Finding rhythm: New minor key in music tech hits all the right notes

The sound of digital musical compositions fills the Taylor Music Center’s Music Technology Studio. As students absorbed the 90-second track, Chris Chandler encouraged them to listen carefully to what they heard.

He wants them to identify attributes or characteristics of the work the students create.

Students in STS in front of keyboards, monitors and microphones

Students dissect compositions in music technology courses, listening to sound, harmony, melody, rhythm, and growth. Building on the strengths of the college’s liberal arts and engineering programs, Union now offers a minor in music technology.

“Think about voice, harmony, melody, rhythm and growth,” said Chandler, assistant professor of music. “How do these different elements change in different parts of the work? You can see where layers are added or removed. What are some of the qualities that define these different parts?”

Chandler is a multi-talented composer who introduced Music Technology 1: Transforming Sound, Making Music to the Music Department curriculum in 2019. This is followed by another course, Music Technology 2: Recording, Mixing, and Synthesizing Sound.

These two courses are an integral part of the alliance’s new program.

Building on the strengths of the college’s liberal arts and engineering programs, Union now offers a minor in music technology. Approved by a faculty vote last spring, the minors include six courses from the departments of music, engineering, computer science and visual arts.

Open to students of all majors, the program will engage students with analog and digital technologies and fundamental concepts through creative expression and scientific inquiry

Professor Chandler and students in the classroom.

Chris Chandler, Assistant Professor of Music, teaches Music Technology 1: Changing Sounds, Making Music. Starting this fall, Union is now offering a music technology minor. The minors include six courses from the departments of music, engineering, computer science, and visual arts.

“I have several engineering students in my music technology classes, and it’s very rewarding to see their eyes light up as I talk about the creative and artistic applications of concepts they’ve encountered in engineering classes,” Chandler said.

He will oversee the new project, developed in consultation with Jennifer Milioto Matsue and Tim Olsen of the Department of Music and Shane Cotter, Luke Dosiek and Cherrice Traver of the Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering.

While music technology programs are not uncommon at larger colleges and universities, few liberal arts institutions, especially engineering schools like Union, offer this option.

“One of the things that attracted me to Union was the strong engineering program and the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration,” Chandler said. “There’s a lot of shared content, especially between music technology, electrical engineering, and computer science. The minor is perfect for a place like the Union. It caters to music students interested in engineering and technology students interested in music needs.”

Students who choose to minor in music technology will be required to take three core courses. In addition to Music Technology 1 and Music Technology 2, this includes Introduction to Audio Electronics, developed by the Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering. Students will also choose three electives from two categories, Music and Technology, which include courses from multiple departments on campus.

“The flexibility of this minor allows students to take full advantage of Union’s liberal arts core and find connections in diverse areas of study that intersect with music and technology,” Chandler said.

Chandler plans to develop additional courses that will be considered electives. These include an introduction to film scoring, which will fuse music technology and music theory, with an emphasis on creating music for visual media, and a music technology workshop, centered on methods of performing music using techniques such as synthesizers and hardware controllers. He also plans to develop Music Technology 3, a thematic course focusing on modular synthesis and algorithmic approaches to digital music production.

Enrollment in Chandler’s Music Technology Class 1 is capped at 16 this semester. Majors represented include economics, computer science, psychology, political science, biology and biomedical engineering.

Abby Mitty ’23 is an interdepartmental major (ID) in psychology and Spanish from Boston and has been playing guitar and composing her own music for the past seven years. Music technology classes taught her how to use music production software.

“I mostly write acoustic music, but I learned how to use digital instruments, which allowed me to add a lot of different features to my music,” Mitty said. After graduation, she plans to enter organizational psychology while continuing to pursue her passion for music.

“I want my music to go further and learn how to make my own music,” Mitty said. “I haven’t done anything with my music yet, but this class motivates me to keep going and finally share it.”

The introduction of the music technology minor comes as the music technology studio is scheduled to undergo a major renovation this winter. Gifts from Kurt W. Hillig ’75 and his wife Kathy J. Dien Hillig will transform the layout of the space by upgrading the studio’s equipment, including new computers, workstations, audio interfaces and microphones.

For more information on the Union Music Technology Minor, please visit this website.

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