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FUBiS Term II: Berlin and the Digital Music Era

(Course # 2.09)

TypeB-Track
InstructorDr. Hilary Baker
LanguageEnglisch
Credit Points6 ECTS-Credits
Number of Places18

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Student Profile

This course is open to all students. No previous experience studying music or technology is necessary. Please note that while the topic of technology is integral to the course, we will primarily examine it through the lens of music and cultural history, rather than learning how to program or engineer music technology.

Course description

Over the past twenty years Berlin has become a thriving crossroads at the intersection of music and technology. It serves as the hub of techno/electronic music and dance culture, and as the home of leading music software developers such as Abelton. Berlin sets the trends in the fast-changing technological world. This course will examine significant developments in music and technology, such as Virtual Studio Technology (VST), Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), and digital distribution. In particular, we will focus on the growth of these technologies within Germany, specifically Berlin.

Our first goal will be to understand how technology influences the production and performance of new music, primarily within the realm of popular music. In particular, we will consider the development and applications of salient music technologies (both analog and digital) such as the microphone, electric guitar, synthesizer, and DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). We will discuss the history of electronic dance music and visit the impressive local venues constructed for the reception of this music. We will also explore Berlin’s global role in the music production industry, by learning about the companies that supply the sounds of contemporary music (such as Native Instruments).

Our second goal will be to explore how technology facilitates new modes of experiencing and acquiring music. For this portion of the course, we will discuss how technology is being used to reinvigorate an interest in classical music, by innovative establishments such as the Berlin Philharmonic. We will also look at the hot-button issue of digital music distribution, and how Berlin-based companies such as SoundCloud are finding ways of digitally distributing music in a manner that empowers, rather than overrides musicians. In addition, we will explore how international conglomerates such as the Universal Music Group (with headquarters in Berlin) have adapted to the post-Napster conditions of music distribution and marketing.

Finally, our third goal will be to explore how developments in music technology impact other artistic media, such as film, television, video games, and contemporary art. In addition to examining the interaction between music and film/tv technologies, we will also visit a gallery in Berlin specifically devoted to contemporary sound art. The semester will end with a discussion of the current state of music technology and collective theorization and speculation of where the industry might be headed next.

Prerequisites

Students should be able to speak and read English at the C1 level or higher.

Course requirements

1. Active Participation

Participation in class discussion and group work is a vital component of this course. Every session will feature collaborative exercises (with both written and discussion components) to foster active engagement with the materials.

2. Class Meetings and Excursions

This course meets on Tuesdays and Fridays, and will include local excursions off campus.

3. Written Responses

In response to our discussions, excursions, and readings, students will craft short written answers to specific questions. An average of one response (with two to three questions) will be assigned for each class session. These responses will be our way to thoughtfully reflect on the course materials.

4. In-Class Presentation

During the last week of the course students will collaborate in pairs and present on a topic of their own choice related to the theme of music and technology in Berlin. In addition to an in-class presentation, students will submit a written summary and response to this project.

Grading

  • Participation Assignments: 30%
  • Written Assignments: 50%
  • Final Presentation and Written Summary/Response: 20%

Literature

Readings will be drawn from scholarly and journalistic sources. A reader containing these excerpts will be provided at orientation.

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