Liveness and Flow in Notation Use

Nash, Chris and Blackwell, Alan

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This paper presents concepts, models, and empirical findings relating to liveness and flow in the user experience of systems mediated by notation. Results from an extensive two-year field study of over 1,000 sequencer and tracker users, combining interaction logging, user surveys, and a video study, are used to illustrate the properties of notations and interfaces that facilitate greater immersion in musical activities and domains, borrowing concepts from programming to illustrate the role of visual and musical feedback, from the notation and domain respectively. The Cognitive Dimensions of Notations framework and Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory are combined to demonstrate how non-realtime, notation-mediated interaction can support focused, immersive, energetic, and intrinsically-rewarding musical experiences, and to what extent they are supported in the interfaces of music production software. Users are shown to maintain liveness through a rapid, iterative edit-audition cycle that integrates audio and visual feedback.