Interactive Technologies and Music Making | Soundmain
Interactive Technologies and Music Making

PDF Interactive Technologies and Music Making August 27, 2024 by Focal Press

2024 07 07 13 22 00

Challenging current music making approaches which have traditionally relied on the repetition of fixed forms when played, this book provides a new framework for musicians, composers, and producers wanting to explore working with music that can be represented by data and transformed by interactive technologies.

Beginning with an exploration into how current interactive technologies, including VR and AR, are affecting music, the book goes on to create an accessible compositional model which articulates the emerging field of ‘transmutable music.’ It then shows how to compose and produce transmutable music for platforms like video games, apps and interactive works, employing tutorials which use a range of inputs from sensors, data, and compositional approaches. The book also offers technical exercises on how to transform data into usable forms (including machine learning techniques) for mapping musical parameters, and discussion points to support learning.

This book is a valuable resource for industry professionals wanting to gain an insight into cutting edge new practice, as well as for assisting musicians, composers, and producers with professional development. It is also suitable for students and researchers in the fields of music/audio composition and music/audio production, computer game design, and interactive media.


Waves of Change Change. It is a concept that can both intrigue and intimidate us. We strive to create stability and secure environments for ourselves and our loved ones, often resisting the inevitable waves of transformation surrounding us. However, change is an intrinsic part of our existence – a constant force that shapes our reality and the world we inhabit.

In this book, I will attempt to explore the profound relationship between music and the ever-evolving landscape of interactive technologies. I delve into the depths of how music, as an art form, embraces interactivity, and adapts t the digital and data-driven age. This exploration highlights a paradox that exists within recorded music’s realm – the industry’s historical embrace of new technologies, yet its hesitance in fully integrating emerging interactive products and platforms inspired by the gaming industry.

I pose a fundamental question: How can we bridge the gap between music and interactive technology? Moreover, we explore how interactive technologies can pave the creation of new musical forms and serve as mediums for expressing ground-breaking artistic concepts and ideas.

Before embarking on this journey, let us ponder the timeless words attributed to Heraclitus (535 – 473 BC), “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.”1 Although philosophised centuries ago, these concepts continue to resonate with us, transcending gender and human-centric perspectives.

Let us expand the scope of Heraclitus’ interpreted wisdom to encompass all beings that engage with a river, regardless of gender or cellular composition. For every living being that interacts with the flowing water, both the river and the being undergo constant change and transformation.

The river itself becomes a metaphor for change an entity in perpetual motion. Its currents shape the world beneath its surface, altering the very foundations on which it flows. Fish swim through its depths, while frog larvae evolve into tadpoles. The river represents the ebb and flow of life a testament to the inherent nature of change.

Now, let us shift our focus to the being within Heraclitus’ quote. Consider a human, a complex organism predominantly composed of water. Within this biological structure, microscopic mites, and beneficial bacteria reside upon the skin, blood courses through veins, and consciousness interprets the sensory inputs of the world. Each passing moment brings forth new experiences and transformations, whether immersed in the river or beyond its banks.

Returning to our analogy, envision a section of the river where the water stagnates. The absence of flow leads to an unpleasant odour, a deterioration that parallels aspects of our lives. Stagnation impedes growth and poses challenges when change inevitably arrives. Yet, we strive to create safe environments that resist change, even though we can only delay it for a limited time.

Change, as we know, can be inextricably linked with the passage of time. If change is constant, why do we, as a society, cling to the familiar? The reason I commence this book with a philosophical quandary is that the ensuing chapters challenge preconceived notions about music consumption and experience. These challenges trace their roots back to the very essence of change. This book is a tribute to music’s transformative nature, exploring how it can be moulded and reimagined through the manipulation of data.

Music and Technology

Music and technology have historically intertwined to shape musical innovation, from the Neanderthal flute and the printing press to digitisation. This symbiotic relationship means that music is perpetually evolving alongside technological advances. In the digital era, amid revolutionary changes in communication and industry practices, the music industry finds itself in an extended transition, grappling with the sluggish evolution of copyright, royalties, and equitable compensation for artists. All this whilst rushing towards the irresistible and transformative potential of AI and blockchain technologies. Music has historically been at the forefront of transformative technological advances.

This state of flux is not unique to the digital age. Historically, music has adapted to new technologies, laws, and cultural shifts. For example, the introduction of radio into households sparked fears among venues and record labels that live performances and record sales would plummet. Why would people pay for music if they could listen to it for free on the radio? Initially, radio broadcasts did not compensate musicians despite earning advertising revenue. It took nearly 15 years to establish the copyright and royalty system we know today.

Considering the significant time it took for the broadcasting and music industry to develop a fairer remuneration system for musicians, it is unsurprising that the sweeping changes brought on by digitisation, the internet, and communication advancements present a considerable challenge. It is clear that there is a substantial journey ahead in modernising our copyright and royalty frameworks to accurately reflect contemporary consumer behaviour and artist practices.
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