Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reverse MIDI

Computer music fans for the last 30 years have enjoyed the MIDI standard interface for representing musical scores and recording them. MIDI can be captured into a file for later playback, and the internet is currently riddled with MIDI sequence files of almost every conceivable song. (Including ones generated by various algorithms.) However, playback of this file is currently limited to expensive electronic keyboards, or sound-card built-in synthesizers. The sound-card synthesizers almost always sound like complete crap, unless the sound-card is ludicrously expensive.
So what if I had a bank of physical instruments, a controller card, and miles of cables with mobile arms that plucked (or pressed, or whatever) the instruments according to midi signals. All of this would connect to a midi-compatible electronic board, that would connect to a computer. The computer could put midi-signals into the card, which would play the instruments accordingly. It would be massively expensive, although awesome. Your own automated private orchestra.
If the bank of instruments also has attached microphones, there are computer programs in existence that can interpret a sound wave as MIDI events. You would then have a Reverse-Reverse-MIDI setup that allows an orchestra to perform in a way that a computer can record, and play back at will. It's massively insane, though I can imagine a wealthy music-fan desiring and enjoying exactly this kind of setup.
Unlike some other massively automated systems, this has advantages that doesn't eliminate its own purpose, although it probably costs more than anyone who would benefit from it would be willing to pay. Musical instruments are mind-bogglingly expensive.

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