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Feature: Breaking the Sound Barrier


A Drexel lab blurs the line between music making and listening — an article from ASEE’s Summer 2009 issue of Prism magazine, by Mark Matthews

PHILADELPHIA – In a windowless lab at Drexel University’s College of Engineering, Assistant Prof. Youngmoo Kim and his students think up ways to put the power of a music arranger into the hands of unskilled and untutored listeners.

Literally into their hands: Soon, if Kim’s research pans out, an iPhone could be all a listener needs to imprint downloaded music with his or her own taste and style, adjusting tempo, pitch, and mood. “Think of it as the 21st-century version of the mixed tape,” he says.

Kim, a baritone who sang with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus while earning a Ph.D. at MIT, works at the busy intersection of music and electrical and computer engineering, where a laptop is the new sound studio and listening innovations whizz by in a blur.

Already, open-source and commercial software enables young DJs to post online mash-ups and re-edit everything from the Beatles to Beyoncé. Kim wants to expand the boundaries of accessibility further, making the listener an interactive participant in music making.

Read the entire article in Prism online

Check out the creative music research projects being pursued at Youngmoo’s Drexel METlab (Music, Entertainment, Technology), like the collaborate online game, “Mood Swings,”and a robot being programmed to dance to music.

Youngmoo and Drexel run a Summer Music Tech program for high school students each August.

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