Inventing Systems

Spring 2017 quarter

Taught by

music composition, performance
  • UG

To look at things as a system simply means to notice how the change of a part can change the whole. What implications does this have in the worlds of music and movement, social behavior, and theater? How does looking at something as a system change the thing we look at? How does it influence our ideas and actions? This program invites students who are interested in investigating the idea of system as well as creating systems of composition in sound and movement.

One cybernetic concept we'll explore is that of emerging properties. How can we, as composers of movement and of sound, compose the smallest elements so that their dynamic result is significantly different from their individual behavior? In other words, can we compose the dynamics of a system so that its resulting whole is not merely sum of its parts? And does this attitude towards composition mirror in some fashion the workings of the world we live in?

The readings that we will study range from aesthetics to anthropology and from the mathematics of information theory to the biology of cognition. Students should be prepared to address some difficult texts, ones that richly give back with careful reading.

Students will collaborate on a group composition project, a group research project, and a solo performance project during the quarter. They will also participate in weekly readings, seminars, and workshops in music and movement notations systems and scores, theater, and the study of cybernetics.

Among the authors we will read are: Gregory Bateson, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. There will also be a readings packet containing articles by Herbert Brün, Friedrich Engels, Franz Kafka, Humberto Maturana, Heinz von Foerster, and Warren Weaver.

The combination of fiction, scientific research, and philosophy will allow us to learn about the range and the reach of cybernetics, and the range and the reach of our creative potential.

Program Details

Fields of Study

aesthetics anthropology biology literature music philosophy theater

Preparatory For

music, theater, teaching, performing arts, and critical studies.


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, April 4 at 10am (Com 110)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$100 for concert and performance entrance fees.


2016-04-06New Spring opportunity added.