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This chapter explores the role of visual representation of sound in music software. Software design often remediates older technologies, such as common music notation, the analogue tape, outboard studio equipment, as well as applying metaphors from acoustic and electric instruments. In that context, the aim here will be study particular modes in which abstract shapes, symbols and innovative notations can be applied in systems for composition and live performance. Considering the practically infinite possibilities of representation of sound in digital systems—both in terms of visual display and mapping of gestural controllers to sound—the concepts of graphic design, notation and performance will be discussed in relation to four systems created by the author: ixi software, ixiQuarks, ixi lang, and the Threnoscope live coding environment. These will be presented as examples of limited systems that frame the musician’s compositional thoughts providing a constrained palette of musical possibilities. What this software has in common is the integral use of visual elements in musical composition, equally as prescriptive and representative notation for musical processes. The chapter will present the development of musical software as a form of composition: it is an experimental activity that goes hand in hand with sound and music research, where the musician-programmer has to gain a formal understanding of diverse domains that before might have been tacit knowledge. The digital system’s requirements for abstractions of the source domain, specifications of material, and completeness of definitions are all features that inevitably require a very strong understanding of the source domain.
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- Interfacing Sound: Visual Representation of Sound in Musical Software Instruments
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