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Evolution of EDM Makes an Imprint at City College

By Diana Chuong


Starting fall 2017 music professor Matthew Creer along with the broadcasting and computer-science department, will start offering City College students a new program that combines computer coding and melody production along with two certificates students can obtain at the end of the program.


The certificates that are being processed by the curriculum committee are “Music Technology” and “Computers and Science.” Creer said that each certificate caters differently depending on what the student is looking for. Music technology will get you entry level work in a technical field. It doesn’t necessarily have to be coding, but rather work as a technician for electronic instruments or setting up bands.


Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has made its way to being one of the top mainstream genres. However, the roots of EDM dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Music department chair Madeline Mueller said the classical traditions of electronic music go back to the 1930s.


The main electronic instrument was the theremin which projected a high pitched, eerie sound. From then the expansion of electronic music instruments increased. One of the most popular devices was the moog synthesizer. It generates electric signals that are converted to sound through instrument amplifiers and loudspeakers or headphones.


“There were these studios in America,most of them in the Bay Area- were solid. Yes New York had stuff but I think California was where all the action for tape music was” Mueller said.


Electronic courses were first offered at City College in 1972. Mueller’s husband, Jerry, was the first instructor for the United State’s first electronic course offered at a community college.


“We had a dean who was interested in the state of the art equipment and he asked me to find somebody in the engineering department who can build electronic kinds of instruments such as synthesizers, mogues, buccas,” Mueller said. “Because I taught 20th century music, he said I would be in charge of teaching literature and have someone from engineering build the equipment.”


Unfortunately, there was no one in engineering who wanted to take on the job. Mueller then suggested having her husband take the reigns on the course since he’s both a composer that works with electronics and computer language. The school hired him in the disciplinary department.


The classes first started off in Mueller’s basement. They had all the right equipment in their basement to teach students how to work on the synthesizers, tapes, loops (splice). After a year into the course, the administration wanted to formally move it out of the disciplinary department to the music department.


It was a course well invested. Some of the pioneers of electronic music were former students of Mueller. Artists such as Patrick Cowley, Blaine Reininger, Tuxedomoon and Steven Brown all came from the City College’s music lab.


Now, the departments that are designing these certificates will be a stepping stone for students aiming for something bigger.


“I am most especially excited for the ‘Computer and Music’ certificate in particular,”  Creer said. His reason being that The Bay Area is the focal point for technology. “There are jobs and internships out there, we’re in the heart of it! We are talking with the people of Dolby Sound. There’s also a local software company called Cycling ‘74 and of course there are jobs at Apple, Google, and Spotify,” he said.


Creer said digital sound companies all across the Bay Area are going to want to have somebody who understands digital audio and someone who understands the aesthetics of music. They encourage their employees in their creative endeavor.


At the heart of all of this, there’s a fundamental knowledge of how music works, how the technology works and how those go together and then you can go in all these different directions,” Creer added.


He believes focusing on techniques is important for students to come up with their own creative approach. It’s the students who come up with their own styles and hone the elements of what goes into making a sound. “Once that skill is achieved, they can then understand how a particular waveform could affect the musical piece and combining that with other components is going to get them so much more out of their own music,” said Creer.


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