Advancing Technology and Music

Our own Adobe Design Center has posted a great essay by Tina Blaine, a member of the Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center faculty, titled New Music for the Masses. In the essay Tina explores some of the new trends in music-oriented video games, toys, and how they’re leading to some of the other new interfaces for music creation. Some examples are things like Elektroplankton for the Nintendo DS, which can be described as much more of a “music toy” than a game, and the Playstation 2 game Guitar Hero, where players wield plastic electric guitars in order to simulate wailing guitar licks and move your way up from playing in local basements to selling out stadiums to a worldwide rock tour.

(On a personal note, I had the opportunity to play Guitar Hero at a friends’ house while on a trip a while back and it was wicked fun. I started the game just kind of going through the motions and by the end I had to restrain myself from kicking over the TV like an amp stack or smashing the plastic toy guitar to pieces like the legends of old. Good times.)

The essay goes on to discuss more technology that offers unique inputs to music, like the MIDI-driving exoskeleton I blogged about in January and some super-cool conceptual interfaces where moving physical objects around on a board influence the total mix or instruments used in a composition. The technology is a long way from being mainstream (and perhaps never will be) but looking both forward at this stream of high-tech gizmos for music as well as at the current technology being used for music-related games I can’t help but feel like we’re on the threshold of someone putting together a few new key elements to create another breakthrough. Technology has always influenced music production, from creating better drums with stone tools, to violins with precision steel tools, to guitars and amp stacks with electricity, and on up the chain. Are Wacom-type tablets the next step? Or cameras that pick up a performer’s movements and convert them to music? Are we primed for the next technology-enabled jump in musical style/influence/instrument/production/sound?

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