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Reflecting on Design and Music Software for Tablets; NXNE Toronto Talk

Pictured: Loopseque, in final form (top) and sketched on paper (bottom). Images courtesy the developers; visit them on Flickr. Saturday afternoon in Toronto, I’m giving a talk to the North by Northeast festival on music software and tablets. I’ll explain a bit about what tablets are about, and some of the software that’s out there on the landscape (principally, of course, on the iPad). But I hope to emphasize a deeper issue: how you design software for the tablet, and what’s unique about this convergence of form factor and touch interface. I mean this generically for a reason: on CDM, …

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Tablet Scores: Avid Answers Our Scorch Questions; Bluetooth Page Turners for iPad, Android

Digital notation took a big step forward last week with the release of Avid Scorch, the first take on mobile notation from developer Sibelius. (It’s the first mobile app, period, from industry titan Avid, so it’s interesting to watch them go first with notation – especially as even Apple skipped scores with their first release of GarageBand.) Anything new is liable to generate a lot of questions. So we’ve taken those questions straight to the source, to the Sibelius team at Avid. One of the things I always enjoyed about the folks at Sibelius is that they’re an exceptionally bright, …

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Not Quite Sibelius for iPad, but Avid Scorch Could Become an iTunes of Notation

Let’s get this out of the way first: if you’re looking for a tool for composing and editing scores on your iPad, Avid Scorch isn’t it — not yet, at least. But as a score reader, Scorch could be a glimpse of a future in which tablets create a new marketplace and exchange for notated music. Scorch is, first and foremost, a score reader. It shares the mature notational display engine of Sibelius, and makes use of Sibelius’ (and now Pro Tools’) scores. That includes Sibelius’ broad library of musical symbols, guitar tab features, and handwritten fonts, among other features. …

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Music Notation, What is it Good For? How About Humans?

Ding dong, the score is dead… or not, in fact. Photo (CC-BY) Steve Snodgrass. There’s a peculiar false controversy going on at the moment over music notation. First, the blog for online (Flash-based) browser notation editor Noteflight introduced a manifesto: Music Notation Today, Part 1: A Brief Manifesto The essay by president Joe Berkovitz is a good read, but it oddly makes the comparison between notation and recorded sound, which is a bit like saying a telephone is better than a DVD. One is interactive and intended for human conversation; one is not. So, go ahead and enjoy the copy …

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Useful Music Tools for Your Android Phone, and a New Sketchpad Joins Groovebox

Despite being a musical technology enthusiast, I really do think of my Android phone first and foremost as a communications device. I imagine I’m not alone, just as I’d guess that people who want a mobile music maker may look first at the iPhone. But that raises the question, are there tools you’d install on an Android phone purely because they’re genuinely useful? What tools would you use in your music, or even refuse to be without? There are actually a surprising number of tools out there on Android for music-making, though quality can be quite variable. So here, I’ll …

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Utterly Brilliant Fan-Made Jonathan Coulton Music Video, with Lilypond Notation Cameo

Shop Vac from Jarret Heather on Vimeo. Jonathan Coulton is nothing if not a hero for the age of Internet music. The Brooklyn-based troubadour inspires worldwide adoration from fans, not least in the form of music videos made spontaneously for his songs. “Shop Vac” by Jarrett Heather is easily one of the cleverest music videos put out this year, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with professional, higher-budget, commissioned videos. (And in a year full of clever gimmicks, that’s saying a lot.) It also does more than just show off visual flash: it’s got some actual wit. More info from the creator: A kinetic …

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Ten Music Technologies to Be Thankful For Right Now

Photo (CC-BY-ND Dave/riptheskull. Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers. I was thinking about technologies for which I’m particularly thankful, some non-obvious, some perhaps so obvious they might be easily be taken for granted. Each I hope represents some opportunities for others. At the risk of starting a Thanksgiving roast, in no particular order, here are the ones foremost in my mind in the waning days of 2010.

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Looking Beyond MIDI, What’s the Best Way to Represent Musical Notes Digitally?

Speaking in Hamburg to a terrific group of assembled locals from a variety of design backgrounds. And yes, this is the other part of my life behind me. I just seem to generally skip the years 1700-1985. Go figure. The history of music and the history of music notation are closely intertwined. Now, digital languages for communicating musical ideas between devices, users, and software, and storing and reproducing those ideas, take on the role notation alone once did. Notation has always been more than just a way of telling musicians what to do. (Any composer will quickly tell you as …

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From MGM’s Music Master, a View of Sound in Technicolor

Now that digital technology allows rapid creation of new interfaces for music and sound, the question of how to represent those elements visually has new life. But whether digital or not, practitioners of music have long been interested in applying further descriptions to music, from the Baroque Doctrine of Affectations to the involuntary association of color in Synesthesia. Applying colors to the notes of a musical scale is one particularly common idea, but the late master composer/orchestrator Arthur Lange had a different idea: why not give colors to range? Building on ideas from orchestrators Francois Auguste Geveart and Rimsky-Korsakov, he …

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iPad: Bloom, Setlists, Scores, Audio Palette, and Controlling Mac

As the iPad hits Europe and the world generally gets more time with the tablet, it continues to play host to new music software. I still have to wonder when some of its software design patterns – touch interfaces, big displays, and simplified, task-specific user experiences – will begin to influence other platforms. That is, it’s never been clear why arrays of tiny knobs were the best solution for conventional computers, either. But for those of you who have picked up an iPad and are curious what you can do with it, here are some ideas, all now “natively” optimized …

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