Making computer capabilities accessible to musicians (abstract only)


During the past ten years at The Ohio State University we have developed a large library of music-related computer programs, encompassing many aspects of music scholarship. These programs include procedures for performing basic music analysis functions as well as programs for information retrieval. We have also prepared a considerable library of encoded musical data and bibliographic information. All our programs and data are stored on disks on OSU's Amdahl 470, making them immediately accessible to any computer programmer who has been initiated into the mysteries of manipulating disk-stored data sets. We wanted, however, to make everything equally accessible to those musicians who are not particularly interested in mastering the complexities of computers, but who would nevertheless like to make use of computer-produced results. We have taken two significant steps toward solving this difficult problem:1. SLAM (Simple Language for Analyzing Music), a "super-high-level" language written in SPITBOL by Thomas G. Whitney (formerly on the staff of OSU's Instruction and Research Computer Center). With SLAM, the musician specifies which music analysis procedures and which musical data he would like to use, communicating with the computer in normal English using traditional music analysis terminology. Though he must satisfy certain syntactical requirements and must include certain key words, such constraints are minimal. For example, "Please count the intervals in the alto voice of Bach's chorale 308." and "Count intervals alto 308." are both legal SLAM commands which would produce the same results. SLAM translates the user's request into the appropriate job control language statements which call the programs and data necessary to perform the task.2. IRRS (Information Retrieval Request System), written in SPITBOL, currently under development. This system provides access to different types of bibliographic, textual, and descriptive data stored on the computer. The user makes his request in the appropriate format, and the computer executes the steps necessary to produce the requested information. For example, in order to retrieve a bibliography of books and articles written between 1960 and 1970, dealing with the perception of music intervals, the user enters "keyterm: perception, music intervals" and "year: 1960-1970" from a computer terminal. The terminal then prints a list of books and articles meeting these criteria.SLAM has been very succesful. Not only have the non-computer-programmers found SLAM invaluable, but even our musician-programmers have found it much easier to access existing programs through SLAM. The information retrieval programs are well under way, and we expect them to be equally useful in providing access to research materials. In short, we are achieving our goals: 1) to make available a variety of computer procedures and data to computer-shy musicians and 2) to eliminate the fears, disappointments, and general confusion too often associated with musicians' attempts to use computers.

DOI: 10.1145/800275.810945

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Blombach1981MakingCC, title={Making computer capabilities accessible to musicians (abstract only)}, author={Ann K. Blombach}, booktitle={CHI '81}, year={1981} }