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Interactive music

Music Sound

Interactive music

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Interactive music also known as nonlinear music or adaptive music, is synonymous with soundtracks to interactive media and in particular computer games.

Recently there has become an increasing trend away from detached linear scores similar to those found in the linear narratives of film, in favor of advanced, carefully designed audio, more tightly integrated with the gameplay in today’s interactive entertainment titles. We are now at the stage where a musical score is able to adapt in real-time to what is happening in a game.

The music in a game is able to adapt to a users movements through a storyline using two techniques. Horizontal re-sequencing is the method by which pre-composed segments of music can be re-shuffled according to a players’ choice of where they go in the storyline or environment. Vertical re-orchestration is the technique of changing the mix of separate parts of an on-going loop, relative to a players movement within the narrative of a game. Recent games such as Bungie Studios' Halo 2 (2005) employ a mixture of these techniques to create their tightly integrated soundtracks.

In the context of performance, interactive music indicates performer/composer to computer interaction, while in the past it most often specified performer to audience interaction. According to composer Todd Winkler (2001), interactive music is "a music composition or improvisation where software interprets a live performance to affect music generated or modified by computers," however, as he also points out, all music is "interactive" to a certain extent. At one end of a spectrum he puts a conductor led large ensemble such as in Romantic era classical music, and on the other free jazz, he suggests examining examples of musician to musician interaction as potential models for computer to musician interaction.

Don Buchla designs many electronic and virtual instruments which are used in interactive music.

Interactive music as a self-contained work of art, made viable with the advent of multi-channel, multimedia PCs and delivered on CD-ROM, was pioneered by UK artists, Modified. The release of frEQuency in 1996 and Chillas in 1997, both authored with Macromedia's Director, gave users realtime facilities to mix hundreds of samples within an 8-track virtual studio space. Besides offering non-linear musical compositions, these titles also featured generative algorithms acting as seeding elements to produce never-ending mixes of the onboard audio samples. Despite wide critical acclaim, Modified ceased creative output in 2000 and although rumours abound of a new interactive DVD release, no new titles have been forthcoming.

Nintendo release Electroplankton in 2005 for the Nintendo DS. In it the player is able to generate unique compositions using plankton like creatures, each being a type of "instrument".


  • O’Donnell, M, (2002) ‘Producing Audio for Halo’
  • Winkler, Todd (2001, 1998). Composing Interactive Music: Techniques and Ideas Using Max. Cambridge: The MIT Press. ISBN 026223193X.

See also

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.