Physical Music is a series of projects that explore new kinds of tangible interaction through the idea of enabling non-musicians to play with music. Starting in the late 1990’s, these projects have been a way for me to move from screen interaction design to physical interaction design, as well as learn how to prototype interactive objects and spaces.
I consulted for Paul Allen’s Interval Research Corp. in 1997 and 1998, working for early Apple innovator Joy Mountford, in her group focused on inventing new consumer electronics devices. In particular, we were interested in creating systems for casual music making by non-musicians. As part of this, we designed and built several working prototypes, including the MusicBox project that is written up in Bill Moggridge’s book Designing Interactions.
Launch Magazine was one of the first ever interactive publications, first released in 1994. My company was hired by Launch (later Yahoo! Music) to design and develop the magazine, as well as a production pathway so they could release a magazine every month. The magazine featured new music, interviews of bands, interactive advertising sold by its position in the “real estate” of the screens.
For the U2 ZooTV tour in 1993, I and my MusicWorks team at Philips Media (Brett Spivey, Randy Picolet, Mike Diehr) created two interactive projects for the band to use onstage. It’s fun to think about what it was like to make interactive media back then. Keep in mind, this was the year NCSA released the first real web browser called Mosaic, before Photoshop had layers, and when a 650 meg (not gig!) SCSI hard drive was $2500 and the size of a breadbox.
I led the MusicWorks group at Philips Interactive Media, where I was a Senior Producer developing titles for the Compact Disc Interactive (CD-i) set-top box multimedia platform. As part of our interest in making music titles, we collaborated with the Compact Disc standards group at Philips (the inventors of the CD along with Sony) to invent the first “hybrid” CD format, which included multimedia content on a standard music CD. This format was called CD-i Ready, because the biographies, discographies, videos, games, etc. were in the CD-i format.
On the westside of Los Angeles around 1973, I built a recording studio in my parents garage. It was outfitted with a Dokorder 4 track machine and a Tascam 12×4 mixing console. Initially I was just recording my high school friends (e.g. The Big River Band), but then started getting other paying gigs. These ranged from a 14 piece orchestra recording a film soundtrack, progressive jazz (including brothers Alex and Nels Cline), and some of the earliest LA punk bands.