The Conductor program — computer-mediated musical performance by Stephen Malinowski.
Introduction: There are many ways people share the responsibility of making music: they can collaborate in composing and performing music, a composer can leave performing to other musicians, a group of musicians can hire a conductor, a performer can rely on an instrument maker to build a machine capable of turning musical gestures into sound. A less commonly used way to share musical responsibility is for a machine to be responsible for storing the notes of the score and playing back those notes in the proper order, leaving a human performer with only the responsibilities of the conductor — rhythm, tempo, dynamics, expression, interpretation.
With the advent of computers and computer music, development of such an approach (which, when implemented with computers, is sometimes called the conductor program) has taken off, with several people experimenting with its possibilities. In this article, I describe some of this work, including my own implementation of the conductor program, Tapper (which is available as freeware ). My goal is for the article to provide an introduction to the idea of the conductor program and for Tapper to provide an introduction to the experience of doing computer-mediated musical performance. Neither is intended to be comprehensive, but both are works in progress, and I’m open to suggestions for simplifications, corrections and additions.
First let’s go over some of the concepts. What is going on when a performer is using the conductor program? How is using the conductor program different from other things musicians commonly do? How is one implementation of the conductor program different from another? There are a lots of ways to think about these questions. You can ask: What kinds of choices are musicians making? What roles do the computer and human performers play? What aspects of musical expression are performers responsible for? Where does the acoustic energy come from? Where does the performance energy come from? How tightly is the performance coupled to the performer’s gestures? What is the relationship between pitch choice, pitch memory, and pitch responsibility? Is a person using the conductor program really performing? …
Continue reading this article here. It contains a description of predecessors, from 1800 on. Or download the program here. It’s free.
Stephen Malinowski also created the Music Animation Machine.