Hyperscore: Traditional or Inverted Pedagogy?

Teachers have two methodology choices when presenting Hyperscore as a composition tool to students: 1) traditional and 2) Inverted Pedagogy.

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

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Traditional or Inverted Pedagogy?

My Grandfather’s Clock was written at our Second Saturday Composition Workshop in May, 2023 using the “Create, Listen, React” cycle of composing with the Hyperscore graphic interface. One participant from Boston suggested much of the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic material. When he heard the result, he reminisced fondly about a folk song of the same name. The lyrics created a feeling of nostalgia for the passage of time for a loved one. We were thrilled with the final result. We hope you enjoy this introduction to Hyperscore!

Hyperscore exports to programs like Garage Band or Finale in order to print the piece in standard notation. The goal is to play what was created. Scroll to the bottom of this document to see an example of Hyperscore followed by the piece printed in standard notation.

The Development of Hyperscore:

Hyperscore was created in the MIT Media: Opera of the Future Lab by doctoral students Mary Farbood and Egon Pasztor under the guidance of professor and composer Tod Machover. Drs. Farbood and Pasztor were combining research on computer-assisted composition of counterpoint and visual interfaces with the goal of allowing young children to compose music. Hyperscore was developed into a composition software in 2012, then updated for the web by Dr. Peter Torpey, who also received his doctorate at MIT Media Lab after using Hyperscore as a graduate student. The web-based application was released in 2022 through New Harmony Line with Dr. Torpey as the Chief Technology Officer and Executive Director June Kinoshita as our visionary and voice, sharing Hyperscore with the world. Our organization’s mission is to allow anyone of any age or ability, with access to the internet and a device, to tell their story through composing music.

As part of Hyperscore’s development, Dr. Kevin Jennings, an MIT doctoral student at the time, created the blue line that runs across the center of the sketch window. The Harmony Line, as he called it, creates areas of tension (green), release (blue) and drama (yellow) using principles of music theory embedded in the programming. During a 2022 Zoom meeting showing Dr. Jennings the updated web-based version, he shared a philosophical methodology with us that we have completely embraced called Inverted Pedagogy.

Hyperscore methodologies:


Teach an Elements of Music concept then show the students the Google Slideshows provided for Hyperscore tool training and then have them work individually, as partners or in small groups of no more than 3, if possible. Their task is to demonstrate understanding of the concept by creating music with that tool [Teaching the Elements of Music]. Modified materials are provided in all tasks for students with varied learning styles. For example, choosing between high and low with eye gaze or yes/no strategies is effective, if the student has enough time provided to make choices.

Each time you present a new concept, all students return to the same composition and add the new component until they have a completed piece. This method is an excellent way to check off their demonstration of understanding the elements of music. A good place to introduce the workspace themes, a unique feature of Hyperscore, is after they have created one rhythm and one melody which “unlocks” the wonderful reward of choosing a theme and note shape!

Fulfilling the National Core Arts Standards

The goal for the composing unit, other than to fulfill many of the National Core Arts Standards, would be to have a portfolio of work that shows progress from Kindergarten to the last year of general music. Naming the piece is important for ownership–if they’ve begun with a prompt the name might be suggested by that prompt or the action demonstrated. However, there is nothing wrong with “Untitled” or their nickname as the title.

Hyperscore can be taught as a short yearly unit in elementary and a unit or elective class offering in secondary schools. Student pieces may be shared in concert form, as a carousel activity in the classroom and/or shared through the online classroom to parents and families and then placed in their Hyperscore portfolio. The student can choose to have their piece shared in the Hyperscore Community. The greatest achievement for the student composer would be to have their piece played by actual instruments (see printed notation at the bottom of this page)! This author has taught Hyperscore Pre-K-12th grade with students of all ability levels, enjoying great success for more than 18 years.


Dr. Jennings challenged us in 2022 to think differently about how we ask students to create–to flip the methodology from “sage on the stage, to guide on the side” (Allison King, 1993). Inverting the pedagogy means allowing student composers to create purposefully first, then discussing/expanding on the musical rudiments present in their creative work afterwards. The emphasis on knowing theory in order to compose is reversed–create then learn about what you composed so that the concepts have greater meaning.

Inverted Pedagogy gives access to music making for anyone who might otherwise find barriers to composing due to lack of experience or knowledge. In this methodology, one would teach the tools of Hyperscore by creating a group composition based on a prompt such as a story, artwork, or character/actions. Through this group composition, students would be exposed to the available tools and learn valuable tips such as having each of the motifs be a different color or how to delete.

After group composing, students have individual/partner work time with a prompt to kickstart their process. You become the facilitator and have the ability to check in with everyone over time. Imagine your students spread across the room composing, some on their bellies, then begging you for more time as the period ends with them showing you that their piece is saved as their exit ticket! Headphones are valuable for behavior management. However, most students will be completely absorbed in creating and will not be distracted by others. If headphones are not available, invite students to bring in their own earbuds if they have and want them.

Fulfilling the National Core Arts Standards

After the unit, present pieces as suggested in the traditional method above. The author has had the greatest success sharing class compositions by having students set up their computers on the outside of the room and rotating around, listening to each piece (carousel). Make sure there is a prior discussion about what kind of comments would support their personal creations and the works of their peers.

The Hyperscore Community is another option as well. If students move their pieces into a personal profile, they can continue to work on their pieces and compose more or remix the work of others that have given permission to do so. The end goal, again, would be to have a portfolio showing the student’s growth over their school years in understanding how to manipulate the concepts of music in order to tell their story AND to become someone who sees themselves as musical!

Take a Look, by Peter Torpey, first in Hyperscore notation and then in standard notation:

"Take a Look" printed in standard notation

"Take a Look" page 2

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