"ME IN C": A VARIATION PLAYGROUND
This paper prototype follows the model of existing Variation Playgrounds: its centered on a significant classical work, in this case Terry Riley's "In C," and it provides the opportunity for users to engage with the work by creating variations and remixes.
However, because "In C" is a disassembled series of short musical phrases with instructions for their use, users of this VP should be able to create their own complete performances of "In C" without any formal musical training.
And because the number of phrases and instruments are limited it is hoped that sampled audio from real instruments would be used. It would be relatively easy to enlist professional musicians to record the tracks, but 'shooting for the moon,' it might create another level of interest by asking if members of Bang on a Can All-Stars would partner in the project. In 2001, this renowned ensemble recorded one of the most critically acclaimed versions of "In C." A partnership with Bang on a Can All-Stars or similar chamber ensemble would hopefully be beneficial for all involved, especially users of the VP.
Perhaps a high school or college student that is interested in and/or studying minimalism or music history might find this VP. And with a few instructions on how "In C" is premised and how to apply it to the VP, the student can begin to experience the work by choosing and playing phrases, letting them linger, layer and vary. Then when done share their variation with friends within their social circles.
But the VP would also hopefully resonate with most of the student, teacher, and parent personas discussed in class.
"IN C" IN IT'S ENTIRETY
More 'designed' than composed, the score and performing directions for "In C" read like instructions for a board game. And the openness of the work has long been embraced by makers and tinkerers, whether performed on classical European instruments in the US, traditional African instruments in Mali, or by a computer algorithm as "In C++."
While the GUI for other Variation Playgrounds are inventive and fun, the above paper prototype is intentionally modeled after standard DAW software. Because the target personas are aged from middle school or older, and the application would use actual sampled audio, modeling the standard DAW provides a simple first interface that will make transitioning to other music editing software easier.
Track header: to the left of the main window is the track header, which provides control of each individual instrument. Each header provides the following controls: mute, group (for various functions), enter (to 'play' a preselected phrase), phrase selector (to select available phrases), volume and pan. It might be interesting to have the group button allow for changing volume of more than one instrument or to 'enter' more than one instrument at one time, and other potential uses.
Transport: across the top of the main window is a simplified transport with the following controls: Other Functions (for design ideas to come), group enter (which will 'play' grouped tracks with their selected phrase information. or to manipulate volume or other settings of grouped tracks), restart, play, record, transport (transport window), To End (to initiate final phrase #53, and ending sequence), and share (to share final audio and animation of tracks).
In use: Notice that the above 'regions' display the musical notation for each numbered phrase. If practicable, having the regions display the phases as notation will create the look and feel of reading a score in real time, while also reinforcing music reading skills. Although not shown in the above gif it might be helpful for the right column to be highlighted in some way to differentiate the measure actually sounding at that moment.
Physical vinyl records: If moving to the physical realm is a possibility, then having a set of vinyl records––each with separate instruments performing individual numbered phrases––could turn the vinyl set into a version performable by DJ ensemble.
DJ ensemble version: A single or multiplayer Variation Playground immersive experience of the above vinyl record idea in which the users are DJs and each numbered phrase is virtual vinyl record.
Minecraft-like version: An immersive Minecraft-like experience in which users can experience their spacial relationship within the ensemble and select phrases and control other variables from a Minecraft-like toolbox.