Contextualizing Musical Organics: An Ad-hoc Organological Classification Approach

Magnusson, Thor

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

New digital musical instruments are difficult for organologists to deal with, due to their heterogeneous origins, interdisciplinary science, and fluid, open-ended nature. NIMEs are studied from a range of disciplines, such as musicology, engineering, human-computer interaction, psychology, design, and performance studies. Attempts to continue traditional organology classifications for electronic and digital instruments have been made, but with unsatisfactory results. This paper raises the problem of tree-like classifications of digital instruments, proposing an alternative approach: musical organics . Musical organics is a philosophical attempt to tackle the problems inherent in the organological classification of digital instruments. Shifting the emphasis from hand-coded classification to information retrieval supported search and clustering, an open and distributed system that anyone can contribute to is proposed. In order to show how such a system could incorporate third-party additions, the paper also presents an organological ontogenesis of three innovative musical instruments: the saxophone, the Minimoog, and the Reactable. This micro-analysis of innovation in the field of musical instruments can help forming a framework for the study of how instruments are adopted in musical culture.