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about the Music Animation Machine

Ted Rust's 1995 article from the Music For the Love of It

Jennifer Kahn's 1996 article from the East Bay Express


of Reviews

of the Music Animation Machine

Copyright law prevents me from reproducing reviews of the Music Animation Machine in their entirety, so I'm skirting the issue by presenting reviews of the reviews.

Algorithm, 1.7, November 1990 (reviewer unknown) and 3.2, April 1992 (reviewed by Bob Webber). The reviews are on the fanciful side, one referring to the scrolling score as being like "a flock of mismatched birds, stately flamingos mixed with frantic sparrows," and the other trying to tie the M.A.M. in with that issue's theme (fractals), but they are otherwise accurate and fairly informative. The first, the longer of the two, says that music teachers the reviewer played the tape for were uniformly excited about it, and recommends that it be "in every music educator's library."

KRON TV, March 5, 1991 (reviewed by Richard Hart). The Music Animation Machine's fifteen minutes of fame. This brief segment, announcing the M.A.M. as the "Next Step in Music," began with a shot of my hands playing a fugue on the piano, then cut to the scrolling score of the same music -- a nice effect. Hart described the M.A.M. and explained that although it would never replace music notation for performers, it could be useful to listeners. My favorite part of the program was Pete Wilson saying afterwards, "It seems silly, but you start watching it, and it's mesmerizing."

Leonardo, Volume 24, No. 5, 1991 (reviewed by Roger F. Malina). Dr. Malina gives a concise, dry description of the M.A.M. ("The Music Animation Machine is a tool for studying music by viewing certain elements of musical structure..." ).

Whole Earth Review, No. 71, Summer 1991 (reviewed by Kevin Kelly). This review is very brief -- just four sentences. He says that although others have attempted to do what the M.A.M. does, watching the tape was "the first time I felt I've truly seen music" (enthusiastic hyperbole that make me wonder who the "others" are). He allowed the possibility that the tape would be useful. As far as I can recall, this is the only review that moved anybody to contact me; as recently as last year I've received queries from people who read it.

Piano Guild Notes, Vol. 41, No. 2, September-October 1998 (reviewed by Kay Rivers Sparks). Ms. Sparks gives a generous description of the M.A.M. ("excellent electronic keyboard performances" ).

American Music Teacher, June/July 1993 (reviewed by Wilma Machover). An even-handed and detailed review. Ms. Machover starts by saying that she and her colleagues were "intrigued ... with the potential uses" of the tape, and pointed out the important features: can be understood without musical training, etc. She said that performers would find the visualization revealing (which, though perhaps a bit of a projection, might be true under some circumstances). She very rightly criticizes my renditions, saying that one might wish "for performances with more nuance," which, given how rough the performances are, is kind.

Lastly (and most recently), information display specialist Edward Tufte has some nice things to say about the M.A.M. in the "ASK E.T." section of his website.