Joystick Music

One goal of the Hyperinstrument Group since 1991 has been to create systems that let users have the experience of "shaping" or "guiding" the development of a musical composition, without having to invent or control every detail of that piece. The idea is to give people a sense of how music is put together, as well as to let them experience the fun of "personalizing" a piece to their liking. One such Hyperinstrument is called Joystick Music. It is based on a technique called "seed music", developed in our group at MIT, which allows any fragment of music to be fed into the computer and automatically analyzed. Once analyzed, these "seeds" can grow into more music similar to the original fragments. The advantage to the system is that players can then change and modify any features of this music in real-time. For Joystick Music, the player can shape the evolution of a musical piece by moving two videogame-type joysticks, in a sort of "musical driving" game. These joysticks control such musical features as rhythm, texture, harmony, and melody. The system is easy to learn, but requires practice to play well.