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Music Technology and Access To Performance


Automated accompaniment
This is possibly the first thing that comes to mind when mention is made of computers in terms of performance. This might lead us to expect that the performance would be arid and mechanical. While it is perfectly true that the use of some software would restrict the options for expressive performance, other programs can be used to produce results more akin to the recording of real-time backing tracks. They have (musical) benefits over and above real-time recordings, however, because the performer can alter the performance data to suit his/her own interpretation. They allow a player of modest accomplishments to get some idea of what it is like to play in a symphony orchestra, jazz band, string quartet, etcetera.

A beginner seldom has the opportunity to perform with real musicians. Using computerized accompaniments, tempi can be slowed down, or speeded up, at will. If the performer is playing a tune in a simpler transposition, the accompaniment can be suitably adjusted. Parts for which real-time performers are available can be muted. These facilities are particularly helpful for students with special needs but they have the potential to enrich the experience of all.

Providing accompaniments is just one of many ways in which ICT can facilitate and enhance performance. Others include:

- replicating some of the experiences met with in ensemble playing,
for students who would not, otherwise, have access to this important area of musical activity.

- widening performance experience by facilitating involvement in unfamiliar styles of playing and new 'sound-worlds'. For example, it is now possible to find good quality synthesized versions of many ethnic instruments. Digital instruments facilitate exploration of more unusual tuning systems.

- making alternative instruments available to those who cannot play conventional instruments, for whatever reason, enabling performers to play, musically, with a minimum of physical effort.

- facilitating the production of customized scores for use by those who cannot, for whatever reason, read from those generally available. (See 'Inclusion' section for examples.)

- manipulating sounds with microphones and effects units to add a new dimension to the performance

- enabling recorded performance

- facilitating assessment
(and this is, perhaps, technology's most significant contribution) permit the separation of intrinsically musical performance skills from considerations of physical strength and coordination

Explore ICT in performance at these sites:

The Full Pitcher Music Resources
a publisher specialising in resources for creative and inclusive music-making, including the GridPlay software packages, developed according to principles discussed on this website.

"exhilarating opportunities for music composition and live group music- making, with the invisible, expanding keyboard in space"

Expressive Software Projects
ESP specialises in Music Software and Hardware for PC, Mac and Acorn. Their aim is to make music more accessible using technology as a tool.

The new home of MIDIcreator, a versatile device that allows users to create music, in a variety of ways, with movement sensors and switches. A range of switches for disabled access is available from the same source.

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