Digital Music Composition Class Visits Princeton University

News  /  by Eden Fesseha '19  /  April 23, 2016

This past Monday evening, the Digital Music Composition class taught by Performing Arts Master Matthew Campbell traveled to Princeton University to attend the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk)’s Spring Concert entitled "Human Modular." The performance, which began at 8:00 PM, featured the works of John Cage and Nick Collins—two artists who have made significant contributions to the world of digital music—and was performed primarily on computers and newly-created electronic instruments.

Currently, the class is creating short compositions inspired by other mediums of art, including the work of other musicians. According to Campbell, “exposing [the students] to the wide range in which music can take [ … can] evoke an emotional and intellectual response.”

In the classroom, students have done this through use of “Reason,” a software similar to the popular application “GarageBand” that allows users to digitally edit and piece together recordings of music.

Reviewing the pieces of music performed, students noted that the music lacked a decipherable form of notation. This phemonemon, in the words of Campbell, further demonstrated that the music “is going to be interpreted slightly differently [from artist to artist].”

According to Campbell, it is crucial that the musician play and compose in a way that allows him or her to express feelings. This creates a very individualistic feel to music created digitally. Moreover, the purpose of the trip can be said to show the students that music created by computers can have depth.

Students echoed these sentiments. Trisha Mukherjee ’16 said that the music was “confusing [ … ] but left [her] interested.”

Particularly, Cage’s pieces performed on various household items, she found, were “perplexing” and required deeper thought. In this sense, the music performed by the PLOrk was more abstract than the more traditional music being composed by the students in the class. However, the contrast between their own compositions and the use of body movement to initiate a response with sound, in Mukherjee’s words, “gave [the students] a sense of what [they] could do in the future.”

This is not the first of trips for the Digital Music Composition class, which has been attending PLOrk’s fall and winter concerts for multiple years now. Opportunities like these, according to Campbell, are important because “Lawrenceville has a lot to offer, [and] we have a lot to learn from those outside, as well.”