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Composition and use of interactive music (2004-2005)

Published: 29 April 2011

Funded by the Swedish Research Council.

The overall aim of this project was to initiate a systematic exploration of the field of interactive music. The concept of interactive music refers to the interaction between the listener and the music, in which the listener in different ways is given the opportunity to influence the musical performance and to some extent become co-creator. The traditional roles of both listener and composer are thus redefined.

The project was built on the artistic creation of interactive music and the listener's creative use of the music produced in the project. Certain elements of technical development were also part of the project.

The project consisted of two separate studies, the first of which focused on the compositional element and listeners' behavior, while the second highlighted music's narrative aspects. An important, though often overlooked, aspect of consumer electronics as a mediator of music is its interactivity. The CD player, today's most popular medium for music, is relatively primitive and limited in terms of interactive potential for the user. By fully taking advantage of the interactivity in listening, a whole new world of artistic possibilities opens up, both for the composer and the listener. In today's interactive media (computer games, websites, textbooks, etc), music is often highly subordinate to the graphical expression. The level of musical interactivity is typically also very limited.

The first study aims to explore the composer's opportunities in terms of the new and emerging field of interactive music. The sub-project was built on artistic creative work and was intended to result in a number of interactive musical compositions by Marcus Fjellström. Part of the interaction was to try to capture in writing the creative compositional process and to describe and reflect on how interactive music is used by the listener.

The second study, conducted by Johnny Wingstedt, was designed to explore the principles of interactive composition based on film music and its components and structure. The study was based on the assumption that much of film music's basic narrative principles can be transferred to interactive situations and used as a basis for the development of artistic techniques and technical tools for interactive use. The aim was to investigate the relationship between linear and nonlinear musical storytelling, as well as the conditions and possibilities for music as a narrative tool in an interactive non-linear environment. Initially, a classification of musical narrative features in the film was carried out. An interactive musical analysis tool was developed. Review groups were given access to film scenes with the existing music. The analysis tool allows participants to manipulate selected musical parameters of the music played, in order to optimally convey the situation and character of the scene.

The project as a whole has contributed to the development of the field of interactive music, through scientific inquiry as well as through the development of technical aids and tools that can be used in composing and performing interactive music - for example, an interactive computer application or an interactive performance.

The "music engine," developed within the second study, should become an attractive tool for the computer game industry, which is increasingly beginning to feel the need to use music that can work artistically in an interactive process. In such contexts, the project may help to raise music's status to a level approaching that of graphics in today's interactive media.