World Music's DIVERSITY and Data Visualisation's EXPRESSIVE POWER collide. A galaxy of INTERACTIVE, SCORE-DRIVEN instrument model and theory tool animations is born. Entirely Graphical Toolset Supporting World Music Teaching & Learning Via Video Chat ◦ Paradigm Change ◦ Music Visualization Greenfield ◦ Crowd Funding In Ramp-Up ◦ Please Share

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


The Politics Of World Music Learning Provision

For those who adopted to, and innovated for the internet early, their rise may have been meteoric, but was achieved on a green field and under the gaze of many, and was hence more or less organic. It was also borne on the shoulders of a great number of others - whose exacting work will never be recognized. No grounds for conceit.

Those trying to break in now face formidably higher hurdles. Quite apart from the deafening clamor for attention, there is an increasing scarcity of low hanging fruit. That is not to say there is not opportunity, but the effort and expense of pursuing an idea are constantly rising.

Moreover, the (now) primary entry mechanism, the mobile app, was conceived to divide, conquer and protect big bro's revenue channels. For end users that means fragmentation, dumbing-down, and brutal inequities of the 'sharing economy'. For innovators, it means submitting ideas to arbitrary rules of engagement, splitting revenues and additional discovery challenges.

To make the slightest impression now takes a deep pocket, years of apprenticeship .. and, increasingly, crowd involvement.

The best means I see for restoring earning potential to the hands of ordinary people and balance to the environment is to focus on the digital commons and social as opposed to investment value. This implies community provisioning, open-source code, non-profit business models and a radically more responsible definition of commerce. Central is a move from an exploitative to an enablement mindset, a.k.a. digital commons.

Big, brave, open-source, non-profit, community-provisioned, cross-cultural and crackpot crazy. → Like, share, back-link, pin, tweet and mail. Hashtags? For the crowdfunding: #VisualFutureOfMusic. For the future live platform: #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory. Or just register as a potential crowdfunder..

The Politics Of Music Learning

"For most young people, music is a minor consumable, like toothpaste. Music education needs to be a click away. [...] It only takes money, ideas and will. Not much money, lots of ideas, lots of will." - David Gelernter (American artist, writer, and professor of computer science at Yale University).

Worldwide, traditional or heritage musicians have lived from their playing and teaching for millennia, in many cases relying on immediate community, cultural identification and the grapevine, but also working -as, for example, in an earlier Ireland- as journeyman musicians and dance instructors.

In the sense that it their musical repertoire was often gained through apprenticeship and assimilation, and passed on through direct person-to-person teaching (so subject to subtle and ongoing change), this was very much a living culture.

Ironically, we have to be thankful that so many tunes from this era were written down, yet printed music spells death to diversity. Why? Everybody lands on the same page..

The legacy of Klezmer, gypsy and other ethnic music forms following the Nazi or Stalinist holocausts are a case in point. What little survived has since -whether in printed or recorded form- acquired more or less iconic status.

These proved enough, with the help of survivors, to fuel a musical renaissance, but much the greater part of the former diversity has been lost for all time. Those 'same pages' are depressingly few in number.

People keep culture alive, people eke a living from it, and diversity is key. In this sense, it is our joint responsibility to ensure that it remains in the widest possible public ownership, that it can develop free of arbitrary copyright confections, and that mechanisms are in place which establish humanity itself as main stakeholder.

This implies protection of open source works, the support of cooperative or social forms of enterprise, and vigilance against it's hijacking and abuse, but also a rethinking of the roles and responsibilities of engineers and creative people, and the mechanisms and fairness of reward and recognition.

Heritage Threats

Potential Crowdfunder?

For those caught in the interference zone between technology and music, the threats are significant, and in a number of ways:
  • online teaching content is focussed on extraordinarily few instruments and genres - exerting a subtle pressure to abandon (see image above) and conform: monoculture in the making. Cultural gems are often relegated to the margins of out consciousness.
  • new revenue channels have an uphill battle against long established ones.
  • the chaotic issue of copyright
  • music industry revenue optimisation pressures fuelling the drift towards a musical monoculture.
  • access itself (at cost, and may take many forms: unwanted advertising, personal data theft, or inflated brand surcharges. Somewhere along the line, commerce and brand dominates, and culture is marginalised).
  • constantly connected, many people are too permanently distracted (among others by advertising) to concentrate, or to experience quality or relaxation time, which is pretty central to identification.
  • narcissism. Extreme forms of individualism steadily eroding the former sense of musical community. Even in traditional music and dance, there is a noticeable rise in competitiveness and camera-awareness.

Data Visualisation

There are already a considerable number of teachers providing online teaching using video chat.

Moreover, I feel that given the right technological support, person-to-person teaching and learning may have a significantly bigger future role to play. Data visualisation can support this form of teaching by removing many of the small sharing impediments inherent in current remote teaching: the scores, fingering diagrams, modal information. Moreover, it can radically improve the anchoring of information by giving it wholly graphical, and hence intuitive, expression.

Data visualisation already has in many countries -at least in relation to usage of public data- a strong community-oriented and sharing ethos. This is in a sense a political statement: state or country-wide data belongs in the public domain. A huge range of fine examples (effectively templates) are available for re-use, often with no more than a request that authorship be acknowledged.

I see the same arguments in need of being applied to music. It has served mankind well and long, yet is increasingly being hijacked by speculative forces. With it, out go a big slice of social context and a source of personal wellbeing.

Music is partly a means of communication, part social catalyst. It is -at least in it's reach, emotive impact and frequent underlying commonalities- cross-cultural. It is in this sense a joint heritage, making the best vehicle for it an open-source, non-profit model. This business concept (openness, freedom of access and use) auger well with the notion of musical heritage and social wellbeing.

Provisioning Through Community

So how to build on community but free of speculation and intrusion? Enter open source (web) visualisation technologies and the 'Open Everything' stack:

Open Everything Community Provisioning Stack Social Value. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
The 'Open Everything' Community Provisioning Stack.
Web Standards provide for compatibility, ease of access, security and, increasingly, rich, graphical information content. Open source licensing models provide for component reuse across this and other community projects.

Crowdsourced content provision can be undertaken directly by the community. This might take the form of music transcription, audio, teaching inputs, instrument configuration capture, improvement specifications, crowdfunding initiatives, research, work in standards committees, blogging, events and user moderation.

Incremental, crowdfunded improvements can be finely aligned with user's needs - and have profound impact on value to end users.

Payment can be managed transparently, ensuring those involved in enhancing value and providing platform support get paid. What for the community is value, is for developers livelihood.

Hosting at Cost paid directly by the community: no brand surcharge, no exclusion.

Implementation Cycles: The Provisioning Mechanism Fostering Model Diversity

The three main components of the aggregator platform will be notation, instrument models and theory tools. There are others, but their roles are supportive or marginal in the sense that they are not necessarily directly coupled to a musical source.

With the mechanics of notation-to-animation interaction already largely resolved, notation handling can be extended largely independently of instrument models and theory tools.

At a high level, we could imagine implementation cycles as shown below. Starting (spiral center) with those of most immediate value, instrument and theory toolsets could be developed in parallel, but always building on an established, shared base.

This base might include the dimensioning or frequency definitions associated with a range of temperaments or intonations, libraries of scales, tuning arrays or the note naming conventions associated with a specific musical culture.

As any one instrument or theory tool family may in practice require several different, base generic models, any of the implementation cycles ("sprints", if you prefer) shown here might comprise several sub-cycles.

Considerable cross-testing between models (especially in the context of linked configuration) will be necessary, but much of this can be automated.

The end goal of this initiative is a toolset supporting person-to-person teaching and learning over the internet, supporting musical diversity. It is (as alluded to in the title) political, because it's core aim are related to the creation of social value where it is most likely to benefit.

Keeping in mind the opening remarks, a possible community charging model for these services is materialising. This is something I will go into in a future post, but I'm certainly open to ideas.

Community value, zero speculation, income where earned, fair to all. The future?


online music learning,
online music lessons
distance music learning,
distance music lessons
remote music lessons,
remote music learning
p2p music lessons,
p2p music learning
music visualisation
music visualization
musical instrument models
interactive music instrument models
music theory tools
musical theory
p2p music interworking
p2p musical interworking
comparative musicology
world music
international music
folk music
traditional music
P2P musical interworking,
Peer-to-peer musical interworking
WebGL, Web3D,
WebVR, WebAR
Virtual Reality,
Augmented or Mixed Reality
Artificial Intelligence,
Machine Learning
Scalar Vector Graphics,
3D Cascading Style Sheets,

Comments, questions and (especially) critique welcome.