The Interactive Instrument A Brief History


Session Title:

  • Sonic Boom

Presentation Title:

  • The Interactive Instrument A Brief History



  • Interactive means mutually influential. As against a traditional instrument that produces no more than what its performer specifies, an interactive musical instrument contains algorithms that share control of the music with its performer, thereby causing the music produced by the instrument to contain some unpredictable information to which the performer reacts. The historical context for such instruments was the notion of functioning system that grew out of the systems theories of the 1950’s, and the modular synthesizers of the 1960’s made it possible to create functioning musical systems such as those developed by Salvatore Martirano and the author. By the 1970’s, other composers, in Paris, San Francisco, and New York, had begun to work along similar lines. By the 1980’s, the idea became widespread and many composers in North America and Europe were creating and performing with interactive instruments. In 1986, ‘M’, a commercially available program designed to create interactive systems, was developed at Intelligent Music, a software company that Chadabe formed in upstate New York. By this time in the 1990’s, the idea has become manifest also in interactive media and it is likely to develop further in that direction.