The great temptation was to write this essay around the development of a particular software project, thereby encapsulating the conditions and problems of the musical interface, and placing it within a convenient framework for discussion. I had actually done something like this in my previous MA thesis in 1989. These early musical systems were not originally created for discussion, but it was relatively easy to describe them from a particular perspective. I was also aware of some other theses that had adopted that particular approach. After some thought, I decided not to adopt this method again, partly because I felt it rather artificial and lacking ¬real-world║ credibility, but more that it was contrary to how I was currently thinking about computer music composition. We generally don't compose or perform music under clinical conditions or, at least, I no longer felt that adherence to a homogeneous environment, particularly software, conducive to my creative spirit. I therefore searched for some alternative format that might allow a more philosophical or, at least, diverse perspective on the subject. The format, as it is, came out of my desire to roam far and wide through the subject, learning about it as I wrote from numerous perspectives. I drew upon my own projects when they seemed to offer some unusual perspective but I was aware of the dangers in spending too much time discussing technical details. On the whole, this essay has a historical structure with common points that compliment my own private efforts. I certainly do not believe that I have touched on all aspects of the musical interface but I think I have demonstrated its complexity.
During my years at Princeton I had many productive and enlightening discussions with my colleagues that deepened my experiences both as a composer and as a foreigner. I would like to express a debt of gratitude to the following for their friendship and generosity over those years: Brad Garton, David Gottlieb, Eliot Handelman, Stan Link, Katharine Norman, Jamey Pritchett, Alicyn Warren, Frances White and, more recently, Christopher Penrose, Bryan Rulon and Peter Velikonja. I would especially like to thank Paul Lansky and Scott Burnham for their observations and insights for which this essay is all the better.
Finally, being at Princeton would not have been possible without the continuing support and encouragement of my wife, Marie.