In the past couple of years or so electronic music has grown quite a bit in popularity. More than half the songs played on the radio have some type of electronic aspect to them whether it be the use of electronic instruments, synthesized sounds weaved into the background beat or the use of a voice synthesizer. Taking this bit of prior knowledge, I researched innovations in electronic instruments and found a man by the name of Joseph A. Paradiso who knows an extensive amount on my subject and got a lot of answers that I desperately needed.
Being a young musician (well I did play the flute and piano from grade school to high school) and participating in marching band for going on six years, I know that I have a pretty extensive musical background. My knowledge lies in the traditional aspect of music playing though so a lot of electronic music instruments. How they are created and used was unknown to me. After reading American Innovations in Electronic Musical Instruments I learned a lot about the types of electronic instruments and thought that I could use this to help my readers better understand what they are and how they work.
There are string interfaces, non-contact interfaces, and there are drum interfaces. String interfaces involve instruments such as electric guitars and even violins and cellos have been modernized. The non-contact interfaces confused me but Paradiso explains them as interfaces that trace the body through the air, sensors that measure other activity in “smart rooms” or other responsive environments, and interfaces that are worn in active clothing. I thought this was really interesting because in a sense you could be able to create music by simply dancing. Being able to unify both of these arts together would be mind-blowing! Drum interfaces are what I’m more familiar with. They have the same set up and feel of your average drum set, but instead of hitting on drum heads you tap on disk-shaped pad to produce a sound. From the drum interface you can change the sound produced, so even though you are playing on a drum like set the notes you create are that of a piano or guitar. Being able to pound on a few sound pads sounds a lot easier than pushing 88 piano keys and strumming a guitar. If you have never seen what a drum interface looks like, here’s a pretty standard one.
Paradiso goes into some detail about the short legacy that electronic music holds and then states that new inventions lead to even further innovation of electronic instruments. I feel that this is true and that is why I’m such an advocate for innovation in musical instruments. We’re always trying to make things bigger and better so applying this concept to musical instruments is understandable. The use of new electronic instruments will enhance the musical performance of the musician thus giving the audience the best overall musical experience which is the artist’s ultimate goal besides being able to be expressive in their own musical way.