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Learning Music Theory Through Code with Deltaphone

Presented by
Chris Johnson (University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire)

In this session, we introduce Deltaphone, a browser-based blocks programming language for generating musical scores. Just as learners used Logo's turtle geometry to explore mathematical space in a relative way, learners use Deltaphone's interval-based motion to explore musical space. The emphasis on intervals means that certain computational and musical ideas can be investigated quite naturally in code. For example, musical structures can be more easily abstracted into functions and reused in a variety of musical contexts, and custom chords and progressions can be built. The language supports all the core ideas of computation: sequence, data abstraction, procedural abstraction, boolean logic and conditionals, iteration, arrays, and user input. Custom ear training exercises can be programmed. The presenter can't decide whether Deltaphone is a tool for learning musical theory through code or a tool for learning to code through music. The current vision is to create a suite of interactive exercises that start users off with a minimal set of simple blocks and guides them as they develop a complete library of musical abstractions. By the end, users will have learned about both music theory and computation.