Electronic Music Interfaces Preface

I authored an article for the main magazine of the IEEE ("Spectrum") that ran as the cover story in their December 1997 issue. It was called "New Ways to Play: Electronic Music Interfaces". The music controller field is extremely broad, and designers of all sorts (from basement hackers through university researchers and engineers at large electronics and music companies) have built all kinds of innovative and facinating devices for interacting with electronic music. It's not possible to give justice to all of the worthwhile accomplishments in this area within the confines of a single (albeit long) Spectrum article.

My original draft was much denser, however, with many more interface examples mentioned or described. It was written for an audience significantly closer to music technology. I worked with the Spectrum editor on this story (Robert Braham) to dilute it into a style much more appropriate for a general magazine audience; we had to drop significant content along the way, however, in order to fit Spectrum's length constraints. Although I'm very happy with the version running in Spectrum, the extended content in the original draft may still be interesting for those desiring deeper information. I've thus posted a moderately cleaned up version of the original draft off this site, linking to the original MPEG clips that illustrate many of the examples mentioned in the paper (these exhibit more resolution and are significantly longer than the clips posted at the Spectrum site, although the files are at least twice as large). Bear in mind that this is essentially a "draft"; it's significantly less polished than what appeared in Spectrum, and being much longer and more detailed (often approaching the "laundry list" style of an initial brain-dump), it's not as easy to read. There are many links scattered throughout the text; some lead to relevant pages from manufacturers or researchers, while others point to figures and/or short blurbs of additional text that link to the video clips. The main research sites and other interesting pages to begin further browsing are all linked at the end of the article.

The Expanded Article is linked here

Finally, I'd like to thank everybody who took the time to help out with this paper. First and foremost thanks go to the IEEE editor, Robert Braham, for suggesting this idea during his visit to the Brain Opera last summer at Lincoln Center. Rob put lots of effort into this project, and it shows nicely in the final article printed in Spectrum. Here at the Media Lab, Josh Strickon took care of the internet music pages that the IEEE linked to, and Chad Brustin helped to chase down the video clips. Eric Metois (a recent Media Lab graduate now at ARIS, Cambridge) did a great job setting up Spectrum's Internet Music sidebar.

Several colleagues read through parts the first draft (as posted here) and/or gave me some useful pointers. These include David Allport (now at VSIS in Sunnyvale), Dennis Baggi (of Ticino, Switzerland), Rick Ciliberto (of Studio Q Systems, Brighton MA), Chris Dodge (Media Lab Alum), Max Mathews (CCRMA/Interval), Theresa Marrin (Media Lab), Will Oliver (Stanford), Yohei Nagai (of Yamaha), Rob Poor (Media Lab) and Dave Rossum (of E-Mu Systems). I'm grateful for their comments.

The IEEE site is very well done, and I'd recommend visiting it. You originally needed to be an IEEE member, but they opened it to the public in January. Their text is identical to that of the print article, but there is some additional information in the video captions, and the video files themselves are much more compact than those that I've posted, thus recommended if you have a slow link (in addition, theirs are Quicktime, whereas mine are MPEG's). Note from 20 years later - this link is broken, but you can find a PDF of the IEEE print article here and you can see a list of links to the videos I provided here.

Those interested in electronic music may be interested in checking out my homemade modular synthesizer or finding out what kind of music I actually listen to.

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