Made By A Musician

Unlike similar software, MAIDENS is built by a genuine composer, who learned to program computers. As a direct consequence, MAIDENS implements essential composition principles, rather than trying to adapt to music, unrelated mathematical patterns.

MAIDENS’ uniqueness comes from its friendliness.

Non computer savvy composers will be happy with the program’s ready-made, easy to use set of tools, while techie gurus will be able to twist and squeeze and turn upside down the application — and code their music out.

Same Years Old Story

Let’s be fair: nowadays, machine aided music composition is no novelty.

In fact, it has been around well before the dawns of personal computing. Serious research labs were already full of room-sized computing machines, each weighting hundreds of kilos — the bleeding edge technology of that time — when someone had the intriguing idea of using a computer in music making.

Swarms of white robed scientists started to wander about the shells full of punched cards, and flee along walls full of knobs and cathodic tubes, each doing his best to please the maestro: I’m talking here about the very few composers who were granted the privilege of making music in a computerized research facility.

As years passed by, powerful, room-sized machines shrank, to the point that now they fit everyone’s pocket; the hoards of scientists faded and shied away; and least but not last, we got the exquisite programming languages we have, instead of the stacks of punched cards.

The maestro, however, is still a musician. A musician, and not a programmer. And that’s exactly the issue.

We Play No {AbstractInstrument}s In Real Life

Virtually, all the machine-aided composition software I came across in the last, say, ten years, assumes that the musician who’ll make use of it has a programmer mindset. Or that, at least, he feels the urge to twist his mind around one. To put this in plain English: programs are made by programmers, and they simply do not think as the rest of the world does; and, for the most part, they are totally unaware of it. This is why, when a programmer makes a composition software, most often than not, he assumes that you are also comfortable with a ton of computer programming concepts: because it’s all — duh!  — so obvious… No, it isn’t.

The friendliest machine assisted composition software I know is probably the MAX platform, from the Cycling 74 group. They invested a tremendous amount of time and effort to make people get over their natural born repulsion to gibberish text full of crippled English words (this is how source code looks like, and this is what programs are made of).

So they invented a visual programming paradigm: the musician would draw and connect a diagram’s elements, thus eventually “telling” the computer what it is expected to do. Lovely idea. However, most of the elements on that diagram are nothing less than the building blocks of a typical computer program. Therefore, MAX users still have to get familiar with hardcore concepts like variables, arguments, routines, encapsulation, abstraction and, yes, debugging. In fact, if you manage to harness all those, the lack of courage would be the only thing preventing you from programming “the hard way” (that is, sit your self in front of a console, and type in a few hundred lines of source code).

So, the long story short, current music composition software needs you to grow programmer skills in order to operate them. Which is bad, because it hurts your creativity.

Music Concepts, not Programming Lingo

By opposition, MAIDENS lets you stay the musician you are, and does nothing to change that. It does its best to understand your language, rather than expecting from you to “take lessons”. It lets you express your music using intervals, pitches, durations, melody, harmony, polyphony, phrases, themes and so on, rather than the unfriendly beasts listed above.

MAIDENS - detail of the configuration panel for a generator

This is to say that, if you never consider creating your own generator module, you can safely ignore the fact that MAIDENS is a computer program — you can consider it to be an extension of your intellect, or imagination.

Note: if you do choose to extend MAIDENS, however, it will give you a fair choice of seasoned programming languages to choose from, and a straightforward API with all specific functionality abstracted away, so that you can focus on your algorithm.

Note: this is a concept article, covering all MAIDENS planned features. Consult the roadmap to know exactly whether a specific feature is currently available or not.