University announces CS + Music degree program


Angela Kerndl

The interior of the Music Building located on Goodwin.

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Music is the first in the Midwest to offer the new bachelor of Science degree in music and computer science.

Stephen Burian, assistant director for public engagement at the School of Music, said students have been asking for dual degree programs like this for some time now.

“Everyone on campus is always looking for a new program, and we haven’t had too many new degrees offered in the last decade,” Burian said.

Students pursuing the degree take an equal amount of training in music and computer science. Certain classes in the curriculum combine principles from both areas of study.

“A big part of this is that in our composition theory department, we have several composers who are very much engaged in computer science as part of their research and part of their work,” Burian said.

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Burian said students working through the dual degree will take classes in both schools and will take a course that uses programming for musical production.

By graduation, students are expected to pursue careers in music, computer research or the global music industry, while being strong competitors with their digital training.

“If someone wants to compose for the mass media, this is how to integrate music into machines,” Burian said. “With composition, there is always a need to innovate and say new things with music.”

With technology advancing rapidly, Burian said students can use their training to work on modern consoles.

“If you have experience with music and experience with hardware and software, you can put those together with the consoles you interact with,” Burian said.

The new program is based on the “Computer Science + X” meta-degree initiative that was originally developed by the University of Illinois and Stanford University.

“Illinois has been one of the leaders in computer music production,” Burian said. “With this degree, you write the software that writes the music.”

The University professors behind the new degree are Heinrich Taube, professor in the School of Music, and Paris Smaragdis, associate professor of computer science.

Burian said the degree was intended for new students coming into the University. They expect some students to transfer into the program, possibly those studying music composition.

Though it is not likely many will transfer into the program, the expectation is students in music and computer science will take advantage of the courses offered, said Burian.

In fall 2018, incoming freshmen will be able to begin their studies in the program.

“There’s a lot of music we have yet to see,” Burian said.

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