Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Musical Interface Technology Design Space

  • Dan Overholt (a1)

This article presents a theoretical framework for the design of expressive musical instruments, the Musical Interface Technology Design Space: MITDS. The activities of imagining, designing and building new musical instruments, performing, composing, and improvising with them, and analysing the whole process in an effort to better understand the interface, our physical and cognitive associations with it, and the relationship between performer, instrument and audience can only be seen as an ongoing iterative work-in-progress. It is long-term evolutionary research, as each generation of a new musical instrument requires inventiveness and years of dedication towards the practice and mastery of its performance system (comprising the interface, synthesis and the mappings between them). Many revisions of the system may be required in order to develop musical interface technologies that enable us to achieve truly expressive performances. The MITDS provides a conceptual framework for describing, analysing, designing and extending the interfaces, mappings, synthesis algorithms and performance techniques for interactive musical instruments. It provides designers with a theoretical base to draw upon when creating technologically advanced performance systems, and can be seen as a set of guidelines for analysis, and a taxonomy of design patterns for interactivity in musical instruments. The MITDS focuses mainly on human-centred design approaches to realtime control of the multidimensional parameter spaces in musical composition and performance, where the primary objective is to close the gap between human gestures and complex synthesis methods.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

N Collins . 2003. Generative Music and Laptop Performance. Contemporary Music Review 22(4): 6779.

P. M Fitts . 1954. The Information Capacity of the Human Motor System in Controlling the Amplitude of Movement. Journal of Experimental Psychology 47: 381391.

Y Guiard . 1987. Asymmetric Division of Labor in Human Skilled Bimanual Action: The Kinematic Chain as a Model. Journal of Motor Behavior 19: 486517.

D. A. Jaffe 1995. Ten Criteria for Evaluating Synthesis and Processing Techniques. Computer Music Journal 19(1): 7687.

J Pressing . 1990. Cybernetic Issues in Interactive Performance Systems. Computer Music Journal 14(1): 1225.

J Ryan . 1991. Some Remarks on Musical Instrument Design at STEIM. Contemporary Music Review 6(1): 317.

M. M. Wanderley N. Orio 2002. Evaluation of Input Devices for Musical Expression: Borrowing Tools from HCI. Computer Music Journal 26(3): 6276.

D Wessel . 1979. Timbre Space as a Musical Control Structure. Computer Music Journal 3(2): 4572. Reprinted in C. Roads and J. Strawn (eds.) Foundations of Computer Music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985, 640–57.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Organised Sound
  • ISSN: 1355-7718
  • EISSN: 1469-8153
  • URL: /core/journals/organised-sound
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title

Overholt violin movie
Overholt violin movie

 Video (32.4 MB)
32.4 MB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 53 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 146 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.