Music Helping the Blind

I can’t believe it but this is my last post for my English class! For my last academic post I found this great article about a program that teaches visually impaired individuals how to use MIDI in order to help provide a better opportunity for them having a successful music career. I thought this was very unique because I didn’t even think about how the visually impaired would gain much from using MIDI since they wouldn’t be able to see what it is that they are doing. They just have to go about learning how to use the equipment in a way that differs in a few ways from people who can see.

Mainstream Employment in Music Production for Individuals Who Are Visually Impaired: Development of a Model Training Program starts out about a newly blind woman who recently after becoming blind managed to regain the ability to play music at a highly skilled level with the help of special program. The program is called Miami Lighthouse and they specialize in teaching the visually impaired to create music with the help of MIDI on the same level of people who have their vision in order to help them compete in the business world. This article touched my heart because I’ve had friends who go blind and many things that they once enjoyed doing are taken away from them. If there was ever a time that this happened to me and I couldn’t play my flute again it would make me feel just miserable. MIDI does more than allow musical expression to have more ease but it also breaks down barriers in the music business. The playing field is leveled out for even more possible musicians and we’re all about breaking down barriers in any and everything that goes on in our competitive, cut throat society.

After reading this article I decided that I might be able to use it in changing the framework of my last essay since a variety of incentives are mentioned. Levitt and Dubner talked a lot about incentives and how incentives can push people to do something good and fostering innovation in MIDI offer incentives which are beneficial to everyone. This article would also help provide support on how MIDI is a great tool for anyone regardless of musical skill or ability.



Students Composing with MIDI

I feel like I have finally found an article that will help me make sense of what it is that I would like to convey about MIDI. I know that I want to advocate that innovation in MIDI needs to be fostered and that MIDI need to be more accessible to all people no matter their musical skill or abilities. Most of the information that I have already gathered supports the beneficial aspects of using MIDI and now I just need to be able to further expand on this and show people that because of MIDI’s good uses they need to be more prevalent so people can use them at will. I feel that my potential argument is still a little broad but I’m working on narrowing down in the mean time.

So back to my new academic article, which just so happens to be the best piece of information I have found so far. Samuel Airy, who works at a Music and Audio Institute, and Judy M. Parr, who works at the University of Auckland, are both from New Zealand and have collaborated on promoting the use of MIDI in schools so they published MIDI, Music and Me: Students’ Perspectives on Composing with MIDI. It details the study of a group of students using MIDI sequencing to create a musical performance for a course offered through their school and their input on composing music with the help of MIDI. The participants were drawn equally from the year 1 certificate level and year 2 diploma level courses in Audio Engineering and Music Production at the University of Auckland and interviewed about the MIDI course to see how it was or was not beneficial and in what aspects of the music production. A majority of the students in the study had not participated in formal music education prior to this course but in the end of the course all of them reported that they really enjoyed creating music with the MIDI. Features such as being able to cut and paste musical segments, being able to pick from a variety of instruments, and presenting the notes used in the composition in way the people can understand even though they can’t read music allowed students to see music making in a fun way that they could take part in.

This study had students use keyboard MIDI. Here’s an example of a keyboard MIDI.

I found this article such an eye opener for myself personally because in a way it says exactly what I would like to say in my final paper just applied in a different context. Airy and Parr want to promote the use of MIDI in schools and I wanted to promote the accessibility of MIDI everywhere. Now that I think about it, all of my other academic articles talk about having courses that bring more students in contact with MIDI and I kind of feel that this should be my new topic. All of my articles can be synthesized together to support this claim and I still get to have my own personal input on the use of MIDI. I feel that this might be easier for me to do and hopefully I can pull it all together. Wish me luck!!

Electronic Music Innovation

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.

Expanding the Musical Innovation

I know I haven’t posted in a while but rest assure, I have a ton of new information and I’m ready to write. So, in the last post that I put up mentioned an organization called NIME and after posting it I realized that I didn’t really know anything about the organization or what it does. I looked around on the internet a bit and ended up on the NIME website and learned that it stands for New Interface Musical Expression, which it great because that what my essay is all about! I went through a large archive of papers published at NIME conferences and came across a new type of MIDI known as Daft Datum and decided to incorporate it in my paper.

Daft Datum – An Interface for Producing Music Through Foot-based Interaction details the makings of a new media instruments that produces musical sounds through foot interactions on a sensory sheet which is attached to a wooden platform and dance pad. Attributes of the synthesized sound, such as pitch and octave, can be controlled using a wireless Nintendo Wii Remote. To make things easier to understand, the Daft Datum is like playing on a Dance Dance Revolution dance pad but the music heard is consequential to the movements of the user. The dance pad contains pre-recorded musical loops that can be triggered and synchronized in real-time by a user’s feet as they dance to create music. The tunes created from the Daft Datum can then be altered by using the controls on the Wii Remote and be replayed for the musician to listen to. I myself really enjoy music and dancing so being able to combine the two and create some insane musical magic would be awesome!

So far we have gone from little machines DJs use to get the crowd going, to instruments that can be played with the mind all the way to interfaces that translate highly expressive bodily gestures into an equally expressive sound. These types of advancements in musical instruments are great signs of innovation in the devices used to create music.  That is why all three of the articles that I have posted are key to my argument by giving a variety of MIDIs and how people are trying to progress them. I want to show people that innovation in musical instruments needs to continue to be fostered not just because we have the means to do but because it can lead to a variety of things. Things like multi-million one man bands, allowing the physically disabled to be musicians, and make the music learning process easier for everyone. It may just be the musica fan in me but this is a cause worth fighting for.

This is a video that shows the Daft Datum in action, check it out!

Making Music from the Ground Up

After spending even more countless hours sifting through a ton of online articles, I found some really cool information that can serve as my academic source. It’s an article by Gideon D’Arcangelo called Creating a Context for Musical Innovation: A NIME Curriculum and it details the makings of a college course that invents music-making devices while presenting a variety of innovative musical controllers. I found this pretty interesting because I’m kind of familiar with a few current music-making devices but I’ve never thought about the making of these devices and what surrounds their coming to be.

For those who don’t know what I mean by music-making devices, I’m referring to instruments such as synthesizers, turn tables for mixing music, computer programs that make music digitally and other similar devices along those same lines. These are also refered to as MIDI, which stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.”  It is a connectivity standard that musicians use to hook together musical instruments (such as keyboards and synthesizers) and computer equipment. Many of these devices are used in a lot of popular music today ranging from rock, pop and rap to help create a unique sound while trying to appeal to a wider fan base. I personally enjoy how MIDIs are used in the music that I listen to but to each his own in my opinion. We can talk about my colorful choice in music another day, right now we need to talk about music-making devices.

The making of these instruments show the true creativity of an individual. Imagine being in a classroom full of other bright, open-minded innovators trying to create music with raw materials from one small idea based on the instruments looks or sound. This was the case for a group of students at New York University. Their class revolves around identifying issues surrounding music-making devices  while displaying a variety of innovative musical controllers (which are all hand-made by the students with the assistance of a mentor). Now I believe that creativity and innovation tend to go hand in hand a good part of the time so hearing how the class is structured and that quite a few students were interested in it showed me that there is a new sense of creative flair in music. I’m just happy to be able to make a decent piece of macaroni art, so I can’t imagine building a machine that can digitally compose or be used in a musical performance. It just sounds so unreal!

The school started this class experiment back in 2002 and from the layout of the course presented in the article it seems like there is some good coming from it. This here is a life example of innovation being able to foster creativity. Taking an object and giving it a new purpose is ingenious to me and shows that taking something that is old and giving it a new edge is in deed a positive thing. I’m still pretty caught up on this whole MIDI movement so it’s time to do more research!









Music with an Edge

Anyone can make music, whether it’s good or bad is up to the people that are listening. If you’re willing to be open minded and have some appreciation for all art forms, a lot of enjoyment can arise when finding musicians who are willing to take a risk by using unique instruments in the recording room. People in this day and age are always trying to stand out, start a trend ,and make a name for themselves, especially in the music industry. Strumming a few chords on the guitar, banging some drums, and belting on the mic just won’t cut it for a lot of music fans of the 21st century. Musicians need to start using their heads, well more precisely their minds.

This might sound crazy, but how amazing would it be to be able to play an instrument, the piano for example, by simply thinking of the notes and the melody? Well you can! After spending countless hours scouring the Internet about innovation in musical instruments, I found an article about how students at the University of Plymouth created a way to play music by only using brain waves and simple eye moments. It was designed for people who have experienced severe motor impairments, such as locked-in syndrome, to still express themselves creatively through music. I feel that this is very important because music is a big aspect of my life, along with many others, and I can’t imagine the feeling I get when I make music being taken away from me. It would be without a doubt unbearable.

This soon got me thinking; there needs to be even more advancement in brain-computer-musical-interface (BCMI). It’s easy to see that so many people would be able to benefit from this. Not only would the severely disabled gain something from BCMI but so would the elderly who are unable to move well, people who can’t read music, people who lack good coordination and even the blind. The hassle of lugging around the instrument and music would be cut alleviating clutter and misplaced items. All you would need is a song in your heart and some time to let the music flow from your mind and through the instrument.

I’m not saying that BCMI will have you playing like Mozart, but it will allow you to become musically inclined with more ease than the traditional way of learning to play an instrument. There is still some practice involved because all good muscians must practice. Now how they pratice might not be the same all the way across the board but if I could choose, I would definitely choose to work my mind then my fingers on the piano’s black and white keys.

Here is the link to the article, it even has a video demonstrating how the brain-computer-musical- interface works. It truly is something you have to see to believe.

Hello world!

Ok, so I’m going to be quite frank and very honest.

I have never written a blog before and at the moment I have no idea what I want to write about. I know that I want to write about incentives and innovation but with what and where is what has me at a road block right now. I’ve thought about exploring these two aspects in the realm of music and dance for awhile now and lately I’ve been leaning towards some type of innovation in music. More so how the music is created and produced. This could range from musicians who use auto-tunes, the use of creative techno beats and tunes, or even the mixing of a different music genres.

I’m pretty open- minded about a lot of things so I’m just letting all of these topics sink in, hoping that one of them will jump out at me and inspire me to write something of good quality. Maybe if I do a little bit of research and conversating with others I can boucne around some ideas and obtain a better foundation for my own ideas.

I like to consider myself an optimist so I hope that I’ll be able to pull some really great things together and write a beautiful paper, so wish me luck!