.edu/courses/198c/198c_projects

Student learning goals

• Become familiar with the theoretical framework behind topics such as: musical instruments, sensors and digital interfaces; electronic music, sound synthesis, sound production; algorithmic art, interactive art and performance

• Acquire experience with the tools and develop the skills necessary for designing and using a digital musical instrument

• Learn the basics of MIDI, Human Interface Devices, digital interfaces and sensors

• Learn the basics of audio programming, interaction programming, sound synthesis and sound design

• Get hands-on experience with using various types of conventional or unconventional user-interfaces for music, such as: computer peripherals (computer keyboard, trackpad, mouse, Apple remote), MIDI devices (piano-type keyboards, knobs, faders, drum-pads, etc), game controllers (gamepad, Joystick, Wii remote and Nunchuck), audio sensing (microphones), video sensing (cameras)

• Collaborate with others in a band-like setup to play electronic music

General method of instruction

The seminar is divided in three main sections: Theory / Development / Practice; as such, it is composed of separate theory, lab and studio sessions. This will provide participants with the theoretical framework, the practical skills and a platform to experiment and test the validity of their concepts and the success of their project, all in a synchronized pace throughout the duration of the course.

Recommended preparation

This seminar is ideal for students interested in music, media arts, computer science and engineering, or anyone with musical or performance interests. No prior knowledge is required, although some elementary programming experience will prove useful. The course can be used towards completion of the Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA) requirement.

Class assignments and grading

Besides the final project assignment, two assignments are given during the course which are meant to facilitate the development of the final project.

Assignment I includes a short proposal about the instrument each participant wants to build and a presentation of an existing project that relates to their instrument. This assignment will be due by the end of the 2nd week.

Assignment II is a short study/piece, composed in a studio setting (ie. not performed in real-time in class), which uses primarily the instrument that each participant is developing. The piece should be accompanied by a small text, concerning aesthetic, process and technical issues. This assignment is due by the end of the 3rd week of the seminar.

Assignment III is the final project: - The instrument each participant has been developing should have reached a state where it can be considered "performance-ready". Supplemental material for the instrument (such as source code, user manual, schematics, etc) must be uploaded to the class server and to the participant's blog before the deadline. - Each participant will compose a music piece, in which their instrument has a prominent role, and perform it live in front of the class. Solo, or band configurations are possible.

During this seminar what will be graded is not only the concept and execution of the final project, assignments and homework, but also the motivation, the amount of work put in and the amount of progress each participant has made during the duration of the seminar. Please note that completion of all assignments is required for a passing grade! The grading break-down is: - Participation in class, discussions, critiques: 15% - Assignment I: 20% - Assignment II: 25% - Assignment III (Final Project): 40%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Stylianos Manousakis
Date: 04/25/2010