Digital Interactive Sound & Intermedia Studio
Virginia TechCollege of Liberal Arts and Human SciencesSchool of Performing ArtsICATCHCI

"And so the arts are encroaching upon one another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental."
--Wassily Kandinsky
1. What are admission prerequisites for DISIS?
The primary mission of DISIS is to service the music department, yet by its very design and consequently role within ICAT it welcomes students from all areas to partake in its curricular and research endeavors. Such multidisciplinary outlook coupled by an emphasis on collaboration yields optimal educational results for all participants regardless of their educational background and/or focus. In order foster the aforesaid dual enrollment while ensuring maintenance of high academic standards, two different enrollment prerequisites have been developed--one for music majors and other for collaborating non-major participants.

•  Music majors need to audition in one of applied areas. The DISIS prerequisite for music majors is MUS 2054 course which provides fundamentals in music technology. Although all music majors with completed prerequisites are eligible to enroll in DISIS curriculum, due to competitive student-teacher ratio and consequently limited number of seats, precedence will be given to music technology and composition majors.
•  Non-majors, apart from proficiency in computer technology should possess experience in at least one of the related artistic disciplines: music, art, media & communication, and/or theatre.
2. How can a current music major enroll into DISIS curriculum?
Any music major can take core DISIS coursework provided they have completed the MUS 2054 prerequisite. However, due to the competitive student-teacher ratio and consequently limited number of available seats in DISIS classes, a precedence will be given to music technology and composition majors.
3. Can a student minor in music technology? If so, do they need to audition?
A student can minor in music technology and they do not need to audition to be admitted. However, given the limited number of credit hours alotted for the minor option, a student is strongly encouraged to consult with a faculty advisor and relevant music technology faculty in order to design a curriculum that will provide them with a well-rounded educational experience.
4. I am and/or plan to be neither a music major or a music minor. Can I engage in DISIS curriculum?
Yes! Given the scope and mission of DISIS, we strongly encourage non-majors to also engage in the DISIS curriculum in order to foster multidisciplinary collaboration which is a quintessential component of the interactive multimedia art genre and supporting research. However, due to the competitive student-teacher ratio and consequently limited number of available seats in DISIS classes, a precedence will be given to music technology and composition majors. Therefore, ability to enroll into the DISIS coursework unfortunately cannot be guarranteed for non-majors.
5. Interactivity vs. reactivity--what is the difference?
Unlike reactive systems, whether their purpose be art or research, interactive solutions focus on technology that maintains a sense of cognition which allows them to constructively partake in a creative process with a measurable level of independence. To put this important distinction into a perspective, consider a light switch, ostensibly one of the most rudimentary and concurrently most widespread examples of technology associated with electricty. In its reactive form, a light switch is nothing more but a simple device unaware of its own existence or role. Its sole purpose is to provide means of completing an electric circuit when activated by a human. Within this context, an interactive switch would be a switch that would never need to be flipped on or off. It would not only be aware of its own existence, but also of its surrounding. Therefore, it would sense human presence, need for ligthing, and perhaps even be capable of adjusting the lighting based upon the perceived physical and/or psychological state of individual(s) who may be affected by its actions (or lack thereof). Similarly, an interactive technology within a creative context can prove to be a potent way to enhance, extend, and even reconstruct human creative output, often in otherwise irreproducible ways.
6. Why is DISIS an OS-agnostic environment and how is this beneficial to students?
DISIS prides itself with its forward-looking OS-agnostic environment by providing infrastructure for the three leading multimedia platforms: Linux, OSX, and Windows. This not only ensures that students have access to all of the latest and greatest software and hardware options but that they also do not need to waste precious time by braving a learning curve associated with adaptation to a new platform of choice. Furthermore, each of the aforesaid platforms offers unique advantages which makes them not only desirable but also critical elements of a modern studio. Therefore, students engaged in the DISIS curriculum have a unique opportunity to attain versatility, adaptability, and experience in most if not all of the leading software and hardware solutions.
7. What is ICAT?
ICATstands for Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. For additional info on ICAT please click here.

8. What is DISIS' role within ICAT?
With its focus on multimodal (visual, aural, haptic, gestural, theatrical, etc.) interactivity and support from the newfound multimedia infrastructure, DISIS is equipped to cater to just about every aspect of the interactive multimedia art and reasearch. The ensuing collaborative potential has attracted students and faculty alike from various disciplines, many of whom are participating or have already completed the two-semester course Computer Music and Multimedia Design.
9. What kind of research opportunities does DISIS offer?
In addition to ICAT, DISIS maintains strong collaborative ties with the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (part of the Department of Computer Science), and the College of Engineering. As a result, DISIS has spawned a number of research projects, some of which bear a quantifiable scientific impact on the society and have served as a foundation for the pursuit of external grants, and others which have produced new hyperinstruments and navigational interfaces. Consequently, students engaged in research through DISIS will have an opportunity to partake in a various projects ranging from Computer Science and Engineering, to new interfaces for artistic expression (also known as hyperinstruments). In 2007 alone, eligible students were presented with over dozen paid undergraduate research opportunities through DISIS.
10. What are some of the potential career vectors for students who complete DISIS track?
Creative Technologies in the Arts and Design is a rapidly growing multidisciplinary field focused on training students to be self-sufficient multimedia artists, producers, researchers and technologists. Unlike traditional programs, DISIS emphasizes multidisciplinary approach as a quintessential advantage that makes our graduates versatile and marketable professionals. A rapidly growing number of independent highly profitable firms whose staffing revolves around dozen multifaceted artists and technologists affirm this trend. Such companies commonly engage in advertising, enhancing intelligent and sustainable spaces, providing original artistic content, as well as producing multimedia technologies for specific tasks. Some of hte frameworks taught in DISIS are also becoming industry standards. Gaming companies such as the ubiquitous Electronic Arts have embraced frameworks taught as part of the DISIS curriculum as their foundation for audio and beyond. Research is increasingly becoming a collaborative venture, a skill that is critical to a success of any project, yet that is also conspicuously missing in the core curriculum in many of the disciplines. As such, DISIS graduates are able to pursue a number of different career vectors, including graduate education in electroacoustic music, art, communication, music technology, production, computer science, human-centered computing, and many more. In addition to artistic careers, including (but not limited to) composition, computer music, and interactive multimedia arts, DISIS track also provides a foundation for:

•  Gaming Industry
•  Multimedia Research and Development
Media Industry
Audio Engineering
Software Development
Computer Science
Sound Ecology

Most importantly, DISIS students are trained from the onset to be adept collaborators whose skills span well beyond music.
11. What is DISIS philosophy and mission?
The onset of the twenty first century can be seen as a multidisciplinarity renaissance. Collaboration, intermedia, broader impact, cross-pollination--these are but a few words that reverberate throughout the halls of higher education today. Continued advancements in tools and technologies have afforded us an unprecedented learning curve and consequently ability to train students in more than just one discipline, yet do so without sacrificing the depth of their knowledge or their practical proficiency. DISIS mission is to train highly motivated, talented, and resolute professionals of tomorrow who are capable of pursuing multiple career vectors and more importantly whose self-sufficiency enables them to quickly adapt and expand their knowledge to better address challenges and opportunities their professional lives will inadvertently lead them to.

12. How does DISIS mission fit within the larger context of music tradition?
At DISIS we take great care to promote knowledge and appreciation of traditional music literature concurrently with exploration of contemporary forms of artistic expression. This enables students to learn from the wisdom of tradition, draw parallels, and most importantly attain an understanding that technology should not be the sole focus of any creative endeavor. Students are often encouraged to use contemporary technology to extend a traditional instrument or an ensemble. This is by no means an unprecedented development. Historically, new technologies (e.g. Fortepiano) were readily adopted by artists in an attempt to enrich their artistic vocabulary. Therefore, we see our mission as a natural extension of traditional values.

By definition, a traditional music instrument is as much of a technology as a computer. However, unlike an acoustic instrument that offers centuries of tradition and performance practice, contemporary technologies with computer at the forefront present us with a modular environment in which a computer can be repurposed to fulfill seemingly unlimited number of different tasks. As a result, contemporary multimedia arts empowered by this flexibility often call for unique tools or technologies geared towards a specific goal. Yet, despite the fact these solutions lack tradition and consequently benchmarks, their context is indebted to the well established performance practices that allow us to easily quantify their artistic impact. Such tools are commonly referred to as hyperinstruments.

13. What is a hyperinstrument?
Unlike a traditional musical instrument whose existence is affirmed by evolution through tradition, performance practice, considerable volume of literature, and ultimately virtuosity, hyperinstruments are designed as purpose-driven devices and as such are often associated with a specific work of art. Hence, one can observe them as instruments without tradition, yet, their artistic association coupled by the existing body of work allows them to affirm their own existence, making recognition of their role, performance practice, and ultimately virtuosity relatively easy to perceive and appreciate. A hyperinstrument is contextual by nature, such as a hand gesture that drives a particular perception interface--in this context a hand is the hyperinstrument. It can be also built from just about any material and/or use any technology that allows it to communicate critical performance information with the underlying interface (e.g. a light, a baton, a pedal, a fader, or a collection of sensors and motes).
14. How can I gain access to DISIS facility?
DISIS hosts a considerable amount of expensive equipment and software whose proper use requires a necessary level of proficiency. Therefore, in order to minimize potential damage to the eqiupment, only students who have engaged in the DISIS curriculum may gain access to DISIS facility.

15. Have a question that has not been addressed here?