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Announcing the Mars College Department of Future Music
We are excited to announce the Department of Future Music (DFM) at Mars College Spring Semester 2024.
The way that we interact with music is changing rapidly. The Department of Future Music is about creating space for creative fast-learning humans to push the envelope of what's possible in terms of musical creation and experience. We are a non hierarchical, minimally structured educational program that puts emphasis on equipping minds with the tools and space for experimentation and creation.
What is Mars?
The Department of Future Music is a subprogram of Mars College. No description can adequately capture what Mars College truly is, partially due to its inherently magical nature (like the Tao), and also because there is such a wide variety of experiences that it’s difficult to do justice to any of them when talking to those who have not been (like Burning Man). One way is to peruse the gallery on the colleges website or alumni albums to get some random, fragmented idea of the thing and move forward from there.
In brief, it’s a group of humans that gather from early January to late May to share things they are passionate and/or knowledgeable about, and to learn from whatever classes they are interested in. There have been a few subjects that have gathered a lot of energy, such as LLMs/machine learning, yoga, art and particularly installation art of many mediums, decentralized technology, and most relevant to this blog post, music.
What is the Department of Future Music (DFM)?
We aim to further the exploration of new forms of music creation and performance under the umbrella of the Mars College collective. We have seen how our biweekly parties help give creators soft deadlines that encourage them to get out in front of a friendly audience and experiment, without needing to worry about the pressures that come from traditional performances in the nightlife industry. The DFM will help encourage classes that align with our musical mission, and more broadly attract musical minds to Mars. In past years, this has involved:
Livecoding (livecoding: writing computer code that creates music, often times done as a live performance)
Generative music using ML / AI (keywords like DanceDiffusion, StableAudio, Riffusion, etc)
Traditional DAWs like Ableton
Wide range of instruments (piano / hand pan / guitar / many others)
DJing on a variety of hardware
A thriving a capella sea shanty gang
But this list is the past, and the past doesn’t exist: the present will be based on what the student body of Mars is interested in, and from there we intend to shape the future.
Who should participate in the DFM?
If you can spend 3 months living in a collective environment with a focus on creating and learning, why would you not?
We are rocket fuel for creative minds. The particulars are flexible, the possibilities are endless. We are putting the call out to gather more folk, particularly those interested in participating in the evolution of music creation and technology. Although we have many technologist, there’s a meaningful percentage of folks that are coming in with no previous technical exposure, as well as playing traditional musical instiments
To enable living in the desert for a few months, many students have taken many different approaches. If there is a will, there is a way, and it might be best to get in touch with us so we can give some suggestions. In the past, some students have done remote work during their time in the desert, others take advantage of living in an extremely low cost environment. If you can bring your own living space, that is also encouraged - around a third of the Martian student body live in their vehicles (cars, vans, box trucks, buses and RVs) and then you have no accommodation cost at all.
What does this mean in practice?
We will be hosting weekly classes on Mars for live coding, generative music, and any other topic that gains steam amongst the community. We anticipate classes, workshops, or individual subject matter experts on live coding visuals (like hydra), open source speaker creation (like High Order Quarter Wave designs), VJing and visual creation(like TouchDesigner/Resolume), as well as many other topics brought by the student body. Some classes meet weekly, some are one-off workshops. Some are facilitated by world class experts in their field, others are by people who know absolutely nothing about a topic but want to explore a topic together.
An important requirement of Mars College is that you plan to participate for the full three months. We build a strong mesh of minds by holding a solid container, and just visiting for a weekend doesn’t fit our vibe. As far as the Department of Future Music, we are going to ask all students who want to participate to plan a final project, with a few other small prompts along the way, but there are no grades, assignments, or failures. Our aim is enabling self directed learning, not prescriptive coursework. There will be regular events that act as soft deadlines for showcasing what you are working on, and finding collaborators and positive feedback (we throw excellent parties), but while participation is encouraged, it is not mandatory. We believe that true learning needs to be intrinsically motivated, so we do our best to minimize hierarchies and maximize encouragement.
Finally, a special shoutout to the live coding wizard Alejandro for sparking a fire of interest in coding music in the Spring '22 semester, as well as to all the Martians who participated in the various music and visual endeavors in all the previous years. We go forward together!
Questions or more information? email me: atin [at] atin [dot] me