Abstract

As digital music systems become commonplace for musical composition, performance and production, the concept of interface, here viewed as the space between conceptualization and realization, is enlivened by new capabilities and responsibilities. The idea of interface is broad, however, and eludes easy definition, and the fact that we have only recently begun to realize its complexity and significance suggests that a major paradigm shift in music production may be underway. This essay attempts to draw distinctions and describe concepts which will interpret the idea of interface from historical perspectives, as well as elucidate its implications in musical-technological contexts.

This essay considers the nature of the musical interface from a personal perspective, and concludes with the assertion that it is tending towards a unique, private and creative construction, dependent on the composer/performer's understanding of both technology and musical objectives. The composer now engages roles that were once clearly identifiable as distinct parts of the spectrum of musical activities: instrument builder, scientist, technician and performer. This indicates that the composer's world has been considerably enlarged.

The musical interface can be viewed from two positions: physical and conceptual. We are generally aware of the physical interface as it relates to traditional musical instruments, but the conceptual interface is becoming prevalent as an inherent part of contemporary music technology. In chapter one, the author presents his own MetaAction project, a computer-controlled grand piano action which demonstrates a conjunction of both the physical and the conceptual interfaces within one system. Chapter two establishes an historical perspective on the musical interfaces of the violin, piano and theremin. Chapter three considers contemporary transformations of these instruments--the Zeta violin, Yamaha Disklavier and the Mathews/Boie Radio Drum--and discusses how technology has altered the traditional music interface for each.

The final chapter considers the ramifications of the conceptual interface as it relates to the non-real-time computer music environment. Discussion centers on the Cmix computer music system and the perl script language and makes some observations about the future of the musical interface.

Title Page | Dedication | Preface | Contents | Examples
Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Conclusion
Bibliography | Discography | Appendices


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