Music, Sound and Technology
Creativity Made Audible
Let's begin with a question: how important is sound? In general, our mediated world tends to have a bias towards the visual domain. The result is that sound can be taken for granted. This is an oversight. Around the world, a not so silent revolution is taking place. Each day, more than one billion pairs of headphones are in use. That's one billion people hooked into a private listening environment - most of whom are connected to the Internet through their mobile device accessing a global catalogue of creations.
On the Music, Sound and Technology (MST) programme, we believe that audio is the ultimate cultural medium. An information-rich environment incorporating music, speech and sound. Our brains work by association and so it should be little surprise to find that sound is integral to our lived experience. Consider the case of music alone: for many people, it is enjoyed as a standalone event. Yet, when attached to other media (film, game, software application, AR/VR), music becomes especially powerful.
In parallel, creative exploration is the motivation for everything we do. Hence our motto: creativity made audible. Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge and space to explore the future of music and sound. Not only how to create and manipulate audio, but also how to produce an overall user experience that is both compelling and relevant to the world in which we live.
For further information, please see our current prospectus.
What our students say...
The quality of information and the streamlined nature in which it is delivered speaks volumes about the staff. This course finds a way to explain every topic, regardless of depth or difficulty, in an easy to follow format. In terms of subject matter, the team spends time versing you on why the information presented is important for your venture into the world of music technology. Every topic is carefully selected and is essential for a career in music technology.
The MST programme has been brilliant from start to finish. Each module brought something new and even when I thought I was relatively experienced in the topic at hand I always learnt numerous new techniques and developed a deeper understanding of the topic. Each module was delivered in a clear and concise manner that catered to all experience levels... One thing that consistently amazes me about the MST programme is the sheer breadth of the content delivered while still going in depth on each topic
[It's] really great to work with such talented and creative people and...a really invaluable experience to me.
The modules I enjoyed the most were the coding ones however all the teaching staff were great. The coursework oriented style of the course really suits it and it teaches you some great skills. It taught me how to be more independent when it came to researching and problem solving but there was help available if you really needed it... There's more than one way to fix things and I think the MST course teaches this flexibility when it comes to problem solving really well. I think if there was one big impact the course had on me it was to be an independent thinker and it made me a better problem solver.
I'm enjoying my time on the MST programme. My favourite element of the programme... the Designing Sound module... learning how to break down a sound, and how to effectively recreate that sound.
Welcome to the Music, Sound and Technology (MST) programme at Ulster University.
In the videos below we present a taste of the MST programme: what we do, how we do it, and why.
The videos are presented by members of the course team, so you also get an opportunity to hear directly from the people that you'll be working with.
It is probably best to view the videos in sequence, starting at the top and working your way down the list. However, don't feel you have to view them all at once. Take your time...
Finally, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact the team.
1. Introducing Music, Sound and Technology - Greg O'Hanlon, Course Director
This presentation introduces the MST programme with a focus on today's music and sound industries, future opportunities, and how the course prepares graduates for creative careers.
Some further thoughts on career opportunities from Greg
For more course specifics, please see our current prospectus.
2. Physical Computing and Music Interfaces - John Harding, Learning Technologist
Next, we have a ten-minute interface design demonstration incorporating a selection of topics that we'll discuss on the programme including the Arduino microcontroller, electronics prototyping, Cycling '74's Max application, MIDI, manipulation of synthesis parameters and Ableton Live.
3. Sound, Technology and Culture - Dr. Brian Bridges, Research Director and Lecturer
This short video will provide you with a flavour of many of our key course concerns, including our sound environment, acoustics, our cultures of sound, and our creative use of technologies.
Note: This page expands on a number of ideas presented in the Introducing Music, Sound and Technology video. If you haven't watched the video, you may find it helpful in terms of context.
What are the career opportunities?
I am often asked about career pathways within the creative industries. It's not surprising that young people might wonder, where can this course of study take me? Such long-term thinking is always impressive; however, it can be a difficult question to address in clear and personalised terms for two reasons:
I don't know what your particular interests are. Additionally, by the time you've completed our programme, they will have developed considerably; one of our primary goals.
I don't know the future; nobody does. We can only look to the evidence from culture and industry.
The demand for skilled, creative people has never been greater. I can tell you from experience over my own working career and through ongoing consultation with industry, the search for innovative and capable practitioners never stops. Graduates of the Music, Sound and Technology (MST) programme receive a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) award, which underlines our focus on what I can best describe as building things. In this context, 'things' implies a creative mix of supporting elements including audio, visual, interactive software/hardware, research and advanced processes. All of which reference contemporary culture.
Our focus on student-led, real-world projects is not only superior in terms of learning and development, it also means that we're (students and staff) constantly developing work that can be shown. As a creative practitioner this serves both artisitic and career ends: your portfolio of work will evolve throughout your time on the course. There is no better way to illustrate your skills and attributes than to have a series of projects that you can label: I made this!
"Be so good they can't ignore you" – Steve Martin
Another valuable question to ask is: will this decision help me to grow? To put it another way, will my development–personal and professional–be supported or diminished? An absence of progress tends to create friction that will slowly erode our creativity and motivation. Progress leads to a sense of contentment. Work will never feel hard, even though we may be investing long hours in a project.
To support your development as best as possible, the course team provide detailed tuition–often one-on-one and tailored to your specific interests–in the following areas:
specific technical knowledge and skills
the development of processes that underpin creative work
the use of problem-based learning
the development of collaborative processes essential to your career
the focus on reflective practice to underpin personal growth
The American academic Professor Scott Galloway suggests: "don’t follow your passion, follow your talent." The opinion is echoed by best-selling author Cal Newport. While not a prescription for everyone–generalisms are almost always problematic–there is some logic to the statement.
At 18 or 19 years of age it may not be clear what your talents are. Reflecting on my own journey over this period, I definitely needed more time to explore possibilities. If you are driven to do creative work, that's a great starting point. As I note in the Introducing Music, Sound and Technology video, within the creative industries, there are many pathways we can follow. It is a fluid space, constantly evolving and reinventing itself, which is part of what makes it so exciting.
On one level, recent events have highlighted the fragility of our systems. With this in mind, many people are seeking certainty; an entirely understandable reaction. However, such a pursuit can be unhelpful. It's not realistic. The future is always uncertain; our world is constantly in flux. Looking to subject areas with more defined career trajectories, for example, accountancy, law or medicine, each faces tremendous change into the future. No one is excluded. Even so, we can take comfort in the fact that human beings are highly adapatable.
An undergraduate degree is an important first step. We throw off the shackles of school and become independent thinkers; a skill that will serve us throughout our lives. I therefore recommend that you consider the matter deeply. Choose a programme that best supports your development as a future professional and well-rounded citizen of society.
"We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely." – E.O. Wilson
If you would like to discuss your own interests or ambitions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I'm more than happy to assist where I can.
Greg, September 2020
“What the pupil must learn, if [he/she] learns anything at all, is that the world will do most of the work for you, provided you cooperate with it by identifying how it really works and aligning with those realities. If we do not let the world teach us, it teaches us a lesson.”
— Joseph Tussman
Welcome to Music, Sound and Technology
The course team are excited that you have chosen to study with us and we hope you are mutually excited about the learning opportunities that will be available to you over the next three or four (depending on how you choose to progress) years.
Given the ongoing health crisis, the University has determined that the safest option for all students and staff is to complete semester one using predominantly online tools. The MST programme has a great deal of experience developing and delivering materials utlising a wide range of software applications. We will provide extensive resources to support you in both the utilisation of these tools and your pursuit of the subject and related areas.
Details for this year's Welcome Week are provided below. This is an evolving schedule of sessions, so please check back frequently.
Initial sessions with the course team will take place online using Discord.
➡ Please make sure you read in full the Technical Requirements section below.
Once we're all comfortable, we'll switch to Blackborad Collaborate. Don't worry, Greg will guide the way.
If you have any questions, the Contact page will connect you directly to the course team.
We will endeavour to make all online sessions as interactive as possible. Less lecture, more discussion. With this in mind, and to get the most from each session, there are a number of technical requirements that you'll need to confirm before each session. They are as follows:
We ask that you attend online sessions using a desktop or laptop computer. A smartphone is not ideal due to the smaller screen size and the data demands. In short, interactive capability is reduced.
You will also need to use a Web browser. We recommend that you use Google Chrome for performance and consistency.
For Discord sessions, you may wish to download and install the Discord application on your computer.
For sessiosn that utilise BBL Collaborate, the links provided for Welcome Week should not require you to login. However, you will need to login from the following week. Here are some helpful resources on getting set up.
A robust network connection will be important. The minimum recommended download speed is 5Mbps. You can check your up/down speeds here.
Please have a pencil/pen and standard A4 notepad with you at all times. We wholly encourage the practice of note taking - it helps us to think 👍
A good pair of headphones will help you to hear the discussion while also preventing audio feedback.
If possible, please use an external microphone or headset.
When you’re not speaking, please mute your microphone.
During an online session, you will find that it's very easy to get distracted. The risk here is that you’ll lose focus and miss important details. We strongly advise that you mute all notifications and close all applications that are not required for each session.
When you’re speaking, take your time. There's no rush.
Lastly, some tasks take longer online, particularly during the familiarisation phase. We have lots of time, so let's be patient and move through the schedule step by step 😊
Schedule: Monday 14 September - Friday 18 September
|0915 - 1015||----||----||----||Library Induction (Online - BBL)||Student Wellbeing (Online - BBL)|
|1015 - 1115||----||----||----||Sound, Technology and Culture (Online - BBL)||----|
|1115 - 1145||----||----||Welcome (Online - Discord)||----||----|
|1200 - 1300||----||UUSU Induction (Online - BBL)||Course Philosophy (Online - Discord)||Music Technology Demo (Online - BBL)||----|
|1400 - 1530||----||----||Course Structure & Tools (Online - BBL)||----||----|
|1600 - 1700||Registry (Online - BBL)||----||----||----||----|