Indiana University       Research & Creative Activity      April 2001 • Volume XXIV, Number 1

Music and Technology:
A Dynamic Duet

By Ceci Jones

Like Lennon and McCartney. That’s how closely computers and music fit at the School of Music at Indiana University
Purdue University Indianapolis
. And like the legendary Beatles pair, the IUPUI School of Music is breaking new ground in the musical world.

In 1995, IUPUI initiated the Master’s of Science in Music Technology (MSMT) degree, a first of its kind. Providing an academic background in digital music production, instructional design, and multimedia development, the thirty credit hour degree prepares students for careers in multimedia publishing, university technology positions, and faculty positions in college music departments. Graduates may also become multimedia producers, Internet programmers and developers, or digital audio specialists.

The possibilities are almost as vast at the Internet itself, but what exactly is music technology? “Music technology is a discipline that has emerged from the use of various new tools, or ‘technologies,’ by performing musicians, music theorists, music teachers, and music historians as well as consumers of music,” says G. David Peters, professor and director of the School of Music

Music technology combines performance and digital instruments, according to Peters, producing digital products such as the musical components of multimedia entertainment and music videos, CD recordings, and interactive software for teaching and learning music.

Teaching and learning music with the aid of computers is a prime interest for MSMT graduates—more than half of the program’s alumni are music educators, who can produce some powerful results when they use technology to introduce children to the world of music.

“Elementary schoolchildren can use electronic keyboards to create great sounds without knowing a note of music,” says Fred Rees, associate professor of music and head of the music technology graduate program. “Technology becomes a way to engage students with music, and they realize that music making is not a formidable process for which you need twelve years of training to create one song.”

G. David Peters, director of the Indiana University School of Music at IUPUI, seated, consults with Fred Rees, head of the IUPUI Music Technology graduate program, in one of the program's computer music laboratories.
Photo Rick Baughn, IUPUI Photographic Services

Technology gets the emphasis in the music technology master’s degree program.“Our students are not just focusing on performance and musical production skills,” says Rees. “We are not in the business of teaching them how to play an instrument better or how to compose music. Rather, the students use their musical backgrounds to work with the resources that music technology provides them.”

Students learn the intricacies of industry-standard software programs such as Director and Premiere for video as well as HTML coding and programming languages such as Java and C++. Each year, their skills are put to the test in a recital featuring a variety of musical styles and performers, from opera singers and alto saxophonists to classical guitarists and jazz ensembles. Students incorporate their new technological knowledge by taking care of recording the event (video and sound) and mounting it on the Web.

“Eventually, the recital becomes a production that culminates in the Web site,” says Peters. “All performances are recorded digitally, formatted for MP3 transmission, and made available on the IUPUI School of Music site.”And the MSMT degree program isn’t stopping there.

“Our primary goal is to maintain a leadership role at IUPUI in this new fast-moving field at IUPUI,” Peters says. “Few other campuses have the strong technology base to compete in this field.”

Indeed, the MSMT degree is a natural fit for the IUPUI campus with its technology-rich resources, including exceptional music computer labs. In the fall of 2000, IUPUI’s Music School unveiled an online version of the MSMT degree available over the Internet. Five off-campus students are enrolled as degree candidates.

Other developments will only add to the school’s prominence as a world leader in the field of music technology. The new Donald Tavel Arts and Technology Research Center, to be established using a significant gift to the IUPUI School of Music, will facilitate study of the use and effects of music technology. And, according to Peters, the IUPUI faculty are working toward a doctoral program in music technology.

In many ways, the MSMT degree is transforming the face of music technology. As Lennon and McCartney put it, “You say you want a revolution . . .”

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