Towards Active Music… (or not)

garageband2.png I am doing some background research for a paper on “active music” and have been testing various audio software over the last few days. I was very excited about testing GarageBand ’08, since Apple has been shouting loudly about its new “magic” features. I have to say that I had some expectations that we would actually see some novel features here, especially since they promise a “hand-picked” band on a virtual stage.

Well, we start off by getting the choice of different musical styles…


So far so good. I chose “jazz”, the curtain went up, and I had the chance to choose position in the band:


Here I selected a jazz organ to play the lead, and GarageBand “magically” sets up the set:


Hey, what happened here? I thought something magic should happen, and I am only presented with the standard GarageBand layout and a few samples being loaded. Nothing bad with that, but except for a fairly easy setup I can’t really see anything new about this at all. Hasn’t these things been around for years, for example in Band in a Box, or in most “accompanist keyboards”? I really would have expected some more possibilities and interaction, for example that the accompaniment could follow my melody line. I teach that type of things as one of the first lectures in sound programming… When are the big companies going to start implementing some new stuff in their products?

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.