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Thursday, August 4, 2016


Music Visualization: Unique Social Value (USV)

Bit by bit, humanity is being divested of the means to earn. As ever more resources, means of production and outlets up in the hands of the few, could radical, open source solutions -delivering social value at minimal cost- render employment *irrelevant*?

With people excluded en masse from earning, perhaps the time has come to detach the notion of value from that of finance. Analogously to concepts such as USP (unique selling proposition or, alternatively, unique selling point) or UVP (unique value proposition) representing clearly articulated and concrete benefits or value a service or product has that competitors don't, perhaps it's time for a shift from the individual to the communal, from selling to social. Enter "Unique Social Value", or USV - a measure of the collective social benefit of a product or service.

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

With only one planet, however, competition guarantees that -in the end- the vast majority will go out empty-handed. No expert, I suspect that if mankind is to survive the next 100 years, it needs to focus on four things:

  • incentivize the creation of purely social -as opposed to economic or material- value (strengthening a sense of global community)
  • a focus on sustainable production and us (sharing, rental and reuse) in every material aspect of our lives
  • systematically elimination of all forms of speculation - the motor driving environmental and humanitarian crises worldwide.
  • a paradigm shift in sustainable agriculture
If the mathematical structures underlying the many and diverse music systems in use world can be given simple visual context, and the relationships between music, instrument and theory dynamically controlled and configured, we have the basis for rich social value creation. But in what way is it unique?

Unique Social Value (USV)

Unique Social Value USV (as opposed to Unique Selling Point or Value). #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Unique Social Value (USV)
What is Unique Social Value?

The USV of a community initiative could, I think, be represented by the green tick in the diagram to the left, and especially if the means by which it is achieved in itself acts as a multiplier. This would the case with, for example, open source software, which opens up paths to further value creation.

For future users of this platform, a given USV may (as both instruments and theory tools can be built from a generic base) be shared across multiple cultures and geographical locations.

Thrashing Out a Dance Tune #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Thrashing Out a Dance Tune
Let's try and thrash out some of the USVs associated with the music visualisation platform under discussion here.


The guiding principles at this stage (further clarification needed) are nonprofit / P2P / open source / shared economy with membership at cost.

If and where interfacing with commercial music providers, adherence to the Open Music Model.

Value Drivers

'Data-Driven' Notation

Self-aware notation. Notename, frequency, octave, midi, duration. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Self-Aware Notation
Notation is self-aware, in as much as each element (note or other) has a small collection of data associated with it.

This information may span any of things like notename, frequency, octave, midi number, duration, and making it easy to pass information to dependent animations. It could even be customised to match the collective needs of dependent animations.. Self-aware notation. Notename, frequency, octave, midi, duration. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory Moreover, built using arrays, score elements (collectively or individually) can be subject to a wide variety of transformations and animations with impact on visibility, position, scaling, scrolling, highlighting, colouring and identity.

Surprisingly, though a few other notation applications are able to address individual notes for the purposes of colour or other highlighting, hardly any use the them as a source of data for use in dependent tools.

Discovery: Models of Any and All Instruments

Instrument Discovery. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory Perhaps the single greatest (if unstated) frustration with existing notation/instrument model packages amongst potential users is that so few score-driven instrument models are available.

What if you need dynamic examples of play on instruments as varied as Venezualan harp, the (originally) Swiss 'hangpan', guitarra portuguesa or African kora?

How do you compare the playing characteristics of two variants with different tunings (for example Venezuelan diatonic vs Patagonian chromatic harp, modal tunings on the kora, or, more subtly, 440 vs other hangpan base tunings)?

There is, then, a strong argument for all world music instruments finding representation, which implies their interchangeability. It's a similar story for theory tools.

The mechanisms underpinning this interchangeability form the core added value of the music visualization platform in focus here. With them, the platform generates social value.

With all data stored in tree form, pragmatic (possibly community-moderated) classifications are simple to create.

All models (instruments and theory tools) can be classified and indexed, with multiple classifications a possibility.

At some point, any and all instruments will be then available from an online repository.

Discovery: Genre Classification

Music Genre Discovery. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Music Genre Discovery
Most heritage music genres are either already mapped in some form as a result of academic research, or are still fresh enough in the collective memory to be 'harvested'.

With recent genre no longer necessarily a reflection of historical fact (more a marketing tool with commercial goals) their structure can be contentious.

Where agreed, proven and representative, though, they are likely to be available through public APIs. No point in duplication..

Discovery: Theory Tools (Models)

Theory Tool Discovery. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheoryTheory tools generally represent an abstraction of musical structure, but, in stripping away redundant data can reveal patterns not immediately apparent in the original.

These patterns can be of great help in understanding why and how certain musical relationships work.

Assuming mutual validity, more or less any combination of instrument model and theory tool can be brought together. Other than for comparison, it makes no sense, for example, to apply a 2D pythagorean (just intonation) model to a modern equal-temperament instrument.

The range of (currently static, but potentially 'animatable') theory tools is large. Just a few examples:

Potential Crowdfunder?

Deep Theory

In applying data visualisation techniques, we find ourselves in a position to develop much more subtle, information-rich and interactive theory tools than are currently the norm in single page or web applications.

In place of, say, a simple circle of fifths or interval diagram, we gain access to a wide range of geometric models reflecting the great diversity of musical thinking and research.

Not only are these models of immediate use, but as our intellectual reach and curiosity expands, these tools are likely to find ever more relevance.

You can find many, many more on my Pinterest pinboards, but to view them will need to open an account.

Joint Instrument / Theory Tool Configuration

Joint Instrument / Theory Tool Configuration. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Joint Instrument  / Theory Tool Configuration
Joint configuration of instruments and theory tools is entirely feasible, potentially greatly simplifying the user interface.
There will certainly be cases where a given configuration is no longer compatible with the driving source (score, midi, audio and so on), but still leaving considerable scope for 'what-if' and comparative musicological studies.
Exchange formats such as MusicXML can be expected to narrow this gap somewhat, but in the meantime, a number of (particularly microtonal) alternatives to 12TET already exist.

Immersion (High Educational Value)

Musical Immersion #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Musical Immersion
I'm not entirely sure immersion can be said to be unique, but what probably is, is the potential level of immersion.

Everything required for immersion are available from the moment teacher and student connect.

Deep, rich, music theory models are exposed - with high and immediate relevance to the current musical context - the source score or audio.

Moreover, the comparative musicology applications are numerous, including areas such as experimental music.

Understanding is the foundation of and framework for mutual respect and tolerance. To understand someone else's cultural values and history is not to sacrifice your own. Without an appreciation of these, any study of instrument, notation or musical system is, indeed, incomplete. It provides context.

Irish dance and session music as we know it today, for example, was born out of several centuries of brutal colonial oppression, the impact of two world wars, Ireland's struggle for liberation, and, (as regards evolution of session music styles) the recent decline in musician's exposure to social dance. It's a similar story for any music genre.

A Basis For P2P Teaching

Freedom of Musical Expression #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Freedom of Musical Expression
P2P teaching is already practised (using video chat), but more or less without supporting tools.

Any tools in use have been 'off-line' and non-shared, such as PDF readers and spreadsheets.

More adventurous users share notation using programs such as NoteFlight, but this is a far cry from the notion of a shared environment.

P2P music teaching has, in a fully interactive, shared sense, yet to be attempted. Exploration of these possibilities is perhaps the crowning goal of this initiative.


Once established, the platform and it's tools are likely to provide a means of empirical study overlapping with other disciplines, such as psychology and psychophyics. Dude'n'dudettes, is that wild..

Freedom of Musical Imagination #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Freedom of Musical Imagination 

Here we enter the realm of music and mind, with potential insights into mental and social states, development (learning, motor skills) and self-perception and the study of interaction (user experience).

These are in themselves areas of potentially profound impact, again perhaps not entirely unique, but close to it.

Other USVs?

Maybe you've seen something I haven't. Can always leave a note in the comments..


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.