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[ PREV | TIME-LINE | NEXT ] (The original video documentary covering this segment can be viewed here.)

Computer-assisted performance

Although the Music Animation Machine editor is fast, it's nowhere near as fast as playing music, and when itís possible, I try to perform the renditions myself. For some pieces, though, Iím just not skilled enough to play expressively at the right tempo. The idea occurred to me: why not separate out the pitches from the act of performing them? I could enter the notes as slowly as I wanted, and add the expression later.

It turned out that other people had come up with this idea before; it's known in the trade as the "conductor program":

In the Music Animation Machine implementation of the conductor program, a MIDI keyboard triggers the notes. When you press a key on the keyboard, the next note is played (or, in the case of a chord, the next group of notes that starts at the same time). You control the timing, the dynamics, and the pedaling, and the computer controls the pitches. What I like about using a piano keyboard to trigger the notes is that I can do finger patterns that fit the music. It's sort of like the violinist's bow arm being separate from the left-hand fingering; it allows better control.

There are limitations to a keyboard implementation, however. For one thing, you have to know the rhythm of the piece perfectly. I thought: what if the conductor program were really more like conducting?

So, I built a crank that you could turn once a measure, sort of like a hurdy-gurdy:

Unfortunately, it turns out to be very hard to turn a crank smoothly enough ... ...and, it has another limitation that the keyboard version has: you don't have control of dynamics within a note. For that I made a mock-up of another interface for the conductor program; I call it the lizard trampoline :