Re: Intuitive EA Proformance Practice Research

Subject: Re: Intuitive EA Proformance Practice Research
From: Richard Wentk (
Date: Thu Oct 13 2005 - 15:34:59 EDT

At 18:33 13/10/2005, you wrote:
>I don't think you can have decent responsiveness without decent
>physical feedback. there's a lot more involved than the ears in
>playing an instrument. Breathing, posture, the amount of pressure that
>goes into the string before it slides across the nail and which
>direction it's released according to what you need to happen next with
>it as well as whether or not the last knuckle is flexed at the

I don't think this is true because there examples that contradict it - e.g.
a guitar synthesizer like the Roland VG8. The only performance issues that
seem to bother guitarists using a VG8 are tracking accuracy and tracking
delay. Once those gets good enough to be transparent, no one seems to mind
that there's no longer a relationship between physical string pitch and
performed pitch, or that the sound that's being made is nothing like a
guitar and doesn't respond in the same kind of way.

It's a similar story with electronically altered instruments. You can still
perform happily with an electric violin if you shred the sound with
distortion and turn it into heavy metal. At that point you're no longer
playing the violin in a physical sense, you're playing the sound with
pedals and other modifiers that offer little or no tactile feedback at all.
Violinists don't seem to find this a problem.

>These things change whenever a different part, and therefore a
>different sound, of the instrument is needed. That change is
>consistant throughout the time the instrument is practiced with. It's
>hard for me to believe that it's possible to do that without realtime
>physical feedback tying the body to the ears. That's a helluva lot of
>neural real estate being chucked out the window.

I don't think it needs to be chucked out, just rerouted. A lot of acoustic
instrument design is based on arbitrary mechanical convenience, and I'd
hope the right kind of interfaces would make music more expressive, not
less. The main attraction seems to be a certain level of information
density and variability in either the sound or the articulation, or perhaps
both. Pianos only really have velocity as an articulation feature, but to
make up for it the sound is unusally rich and complex.

In fact there seems to be a trade-off in instrument design where simpler
sounding instruments tend to be built with more articulation, and those
with more complex timbres offer less.


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