course info // syllabus // assignments // contact


course info.



Prof. Tod Machover and (introducing) Adjunct Prof. Zach Lieberman

MIT Media Lab, MAS 825

special edition of Musical Aesthetics and Media Technology

Wednesdays 2-4:30pm, E14-493; Units 3-3-6

First Class: Wednesday, September 12

This special course will be co-taught by Tod Machover and the Media Lab’s newest faculty member, Adjunct Associate Professor Zachary Lieberman (bio below). Both the content and the format of the course are experimental. We will cover new “hyperproduction” techniques using interconnected audio agents, innovative ways to "shape space" using VR and AR, and environments that respond expressively to body - and especially face - tracking. In addition to weekly discussion and project review sessions, there will be several multi-day intensive workshops when Zach Lieberman is at the Lab, plus attendance at the premiere of Tod Machover’s new Schoenberg in Hollywood at Boston Lyric Opera and a Zach Lieberman-curated field trip to New York City. Three medium-sized projects are required, each corresponding to one of the course’s topic areas. This course is limited to 15 students, and priority will be given to full-time Media Lab grad students (from all groups). This course not only combines aesthetics and technology, theory and practice, but will also be an excellent way to get to know Prof. Lieberman, and vice versa.

Zachary Lieberman is an artist, researcher and educator with a simple goal: he wants you surprised. In his work, he creates performances and installations that take human gesture as input and amplify it in different ways -- making drawings come to life, imagining what the voice might look like if we could see it, transforming people’s silhouettes into music. He was named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People and his projects have won the Golden Nica from Ars Electronica, Interactive Design of the Year from Design Museum London, and Time Magazine's Best Inventions of the Year. He creates artwork through writing software and is co-creator of openFrameworks, an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding and helped co-found the School for Poetic Computation, where the lyrical possibilities of code are examined. Further info here.

TAs for the course are Alexandra Rieger and David Su, both RAs in Opera of the Future. The course administrator is Priscilla Capistrano, and any questions about the course can be addressed to her at

Images above, from left-to-right: More Webcam Rotation Tests, openFrameworks Design (2017) by Zach Lieberman; and Schoenberg’s Vision (2018) by Peter Torpey, for Tod Machover’s Schoenberg in Hollywood.



September 12 – Introduction: Multisensory, Responsive Art in a Complex World

Machover, Lieberman (Skype), Bloomberg, et al

Introduce Project 1

September 18 – Zach Lieberman@ML (afternoon office hours for class)

September 19 -  “Too Many Notes”: Uses and Abuses of Musical Complexity

Machover, Bloomberg (Hyperproduction)

September 26

        11:30-1:30        Hyung Joon Won: “City Symphonies Go Country: Symphony for the Koreas

        2:00-4:30        Intensive project review (Machover, Bloomberg, Rieger, Su)

October 2-5 – Zach Lieberman@ML - “Feeling AR”

• Afternoon of 10/2 – workshops with Zach

Class 10/3 – Work on Project 1 / Introduce Project 2

• Afternoon of 10/4 – Set up 6th floor Event Space for Project 1 presentation (+ “Zach time”)

• All-day 10/5 – rehearse and present Project 1 in Event Space

October 10 – “How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration”

Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology, Boston College

plus Project 2 presentations/discussions (Zach on Skype)

October 17 – “Synesthesia: Multisensory Art for Health and Happiness”

Alexandra Rieger, PhD student, Opera of the Future, MIT Media Lab

plus Project 2 presentations/discussions (Zach may be on Skype)

October 24 – no class due to Media Lab Members Week; but individual “Skype office hours”

with Zach on Project 2 developments

Oct.30-Nov.2 – Zach Lieberman@ML, finish Project 2/launch Project 3: “From Body to Heart”

• Afternoon of 10/30 – workshops with Zach

Class 10/31 – class presentations of Project 2  now due 11/14

• Afternoons of 11/1+11/2 – workshops with Zach on body-tracking, face-tracking

and using gesture as a starting point for creation

November 7 – Schoenberg in Hollywood – concepts/techniques/sounds of new opera


plus Project 3 presentations/discussions (Zach on Skype)

November 14 – “Gaming as Art: New Models for Narrative Interaction”

David Su, Masters student, Opera of the Future, MIT Media Lab

plus Zach in class for Project 3 presentations/discussions

plus Project 2 due

** class will attend Schoenberg in Hollywood (performances 11/14-18; which night?

** class may attend Schoenberg in Hollywood symposium

Saturday, November 17, 1-4 pm, Media Lab


November 21 - informal check-in for Project 3 for those who are around

(Zach may be on Skype)

November 28 –  ** special time, due to Media Lab Visiting Committee **

5:00-7:00 pm, with dinner

Project 3 presentations/discussions (Zach may be on Skype)

December 3-7 – Zach Lieberman@ML

Intensive development of Project 3

Check in with Tod on December 7th

December 12 – Last class session + Project 3 presentations!

December 14/15 – Field Trip to NYC

Curated by Zach Lieberman, with a surprise or two from Tod Machover



Project 1:

Create an audio composition,

not longer than 1 minute,

that uses 5-10 distinct "sounds"

to explore the limits of complex relationships

in an original way. Must be "performed."

Due on 9/19:

Read Alban Berg’s article on “Complexity in Arnold Schoenberg’s Music”

Read Boston Globe article on Tod Machover’s Schoenberg in Hollywood

Create/collect 5-10 core sounds; bring all your sounds to class!

Due on 9/26:

Come in with a sketch of your piece

Due on 10/3:

Be ready to perform your piece for the class; break a leg!

Project 2:

What does it mean to augment reality

and how can we use that in meaningful,

poetic and strange ways?

Three challenges to consider:

i. No external content

ii. Make invisible things visible / show a secret world

iii. Explore using movement through space as an interface

More details here

Due on 11/14:

Final versions of your projects!

Project 3:

body, face, movement

Due on 12/12:

Final presentations of your projects!



course alias,

course instructors,

course website,

Tod Machover,

Zach Lieberman,

Alexandra Rieger,

David Su,

Ben Bloomberg,

Priscilla Capistrano – course administrator,

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