“How to Design and Build New Musical Interfaces” by Fels and Lyons

  • ©Sidney Fels and Michael Lyons



Entry Number: 18


    How to Design and Build New Musical Interfaces

Course Organizer(s):




    Who Should Attend
    Interaction designers, game designers, artists, and academic and industry researchers who have a general interest in interaction techniques for multi-modal sonic and musical expression. 

    Computers now play a role in most music production and performance. Digital technologies offer powerful opportunities for creation and manipulation of sound, but the flexibility of these technologies implies an often confusing array of choices for musical composers and performers. Some artists have faced this challenge by using computers to directly create music, which has led to an explosion of new musical forms. However, most would agree that the computer is not a musical instrument, in the same sense as traditional instruments, and it is natural to ask “how to play the computer” using interface technology appropriate for human brains and bodies.

    In 2001, the presenters of this course organized the first workshop on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), to attempt to answer this question by exploring connections with the better established field of human-computer interaction. The course summarizes what has been learned at NIME, which is now an annual international conference. It begins with an overview of the theory and practice of new musical interface design, exploring what makes a good musical interface and whether there are any useful design principles or guidelines available. Topics include: mapping from human action to musical output, control intimacy, and practical information about the tools for creating musical interfaces (including an overview of sensors and microcontrollers, audio synthesis techniques, and communication protocols such as Open Sound Control and MIDI). The course includes several specific case studies that represent the major broad themes of the NIME conference, including augmented and sensor-based instruments, mobile and networked music, and NIME pedagogy.  

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