Front matter

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank the following people:

Christopher Jacoby, without whom this project would have been purely hypothetical.

NYU faculty, students and alumni—Alex Ruthmann, Kenneth Peacock, Mary Farbood, Paul Geluso, Tae-Hong Park, John Gilbert, Morton Subotnick, Uri Nieto, Don Bosley, Ben Guerrero, Alven Pulliam, Tim Stimpson, Rachel Wardell, Marc Wilhite, Shashank Aswath, Amar Lal, John Turner and Alex Marse.

Friends who provided inspiration, support and input—Robert Baensch, Barbara Singer, Jeremy Withers, Ryan Senser, Roger Bender, Lauren Porosoff, Kester Allen, Debbie Chachra, Nick Seaver, Will Kuhn, Matthew Culnane, Wayne Marshall and Diana Avagyan.

And most of all, my family: Anna, Milo, Mom, Ralph, Molly, Dan, and the whole mishpokeh.

Dedicated to the memory of Michael Hein

Abstract

People wishing to learn dance music production are largely left to their own devices. Even those would-be producers who have access to formal music education are ill served by Eurocentric teaching methods and curricula. This is unfortunate, because learning how to create beats benefits all music students, not just electronic dance musicians. The ability to actively create and alter rhythms and to match their visual notation with the resulting sounds in real time can sharpen the rhythmic abilities of any musician.

Most dance musicians must self-teach, and they face some significant obstacles in doing so. Even “beginner-oriented” programs like Apple’s Garageband presume significant musical knowledge. Nearly all music production tools are based on the keyboard/piano roll or multitrack tape paradigms. Beginners struggle to learn these visualization schemes on top of the musical concepts underlying them. A simplified and more intuitive interface would help to prevent frustration and abandonment of musical study.

A clock face metaphor is a more intuitive visualization scheme for the loops that form the basis of dance music drums. The present project consists of the design of The Drum Loop, a radial drum machine interface and a series of rhythm programming exercises following constructivist principles, teaching methods well-supported by psychological research.

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