The Pursuit of the Extraordinary

  • Person next to a piano
    Christopher Dobrian

Professor Christopher Dobrian’s legacy in music and innovation at UC Irvine

"My interest in programming was not just about creating new sounds but exploring the process of composing itself,” Dobrian shared. “Pursuing artificial creative intelligence assumes we understand real intelligence. Teaching these fundamentals to a computer required me to examine my compositional process and musical interests in a new, more self-aware way.”

With a focus on integrated composition, improvisation and technology, Dobrian has excelled in teaching both instrumental and electronic music. He has also developed interactive computer systems that have enhanced the understanding, creation and performance of interactive computer music.

"I acquired my first personal computer, a beige 1986 Macintosh Plus, dropped out of grad school and was hired by Opcode Systems to write the manual and tutorials for a new programming language called Max,” said Dobrian. "Max became the lingua franca among computer musicians, spurring interest in interactive computer music. This reputation allowed me to develop a music technology curriculum at UCI and establish a research lab in computer music."

Dobrian’s writings include the original reference documentation and tutorials for the Max, MSP and Jitter programming environments. These tools are fundamental in computer music, allowing composers and performers to create sophisticated digital soundscapes and interactive musical experiences. As an educator, Dobrian has served as core faculty for the music department’s Ph.D. program in integrated composition, improvisation and technology (ICIT).

“I’ve followed a dual path as a composer and a computer music researcher,” shared Dobrian. “As a department in a research institution, our mandate is not only to teach existing knowledge but to create new knowledge and new creative works. Our Ph.D. program in ICIT does that by focusing on novel areas of creative music-making that are informed by research. This program has been recognized for its innovative approach and many of our alumni are doing excellent work. Innovation, creativity and the pursuit of the extraordinary are core principles leading to success.”

Dobrian’s contributions have become essential resources in electronic and instrumental music education. His compositions, like the digital opera Microepiphanies and the interactive piece Invisible Walls, blend artistic expression with cutting-edge technology.

Christopher Dobrian leaves a legacy of musical innovation and a pathway for future explorations in music and technology. His teachings have illuminated the paths of countless students, guiding them toward a deeper understanding of the art and science of music.

“I plan to continue my musical work — playing, composing, programming, writing and studying,” said Dobrian. “The main difference after retirement will be a healthier work-life balance. After a short break from teaching, I expect to resume that, too, in some form, by starting a non-profit organization offering lessons in music and coding for youth who don’t have access to such learning.”