skip to content

Music Computing

Contact: Robin Laney (R.C.Laney 'at' open.ac.uk)

The technologies of pervasive, tangible and embodied interaction are affording powerful new opportunities in the design of tools for music performance, composition, education and analysis, and have already led to new musical interaction designs and devices (e.g., Reactable, Wii Loops,  Brian Eno's Bloom, Whole Body Harmony Space, or the iPhone Ocarina). However, deep challenges remain, particularly in building new tools and establishing their underlying principles. This theme relates strongly to designing and implementing new tools and finding appropriate theoretical perspectives to reflect on issues and outcomes emerging from their design and creation.

How can new instruments and tools be designed to draw learners deeply into the practice of music composition? How can such tools afford expert musicians new perspectives? How can such tools be designed to have fruitful effects long after their use? Music Computing research is committed to investigating these questions through the design, construction and evaluation of new tools guided by a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches.
The primary emphasis in these projects is on the design and implementation of innovative interaction designs and tools for music computing. In general, evaluations will be light-touch. However, some projects could emphasise evaluation. For a project in music computing you should consider one of the following areas.

New Musical Tools for the iPhone
The iPhone is a particularly interesting platform for music computing, as it includes a multi-touch screen, accelerometer, excellent graphics, a microphone, GPS and excellent networking. Entrance requirements for this topic are of necessity relatively restrictive. This topic requires that you have access to Macintosh to use as a development platform. It is helpful to have access to an iPhone, but an acceptable alternative is to use the iPhone simulator which comes as part of Apple's iPhone SDK.
We have two candidate projects available, one based on a tool for rhythm, and one based on a tool for harmony, but other projects are possible.

New Musical Tools using tabletop interaction
Multi-touch shared tabletop interaction affords many new opportunities for interaction design in music computing. Tables allow for large displays, a direct style of interaction and easy collaboration. Styles afforded include a) using fiducial markers b) using fingers, and c) both at once. Currently, touch tables are expensive, but the cross platform TUIO multi-touch simulator is freely available, and this can be run on more or less any desktop or laptop machine. We have two candidate projects available, one based on a tool for rhythm, and one based on a tool for harmony. Other projects are possible by negotiation.

New Musical Tools using force feedback
Force feedback interaction affords many interesting opportunities for interaction design in music computing. For one project we have available a richly expressive desktop phantom machine (subject to arrangement of insurance cover). Another project will use the lower cost but highly expressive Falcon. We have two candidate projects available, one based on a tool for melody, and one based on a tool for harmony, but other projects are possible by negotiation.

Expressive, interactive animated graphics for new music computing tools
Some new interaction designs for music can benefit greatly from expressive, interactive aesthetic animated graphics. Some projects are available in this area for a talented graphical interaction programmer.

Tangible, embedded, and whole body music computing
These projects involve prototyping typically small devices integrating both hardware and software. Conferences such as NIME and TEI are a good reference for examples of relevant sensors, kits and technologies.