Music making and technological development has always been connected. The digital revolution has made advanced music production, writing and distribution tools universally accessible. New intelligent tools built on machine learning are entering the market potentially changing how we create music and interact with creative content. The aim of this thesis project has been to find alternatives to existing interaction models manifested in modern DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). Ideas developed through rough sketches and simple prototypes—the outcome consists of three concept videos proposing changes to three moments in the workflow of songwriters and producers.
This thesis started with an idea of exploring the borderland between computer generated music and human creativity. Through desk research and interviews I learned that computational creativity exist and that there is a lot of different ways of defining creativity and art. Creating creative computers should not aim to replace humans creative abilities—it is rather about automating and creating tools that enhance our creative abilities.
To understand how songwriters and producers work the subject were investigated through contextual interviews. The different ways of working and using tools were mapped out and potential opportunity areas were identified. I interviewed five different professional music makers about their process and the digital tools they use. I created simplified flowcharts to visualize their individual processes. I learned that people that spend most of their time working alone talks about collaboration and improvisation as key aspects in their work. The most experienced musician still enjoys to explore new tools but is struggling with more complex technical challenges. It is important to listen to the music you create. I learned that there is possibilities to automate parts of the process. It might free people to do more interesting work.
The interviews were summarised with keywords that then were reworked into questions that acted as a starting point for the ideation phase. The questions highlighted the different topics and were often used in combination with each other during workshops with other designers. Asking the participants how they could improve some aspect of the work songwriters and producers do.
This thesis have been a project that through sketching, mock-ups and simple prototypes questions how we use digital tools in music production. These concepts and sketches were continuously brought back to experts for feedback.
I reached out to the people interviewed and asked them to look at ideas, reflect and ideate together with me. Because we could not meet physically an email was put together with short descriptions about the ideas, a link to videos and a couple of question to reflect around. The participants were asked to look at it from their own personal and professional perspective. Five main concepts were presented and three directions defined based on them.
The initial concepts were developed based on the feedback from users focuses on a couple of key moments in their process and are trying to change—not what they do—but rather how they do it. The idea is to use the key moments as an starting point—see how one or multiple alternative ways of performing the task can change the work itself and how that potentially could affect their overall process.
To evaluate the concepts they were shared again with experts. Three video prototypes were put together to explain them. Through conversation the concepts were explained, what they were about and how they could be traced to the earlier ideas. We watched the video prototypes together and they were asked to reflect on the content and its usefulness.
The feedback was in general positive. All three had potential to be good tools and were quite different from existing tools. A couple of concerns were raised around technological feasibility.
The outcome consists of three concepts. They are presented through three short videos. These videos are now shared with a bigger audience and will act as an conversation starter for people interested in tools for digital music production.
The create concept is a conversational user interface. It allows you to interact with a computer and affect music through a microphone. By humming, tapping and singing communicate your musical ideas. It is a way for you to improvise and collaborate together with a software. Write a simple song and export its individual parts.
It consist of a software capable of detecting musical patterns, composing original music and perform it through sampled sounds in realtime. You as a songwriter will be in charge of taking decisions, giving commands and leading the creative process.
The tune concept is a pressure sensitive touch surface that let you manipulate sound. It is an adaptive system that automatically detects active windows and controls in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), it maps the active controls from your computer screen down to the touch surface. The software predicts your hands intention and let you adjust, tweak and fine tune sound by larger gestures.
The concept aims to simplify many of the basic DAW functions. This could free producers to spend their time listening, adjusting values and taking decision—instead of moving around a cursor on a screen and look at numbers.
The find concept change the way you organise and look for sound files. It is a automatised process where a software helps you compare different sounds to each other. It takes away most labels and focuses on mapping sound according to sound profile. This makes you as a producer stop relying on memory or ‘knowledge’ and instead focus on auditory decision making.