Creating Technology
for Music.

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a book series edited by V.J. Manzo
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Creative people use, make, and modify technology as “tools” to support their creative vision. Performing musicians view their instruments as tools, and, likewise, instrument-makers routinely make and modify “tools to make tools”! If you’ve ever seen someone perform or build a musical instrument, you’ve likely noticed specialized tools built to accomplish very specific tasks. Regardless of whether those tools are made of steel or made of code, they are invaluable to the person who created that technology, knows its purpose, and relies on it as part of their process. This book series, “Creating Technology for Music”, explores the convergence of technology and musicianship in this light. Regardless of whether you are an instrument-maker building an instrument or a music-maker modifying your tools to function in a particular way, you are taking part in a centuries-old tradition through which creative people develop and refine tools to support their creative ideas. Throughout this tradition, musicians have placed demands on instrument-makers to help them facilitate new musical ideas, and, likewise, instrument-makers have developed tools that have unlocked novel possibilities for creative expression.

What do we mean when we say “music technology”? Surely a discussion of this nature would include some mention of software and computers, and, by extension, programming languages and electronics. Is that it? What about non-digital technology like analog circuitry and technologies that people have used to facilitate their musical ideas long before computers roamed the earth. When we put it that way: music technology is as much the 1s and 0s that make up our favorite digital audio workstation as they are the physical structures of architects who drew the plans for a cathedral of specific dimensions in order to produce a spacious acoustic reverberation.
But how do we make the leap from understanding “technology” to understanding “music technology” beyond the hopeful intention of the software developer responsible for those 1s and 0s or the architect who imagined what a choral work might sound like in a reverberant space? It’s the music that drives this discussion; to put it simply: the greatest technological medium conveying a dull musical idea is still just a dull musical idea. With no shortage of both technology and music in the world, it’s when we encounter those special compositions and performances where great musical ideas are being facilitated by technology that our heads turn. Whether its an unaccompanied singer with a microphone in an auditorium, an organist in a church, an acoustic guitarist on a street corner, a laptop musician in a dance club: the musical idea is where the magic begins; now what kind of tools exist to facilitate the ideas? What kind of tools still need to be invented in order to facilitate the ideas?

What This Series Is

This book series presents various types of technology through the lens of creating musical experiences for various listeners; the guiding theme: make tools, then make music. In this light, the term “tools” is used to refer to any sort of technology that is purposefully used or developed to facilitate the composition or performance of music. The musical styles described in these books encompass traditional Western music acoustic compositions as well as modern popular music using both traditional and electronic instruments. The common theme within the music explored is that compositions and performances will be generally accessible in terms of the anticipated expectations to the target readership (defined further herein); that is, the technology discussed will facilitate new music, but the new music will not be so avant-garde to the extent that readers lack a cultural reference or require a unusually-lengthy explanation of the significance of the music. The types of technologies to be explored include:

* Software-based tools like programming languages, mobile apps, and digital audio workstations
* Hardware-based tools like musical controllers, electronic musical instruments, tape decks, and oscillators
* Fundamental core technologies that impact music-making like instrument materials and new approaches to manufacturing
* Digital environments like virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and games that relate to musicianships
* Real-world environments and the ways that acoustics, the physical world, and other known natural phenomena can be leveraged for musical encounters and interactions
* Artificial intelligence and robotics like composition algorithms, machine-learning, human-computer interactions, virtual ensembles, and mechanisms for technologies to impact real intelligence and artificial intelligence

Books in this series are not scholarly monographs, but, instead, are intended to speak to specific demands and interests in a wide market. These books are intended to be well-suited for supplemental reading for college courses in related music topics as well as general interest reading to those in the fields of music technology, music composition, music performance, and music education. The topics in this series are not usually presented in books through the lens of “how does creativity come into play?”; that is the driving force behind this series: technology is used to facilitate creativity.
Another novel theme I wanted to emphasize through this series, where appropriate, is the notion of experimentation and, specifically, dealing with failure. Encountering failure is a normal part of the creative process, and, oddly, it is rarely addressed in books that discuss approaches to doing creative things. For instance, there are quite literally hundreds of books about the development of the piano and very little information about how various problems were solved in that process; how did piano-makers obtain the materials used at that time? What did they do when things didn’t pan out? What happened when potential customers said “that’s nice, but what I’m really in the market for is a nicer harpsichord”?
From 2015 to 2020, I was the editor of a component of Symposium, the peer-reviewed journal for the College Music Society, and the only articles I saw come across my desk for review were articles in which the authors succeeded; no one wrote a word about how they rebounded when things went wrong. And why would they? Would readers stigmatize authors who were brave enough to be vulnerable and reveal that they didn’t get everything right the first time? Regardless, the word limitations placed on journal article submissions don’t always leave ample room for information on failed methods (assuming the authors intended to include such narrative), but, in reality, that’s a very interesting part of all stories about success. To put it another way: encountering failure is an important part of being successful! Where applicable, books in this series do not shy away from sharing with readers specific points of failure that informed the processes of facilitating creative ideas. By virtue of including this information, it’s my hope that readers will be encouraged to read that failure is a normal, expected part of “being creative”, and, hopefully, learn some strategies for responding to failed results.

What This Series Is Not

T his book series does not present one-size-fits-all guides toward learning technologies in order to produce unspecified, imaginary music, or theoretical paths by which audio signals can conceivable travel; books in this series do not teach theoretical, abstract, philosophical, pedagogical, or technological concepts divorced from practical ways to implement those concepts in creative musical contexts. By contrast, books in this series clearly define the creative intention(s), even when those creative intentions themselves may be foreign to some readers in style, novel in design, or avant-garde in concept, and describe the relationship between the technological innovations being observed and the resulting creative expression; though every creative implementation described in these books may not resonate with every reader, books in this series aim to provide enough discussion of societal context, creative concept, and technical design so that readers can adapt examples toward their own creative ideas.


The anticipated readers for books in this series include performing musicians and composers who are looking to leverage technology toward new music-making experiences as well as academics looking to supplement their music technology course offerings with books that provide a variety of new perspectives. There is likely a broad appeal for this series in the “music technology-specific” audience and particularly from composers and performers as opposed to a more general music audience or academics focused primarily on music education, music therapy, music history, music theory, or ethnomusicology. It’s also possible that non-musicians with proficiency in some technical areas of computer science, electronics, or engineering might gravitate toward this series based on their familiarity with technology and despite their knowledge of music. In all of these cases, the key draw, we anticipate, will be the way that books overview and connect technology to its facilitation of clearly-defined and genuinely interesting musical ideas.