Musical Instrument Digital Interface (YGtCTO #123)


Technical specification generally attributed to some mix of Ikutaro Kakehashi, Dave Smith, Tom Oberheim, and Robert Moog

We will probably always carry a little bit of the Middle Ages with us. I am thinking of guilds as an organizing mechanism. After all, specialized knowledge often acts as a limiting factor on discourse. Just listen to your doctor dictate their diagnosis of you or try to read that legal filing prepared by your lawyer. We know that it is far from cant, but that doesn’t make us any less suspicious of their secret language.

Moreover, the secret knowledge becomes a two-way dead-end street, if you will. We recognize that words are being used that we cannot decipher and back away from any attempt at understanding. We move ourselves out of the circle. In the other direction, the members of the group will slowly guide you out the door if you can’t speak adequately about their special topic.

Unsurprisingly, art is no different. When someone starts opining about the importance of a current modern art piece, they may well fall into esoteric terminology designed to identify those who belong in the circle and those who do not. If you understand them, then your opinion matters. Otherwise, no new art for you.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface


a difference exists here. Sometimes the special knowledge really is concrete. I simply cannot call to mind all the bones in the feet, so I am going to be befuddled if the doctor starts naming them when I have gone to see her about an issue. Then, the language used to signify belonging feels somehow distinct- maybe it is not too different, except for the arched eyebrow.

Yes, everyone takes a little time to distinguish downstage right from house left, but art is meant to be communication. The more people exposed to art, then the bigger the potential audience. For centuries, artists have closely guarded secrets in order to keep the masses away from practicing these arcane matters. Practitioners carried knowledge of mask making and paint mixing to the grave.

When technology is leveraged to make art more accessible, then we have something special. MIDI was created in the early 80s in order to allow musical synthesizers to talk to one another, regardless of the manufacturer. A Kurzweil keyboard could interface with a Roland drum machine. Suddenly, everyone could be a one man band. And we had a lot of synth pop.

Then personal computers got in on the act. A little bit of the world changed as music composition became a viable class in high schools across the globe. If your school system could afford a computer, maybe they could afford music theory. Teenagers could experience ideas that Bach and Mozart found revolutionary.

I find something wonderful that music makers started hooking us up first. While the internet was in its infancy, artists were plugging one thing into another with the simple desire to create.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 177 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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