Spring 2010 Symposium


An Undergraduate Apprenticeship in Designing and Building a Game-based Musical Instrument in Java

By Dr Dale E Parson - Kutztown University

Date : Wednesday April 21st, 2010
Time : 7:30 PM
Location: Roddy Hall, Room 149

Regular, hierarchical structures abound in the world around us. An entertaining and enlightening use of computers is to map structures in some domain of human activity to structures in the domain of musical improvisation. In this presentation Dr. Dale E. Parson of Kutztown University and several Millersville students will play a game of computer Scrabble and, in doing so, improvise as a musical ensemble. As students add words to the on-line board, the audience can envision them constructing a maze of words. Each new word adds a new corridor, and after each new word is added, an invisible composer explores the maze and collects the list of all words in the corridors. The composer then translates each word into a chord by translating each letter into a note in some scale. Up to sixteen musicians in the form of Java library functions then play the notes as directed by the conductor, Dr. Parson. This conductor will manipulate a second graphical user interface, in addition to the board game, that determines when and how musicians play their instruments. After the performance Dr. Parson will give a talk and take questions on the software and the process that he and his CSC 243, Java Programming students used to design and construct the software from Fall 2008 through Spring 2010.

Two sample solo performances of this software / game / musical instrument are available for listening at

Dr. Dale Parson is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Kutztown University with a doctorate from Lehigh University and over 30 years of industrial computing experience in Bell Labs and related companies. Most of Dr. Parson's career has involved working with embedded computing systems and software tools for their execution, simulation, debugging and monitoring. Dr. Parson has also been finger picking 5-string banjos and guitars for the last 39 years. Starting in 2005 with the encouragement of the community, he began to integrate his musical and computing activities. In this symposium he will present the Cognitive Apprenticeship approach that he uses to teach undergraduate Java programming. One outcome of this approach is the Scrabble-as-Musical-Instrument software game, written by Dr. Parson and his students, that he will perform with an ensemble of Millersville students. His homepage is