The Top US Electronic Music Schools

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Oberlin College’s Technology in Music and Related Arts Dept. (TIMARA)
Oberlin, OH

One of the country’s most prestigious music schools, Oberlin College’s TIMARA program encourages students to “compose for computer, perform via multiple speakers, collaborate with highly talented musicians, dancers, actors, and artists, and develop a powerful, unique personal voice,” says Tom Lopez, Program Chair and Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts. Bob Ostertag and Cory Arcangel once roamed the school’s halls.

Today’s Guests: Morton Subotnick, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Olga Neuwirth, Alvin Lucier, Iannis Xenakis.

Drool-worthy Gear: A Digidesign ICON system with 32 channels of Grace mic preamps and Apogee A/D conversion; performance instruments include a Yamaha MIDI grand piano, Zeta string quartet, MalletKAT MIDI percussion, and a JazzMutant Lemur MIDI controller, plus vintage synths and equipment.

Mills College’s Center for Contemporary Music (CCM)
Oakland, CA

The granddaddy of experimental and electronic music programs, Mills College’s Center for Contemporary Music was established in 1966 when the San Francisco Tape Music Center moved to Mills College. Its first co-directors were Pauline Oliveros and Anthony Martin and its faculty has since grown to include everyone from Maggi Payne and Henry Cow’s Fred Frith (both currently on staff) to John Cage, Cecil Taylor, and Björk collaborator Zeena Parkins. Mills is also a huge draw for female composers (thanks to its all-women undergrad student body), not to mention being Joanna Newsom’s alma mater.

In the Yearbook: Christopher Willits, Gregg Kowalsky, Blectum from Blechdom, Laetitia Sonami, Steve Reich.

Drool-worthy Gear: The first Buchla 100 synthesizer and a Moog IIIP.

Evergreen State College’s Music Technology in the Expressive Arts Dept.
Olympia, WA

Started in the early ’70s, the Music Technology program at Evergreen takes a “highly integrated approach to using technology for creative ends,” says Peter Randlette, Head of Electronic Media at the school. “Our curriculum is very hands-on, and we have an excellent set of studios, which combine classical analog and current digital technologies.”

In the Yearbook: Engineer Stuart Hallerman, producer and Pell Mell member Steve Fisk, K Records’ and Dub Narcotic Sound System’s Calvin Johnson, Sub Pop’s Bruce Pavitt.

Drool-worthy Gear: 1970 Buchla analog synthesizers, API multi-track consoles.

University of Washington’s Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS)
Seattle, WA

“Our view is that art is no more self-expression than anything else people do,” offers Richard Karpen, artist and Founding Director of the University of Washington’s Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media. “Art is the process of discovery of new knowledge, the documentation of that knowledge, and most importantly, the experience of that knowledge. To accomplish this takes no less effort, expertise, and imagination than any of the sciences, and our students therefore learn to see themselves as challenged to make enduring contributions.”

Today’s Guests: Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, filmmaker Marie Jager

Drool-worthy Gear: A 12-channel spherical surround-sound listening space connected to a six-channel surround control room; a full CNC machine shop for building devices such as sensors and controllers for interactive live electronic music, video, and robotics.

UC San Diego’s Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts Major (ICAM)
La Jolla, CA

The UCSD approach, according to co-founder Peter Otto: “We balance strong theoretical foundations with practical experience in an environment rich with musical activities of all kinds. Top-notch facilities support recording, performance, research, and development in all aspects of computer music and music technology. Our goal is to enable our students to continually retrain and update their knowledge base while integrating a high level of musical literacy with analytical skills and practical experience.”

Today’s Guests: Ravi Shankar, Steve Reich, Alvin Curran, Paul Dresher, Diamanda Galas, and videogame-music great George Sanger.

Drool-worthy Gear: Vintage Buchla, Arp, and Moog synthesizers; vintage and state-of-the-art mics and recording gear; 24-channel spatial audio lab; digital cinema auditorium with permanently installed 22.2 audio.