Computer Music Interface Evaluation

Computer Music Interface Evaluation

Dionysios Politis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), Ioannis Stamelos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and Dimitrios Margounakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch106
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Abstract

One of the most intriguing fields of human-computer interaction (HCI) involves the communication aspects of computer music interfaces. Music is a rich communication medium, and computer music is the amalgam of interface science and musical praxis forming a dynamic subset of HCI. There are structural similarities between the job of a music composer and that of a user interface designer (although their objectives may be different). While sound has been used in general purpose interfaces as an object, its use has been deteriorated at a primary level, that of a signal-processing approach. However, music composition and performance are highly abstract human activities involving a semantic and a symbolic mechanism of human intellectual activity. This article analyzes the unique problems posed by the use of computers by composers and performers of music. It presents the HCI predicates involved in the chain of musical interaction with computer devices, commencing from the abstract part of symbolic composition, then coping with usability issues of the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) implemented for musical scripting, and concluding to a synthesis stage which produces digitized sounds that enhance or replace original analog audio signals. The evaluation of HCI elements for computer music under the prism of usability aims at the development of new graphical tools, new symbolic languages, and finally better user interfaces. The advance in technology on this area creates the demand for more qualitative user interfaces and more functional and flexible computer music devices. The peculiarities of computer music create new fields in HCI research concerning the design and the functionality of computer music systems.
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Introduction

The old computing is about what computers can do, the new computing is about what people can do. Ben Schneiderman, HCI Researcher (1997)

One of the most intriguing fields of human-computer interaction (HCI) involves the communication aspects of computer music interfaces. Music is a rich communication medium, and computer music is the amalgam of interface science and musical praxis forming a dynamic subset of HCI.

There are structural similarities between the job of a music composer and that of a user interface designer (although their objectives may be different). While sound has been used in general purpose interfaces as an object, its use has been deteriorated at a primary level, that of a signal-processing approach. However, music composition and performance are highly abstract human activities involving a semantic and a symbolic mechanism of human intellectual activity.

This article analyzes the unique problems posed by the use of computers by composers and performers of music. It presents the HCI predicates involved in the chain of musical interaction with computer devices, commencing from the abstract part of symbolic composition, then coping with usability issues of the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) implemented for musical scripting, and concluding to a synthesis stage which produces digitized sounds that enhance or replace original analog audio signals. The evaluation of HCI elements for computer music under the prism of usability aims at the development of new graphical tools, new symbolic languages, and finally better user interfaces. The advance in technology on this area creates the demand for more qualitative user interfaces and more functional and flexible computer music devices. The peculiarities of computer music create new fields in HCI research concerning the design and the functionality of computer music systems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Alternative Music Systems: Music systems that are not conformed to Western music features (notation, scales, consonance, timbre, rhythm, etc.). Byzantine and Oriental music are two examples of such systems.

Computer Music (CM): A field of study that examines both the theory and application of new and existing technologies in the areas of music, sound design and diffusion, acoustics, sound synthesis, digital signal processing, and psychoacoustics.

Musical Praxis: Musical practice; exercise or discipline for a specific purpose or object (here music composition and performance).

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): The study of the interaction between people and computers.

Usability: The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. In order to evaluate usability, five criteria are used: (1) learnability, (2) effectiveness, (3) efficiency, (4) satisfaction, and (5) capability.

Interface Design: The design of software applications with the focus on the user’s experience and interaction.

Prototypal: Representing or constituting an original type after which other similar things are patterned.

Computer Music Languages: Programming languages specifically targeted to sound or music production and synthesis.

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