[[ May 24 - 26, 2002, Media Lab Europe, Dublin ]]

 Bob Gluck

The combination of blazingly fast personal computers, along with new technologies with which musicians can exert exquisite control over aspects of performance, is changing the musical landscape. Musicians are harnessing sensing devices that can capture all types of physical gestures, expanding the relationship between instrument and performer. New approaches to generating and processing sound allows these new instruments to shape sound in ways that are both intricate and profound. We are now in a new era of live electronic performance.

Interest in these endeavors has grown dramatically. What began as a NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) workshop for fifteen people a year or so ago, has now grown into an international conference. Conference organizer Joseph Paradiso, professor at MIT, notes that "people will be coming from academic and industrial research labs from the USA, Europe, and Asia, along with many artists who perform with new musical interfaces. The fusion of so many perspectives will be very stimulating." NIME is being hosted by MIT's Media Lab Europe, recently established in Dublin. Paradiso comments: "As there are many first-rate labs doing work in this area in Europe, we thought that it was appropriate to have this year's event there, and Dublin fit well."

Entering a new era, however, isn't easy. Unlike acoustic instruments, electronic musical instruments are barely a century old. But even after a century of development, they have taken many and diverse forms. To be sure, there is a noticeable preference by commercial manufacturers to produce keyboards. But non-conventional instruments follow more creative paths, controlling sounds using area-sensitive surfaces, video cameras, body motions without physical contact, and many other sources of information that derive from human activity.

Joseph Paradiso asks some of the key questions that the upcoming conference will address: "What forms will the musical controllers of tomorrow finally take, provided that they settle at all? Will they ever supplant the keyboard, string, percussion, and wind form factors that still dominate the commercial landscape? How deep a union will research in musical interfaces forge with work in human-computer interfaces?" The answers will come from paper presentations, discussions, demonstrations, and concerts. Keynote addresses will be delivered by Tod Machover and Joel Chadabe, pioneers in this field, as well as well-known Irish piper Cillian O'Briain.

Music is an inherently expressive art. The NIME conference promises to explore the ways that technology can and is expanding the boundaries of musical expression. As Joseph Paradiso notes: "I hope that this conference gives a comprehensive snapshot of where the field of musical interfaces is at and gives a glimpse of where it's heading."


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