History of CCT at UVA
The University of Virginia (UVA) Music Department has been a leader in music technology innovation for almost 100 years. The first Chair of the Music Department, Arthur Fickenscher was an electronic music instrument inventor who developed a new interface for musical expression called the Polytone. Fickensher joined the faculty of UVA in 1918 and became the Chair of Music in 1920 when the Department was formed. In 1967, UVa Professor Donald MacInnis, a student of Milton Babbitt and Vladimir Ussachevsky, created one of the first computer music languages, MUSIGOL, in consultation with Max Mathews at Bell Labs and UVa Engineering Faculty. In the 1970s the VEMS (Virginia Electronic Music Studio) supported work by students and faculty, resulting in UVa's first substantial contributions to electronic music composition. Founded in 1987 by Judith Shatin, the Virginia Center for Computer Music (VCCM), in Old Cabell Hall, ushered in a new focus on computer music for UVa.
Out of these innovations -- the Polytone, MUSIGOL, the VEMS and the VCCM -- The Composition and Computer Technologies (CCT) Program launched in 2002 along with the first Music PhD in the State of Virginia. CCT is unique in its focus on a combined approach to composition and technological research. In addition, CCT draws on its sister UVa programs, the innovative Critical and Comparative Studies (CCS) program, and a diverse Performance program. CCS develops interdisciplinary perspectives on music and musical culture. Performance at UVa promotes diverse traditions of music including western classical, marching band, new music, bluegrass, African music and dance, and electronic music such as the MICE human-computer ensemble, a group predating laptop ensembles.
Today, a team of UVA Music faculty including Judith Shatin, Matthew Burtner, Ted Coffey, Luke Dahl, Noel Lobley, Peter Bussigel and I-Jen Fang along with CCT Technical Director Travis Thatcher collaborate to build a unique climate of creative and technical research around composition and computer technologies. Currently, CCT actively collaborates with the School of Engineering, the Drama Department, the Art Department, the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English, the Architecture School, and the Environmental Sciences Department.
UVa’s CCT Program explores and develops innovative compositional practices combining instrumental composition, electro-acoustics, computation and multimedia. CCT is a PhD program, a suite of undergraduate courses, a cluster of studios, and an annual festival series. Classes include large, non-major courses such as Technosonics Digital Sound Art Composition and Make Rock; Major-level introduction courses in computer music, composition and ecoacoustics; and advanced seminars on topics such as interactive media, computer sound generation, multimedia, instrumental and choral composition, studio production, audio engineering, telematics and spatial processing. Students compose intensively and undertake analysis and research projects relevant to their practice with the guidance and support of faculty.
The CCT Program develops and maintains a number of advanced computer music and multimedia research facilities including the Virginia Center for Computer Music (VCCM), the Jefferson Starship Recording Studio, the Music Interactions Lab (MIL), and the Wilson Instrument Maker Space (WIMS).
New music from CCT is presented annually at the Digitalis and Technosonics Festivals. Students also compose music for visiting ensembles and for UVa’s ensembles-in-residence such as the New Music Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Mobile Interactive Computer Ensemble (MICE), and others. Recent and upcoming visiting ensembles include JACK Quartet, Loadbang, Meehan/Perkins Duo, Dither, Da Capo Chamber Players, the Cassatt and Voxare String Quartets, Talujon Percussion Quartet, and the Relache and Verge Ensembles.
Outside of classes, students may become involved in groups such as the Interactive Media Research Group (IMRG), which develops the NOMADS System, and the DIY Electronics Circuit Bending and Design Group. CCT PhD student dissertations engage topics such as physical modeling synthesis, interactive dance, musical networks, games, improvisation, voice, robotics and multimedia. Graduates of the program teach at Oberlin, Rutgers, University of Miami, Wesleyan and other leading institutions.