A NIME Reader: Fifteen Years of New Interfaces for Musical Expression

A little more than 15 years have passed since the small NIME workshop was held during the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (nime_readerCHI) in 2001 (Poupyrev et al. 2001b). Already from 2002, NIME was a conference on its own, and today it is an important annual meeting point of researchers, developers, designers, and artists from all over the world. The participants have very different backgrounds, but they all share a mutual passion for groundbreaking music and technology.

More than 1200 papers have been published through the conference so far, and staying true to the open and inclusive atmosphere of the community, all of the papers are freely available online. The archive is great if you know what to look for, but it has grown to a size that is difficult to handle for newcomers to the field. Even for long-timers and occasional visitors, it is difficult to get an overview of the history and development of the community.

At recent editions of the conference, we have seen a growing number of papers focusing on historical, theoretical, and reflective studies of the NIME community (or even communities) itself. As this level of meta-studies started to grow, we began to see the potential for a collection of articles that could broadly represent the conference series. This thought has now materialized in the anthology you are currently holding in your hand, or reading on a screen.

The anthology includes the chapter 2005: Towards a Dimension Space for Musical Devices by David Birnbaum, Rebecca Fiebrink, Joseph Malloch, and Marcelo M. Wanderley.

Article published in MTAP

Now available online: Malloch, J., Sinclair, S., M. M. Wanderley. Distributed tools for interactive design of heterogeneous signal networks. Multimedia Tools and Applications, 73(2),  2014. DOI: 10.1007/s11042-014-1878-5

We introduce libmapper, an open source, cross-platform software library for flexibly connecting disparate interactive media control systems at run-time. This library implements a minimal, openly-documented protocol meant to replace and improve on existing schemes for connecting digital musical instruments and other interactive systems, bringing clarified, strong semantics to system messaging and description. We use automated discovery and message translation instead of imposed system-representation standards to approach “plug-and-play” usability without sacrificing design flexibility. System modularity is encouraged, and data are transported between peers without centralized servers.

Ph.D. dissertation

My Ph.D. dissertation A Framework and Tools for Mapping of Digital Musical Instruments is available – contact me if you would like an electronic copy.

Digital musical instruments (DMIs) are typically composed of an interface using some type of sensor technology, and real-time media synthesis algorithms running on a digital computer. The connections between various input signals from performer interaction and the parameters of synthesis must be artificially associated – this mapping of gesture to sound or other media defines the behaviour of the system as a whole. Mapping design is a challenging and sometimes frustrating process.

In this dissertation, the design and implementation of an open-source, cross-platform software library and several related tools for supporting the mapping task are presented. These tools are designed to provide discovery and interconnection between parts of DMIs and other interactive systems, and to achieve compatibility through translation and transformation of data representations rather than imposing representation standards. The control parameters of software and hardware devices compliant with libmapper can be freely interconnected without requiring any intended mutual compatibility.

Among the unique features presented is support for mapping between systems that include entities with multiple instances with dynamic lifetimes, systems which would usually require bespoke programming. A formalization of the problem is described, and several examples of real-world applications are outlined.

Finally, use-cases for the mapping tools are presented in-depth: the design, development and use of novel digital musical instruments for live performance.

CMJ special issue on Mapping

Call for Submissions – CMJ Special Issue: “Advances in the Design of Mapping for Computer Music”, Marcelo M. Wanderley and Joseph Malloch, Guest Editors.

When we use digital tools for making music, the properties and parameters of both sound synthesizers and human interfaces have an abstract representation. One consequence of the digital nature of these signals and states is that gesture and action are completely separable from sound production, and must be artificially associated by the system designer in a process commonly called mapping.

The importance of mapping in digital musical instruments has been studied since the early 1990s, with several works discussing the role of mapping and many related concepts. Since roughly the mid-2000s, several tools have been proposed to facilitate the implementation of mappings, drastically reducing the necessary technical knowledge and allowing a large community to easily implement their ideas. Coupled with the availability of inexpensive sensors and hardware, as well as the emergence of a strong Do-It-Yourself community, the time seems right to discuss the main directions for research on mapping in digital musical instruments and interactive systems.

This call for submissions for a special issue of the Computer Music Journal focuses on recent developments and future prospects of mapping.

Relevant topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Mapping in instrument/installation/interaction design
  • Mapping concepts and approaches
  • Mapping tools
  • Evaluation methodologies
  • Mapping in/as composition
  • Mapping for media other than, or in addition to, sound

Deadline for paper submission is March 15, 2013. The issue will appear in 2014. Submissions should follow all CMJ author guidelines (http://www.mitpressjournals.org/page/sub/comj). Submissions and queries should be addressed to marcelo.wanderley@mcgill.ca, with the subject starting with [CMJ Mapping]

Musical Robots and Interactive Multimodal Systems


Chapter 5: Input Devices and Music Interaction

Joseph Malloch, Stephen Sinclair, Avrum Hollinger and Marcelo M. Wanderley

This chapter discusses some principles of digital musical instrument design in the context of different goals and constraints.  It shows, through several examples, that a variety of conditions can motivate design choices for sensor interface and mapping, such as robustness and reliability, environmental constraints on sensor technology, or the desire for haptic feedback.  Details of specific hardware and software choices for some DMI designs are discussed in this context.
Solis, Jorge; Ng, Kia (Eds.)
1st Edition., 2011, XVIII, 274 p. 113 illus., 73 in color.