The minor in musical engineering brings together technology, art


Since the launch of the Musical Instrument Engineering Program in 1998, Tufts bridged two constantly evolving fields: music and technology. According to its website, the program, now called the Musical engineering program, expanded in 2011 to include musual recording and production and design of electronic instruments as part of its study program. However, the minor in musical engineering is a more recent development. Paul Lehrman, Music Engineering Program Director, started teaching an electronic musical instrument design course in 2001. Lehrman established a formal minor in music engineering in 2011 with help from Chris Rogers, Music Engineering Program Co-Director and Mechanical Engineering Professor, and Dana Messina (E ’83), Former CEO of Steinway Musical Instruments.

The minor in musical engineering is open to students of the School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering. Lehrman explained that students who pursue the minor choose from three tracks: acoustic musical instrument design, electronic musical instrument design, and music recording and production. According to Lehrman, between four and eight students graduate with the minor each year, and typically two-thirds of them are enrolled in the School of Engineering.

However, Lehrman and Rogers hope to expand the program in the years to come. Lehrman said a course titled Introduction to Music and Engineering, which will be a requirement for the minor, will be available in fall 2019.

“We are making it more inclusive, so that students have a greater variety of courses they can take to satisfy the minor” Lehrman noted.

Lehrman and Rogers also seek to make the minor more accessible to students of the School of Arts and Sciences.

“When it comes to engineering, there are all kinds of prerequisites that the Arts and Sciences [students] usually wouldn’t take, like four semesters of arithmetic… so the idea is that we rework it… The new minor we’re putting in… will give students more flexibility ”, Rogers noted.

Students design their own musical instruments in many music engineering courses

Rogers said the minor in music engineering emphasizes hands-on projects, and most of the core courses in each track involve students creating their own musical instruments.

“The idea behind all classes is that they should design, make, compose and play on an instrument” Rogers noted.

Sponsorships and external funding from instrument manufacturing companies allow students to help design specific instruments. These companies include Zildjian, a cymbal maker, and the piano companies QRS Music Technologies and Steinway & Sons. According to Lehrman, the students are currently working on a stand-alone violin for QRS Music Technologies.

James Hoder, a senior who is doing a minor in musical engineering, spoke about his involvement in the QRS Music Technologys.

“I got involved in the Violin project after taking Computer tools of Professor Lehrman [for] Class of musicians for the minor in musical engineering. “He told The Daily in an email.” It’s a violin body with a bow controlled by a robot moving over it, to give the impression that the violin is playing itself. The sound violin is actually produced using the Bela electronic synthesizer, which sends audio to a surface transducer speaker, which sends vibrations through the violin body. Thus, the violin body is used as amplifier for the sound produced by the synthesizer, just like a real violin body is used as an amplifier for the sound produced by a string.

Hoder explained that his contributions included programming the synthesizer and using the transducer.

In addition to the stand-alone violin, previous projects have involved creating a system to determine where a low-volume cymbal is struck for Zildjian.

“They wanted to design a method to determine where the cymbal was hit when you hit it. [it could be used] with electronic drums… so we had students working on it, and we developed a system, which we actually got a patent on, ” Lehrman noted.

Rogers also recalled a project of Steinway & Sons who examined the effect of temperature and humidity on pianos.

“What we found is that when you start to have changes in humidity, the time from when you press the key to the hammer hit, the string changes by a few milliseconds, which is enough. so that the player thinks they are going from being a bright, responsive piano to a slow piano, ”he explained.

The Electronic Musical Instrument Design Course focuses on collaboration, building

Lehrman said that group work and the interdisciplinary link between music and engineering are important aspects of the minor in music engineering. In his Electronic Musical Instrument Design Course, Lehrman teaches students music synthesis, electronics, mechanical design and programming. In addition, students work in teams to build electronic musical instruments, which they present and play at the end of the semester.

“Students work on projects as a team, and each team is put together to have a range of skills… There is no one in the class who can do it all, so students work together with complementary skills and teach each other. , ” Lehrman noted.

Rogers also stressed the importance of group work to allow students to learn from each other.

“If you attract students with completely different sets of knowledge and get them to work together, you can create a really cool product… better. [than] if you had two students with the same set of knowledge. I’m looking for opportunities where I can bring people who have knowledge that my engineers don’t have and make them understand how to work together and build cool things ”, Rogers noted.

Bridging Engineering and Art: Music and the Art of Engineering

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Jeff Hopwood emphasized the link between music and engineering in his Introductory Engineering Course, “Music and the Art of Engineering. “Although the course is not compulsory for the minor in musical engineering, Hop wood hope this will arouse the interest of the minor.

“We would like to integrate it into the minor in musical engineering, but the problem is that this is a first year course, so if someone decided that they wanted to do the minor later, they would have to go back and do it… so I think of as a way to generate… an interest in music and engineering together, “ Hop wood noted.

According to Hopwood, the course is divided into three parts. After learning the general science and mathematics of sound, students begin a unit on Creating Sound Through Electronics, in which they design a functional electronic musical instrument that they are to play in a classroom presentation. Finally, students learn about computer music production and then complete a final project. All along the route, Hop wood strongly emphasizes the importance of hands-on learning.

“My philosophy… is [that] people actually learn when they do it ”, Hop wood noted.

First year Sam cohen, who took the course last fall, enjoyed the aspects of the course that facilitated active learning.

“It’s really refreshing to have a little lecture and then [to] immediately use the concepts you learned a few minutes ago, apply them and see what happens when you do them, ” Cohen noted.

First year Zev Pogrebin, who took the course with Cohen, enjoyed the class’s exploration of the unique connection between engineering and music.

“I’ve always been interested in things that have both a creative and a technical element… I think sound engineering or recording is what really got me into electrical engineering first. place “, Pogrebin noted.

Cohen and Pogrebin worked together to build a synthesizer as an electronic musical instrument and improved the synthesizer for their final project. Even after the end of the course, they continued to work on the synthesizer.

“Right now it’s mostly an experiment just to see what kinds of improvements can be made, but we still design our products with the intention of making them manufacturable.” Cohen noted.

Cohen and Pogrebin specialize in electrical engineering, but their different interests in the field allowed them to work together.

“I love music, but my interest in the way it was made came from Zev, and that’s what inspired us to build the synthesizer, the second version and who knows what after that, ” Cohen noted.

An interdisciplinary minor

Lehrman noted that thanks to this variety of previous musical experiences and the diversity of fields of study, the interdisciplinary nature of the minor in musical engineering allows students who are interested in both engineering and music to pursue the two topics and explore their complementary nature.

“It’s remarkable how many engineers are very good musicians… and making musical instruments, making recordings, is a very good way to teach other skills, like programming, mechanics. [design] and electronics, because you come out with something really tangible and really nice ”, Lehrman noted.

Hoder said that this interdisciplinary element is a big part of the reason he decided to pursue the minor.

“I have a great interest in electronics and circuit design, and I was looking for a way to apply my eelectrical engineering major to my interest in musical creation. So, I started to pursue the minor with a concentration in eelectronic instrument design in order to merge my electronic education with my passion for music, ”he said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that students were building instruments in the “Computer Tools for Musicians” course. In fact, students use computers in this course to produce music, but do not design or make instruments. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.

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