& its Influence on Contemporary Music
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a form of computer data that keyboards, computers, electronic instruments and other electronic equipment (including sound cards, samplers and MIDI controllers) send back and forth in synchronisation, in order to command musical notes to play in a predetermined series.
Although MIDI is not an audio signal it has - in many cases of contemporary music - replaced musical performers by using computer encoded events that make up of 0s and 1s, communicating when notes should be played ("note ON"), when the notes are complete ("note OFF"), the dynamics of the note (velocity number) and controller data and program changes, as well as many other specific commands. Along with digital audio workstations, the introduction of MIDI in the recording environment has helped producers and non-musicians create music that can emulate the sounds of all styles of music - from an energetic rock band to tribal percussion to a concert band, or even an orchestra - through digital sampling and sequencing.
Although this is possible, the quality of these tracks may vary dramatically - essentially depending on the quality of samples used in each event and the cleverness of their arrangement. Because of this, MIDI is mostly used for electronic based music rather than for use in mimicking sounds to recreate a false atmosphere. In popular music of today's generation, a large majority of the fresher, more electronically based styles would incorporate the use of MIDI for a range of reasons. Technically speaking, it would not be extremely rare to hear an entire song on mainstream radio that has utilised MIDI to control everything in a track, with the exception of vocals - and even then, vocals can still have their place in MIDI sampling and sequencing as well. Quickly creating a three-part harmony using MIDI, can become a much more simple and efficient process than re-recording parts, or to constantly copy, paste and pitch-shift particular audio files, for example.
It has simply become a standard aspect of contemporary recorded music, like distortion on guitars or beats in a song. So much so that it has even become common to employ the benefits of these actions in the realms of genres that may not be expected, including genres such as Heavy Metal and the like. A band like 'Disturbed', for example, sometimes use these events and samples to enhance the kick of a bass drum or snare, in recordings. For the same purpose, similar bands also use triggers on their drum kits to command MIDI when performing live. Industrial-Metal act, Nine Inch Nails, is one of many who use Logic software, 'Mainstage', to control the samples of each and every synthesiser used from their recordings, when performing on stage, via MIDI, which is yet another example.
Since its introduction into the world of music, all forms of MIDI have helped to heighten the desired objectives of all music-makers and artists who have used it to their benefit. It has helped contribute to the artistic, creative process of making music, while also regularly cutting costs and saving time, as a tool that performs many functions relevant in all styles of recorded and performed contemporary music.
Anderton, C. 2010, MIDI Language Basics, Harmony Central, Memphis, viewed 28 March 2011, <http://www.harmonycentral.com/docs/DOC-1861>
Benzuly, S. 2008, Nine Inch Nails' MainStage Tech Mat Mitchell Interview, Mix Magazine Online, North Hollywood, viewed 29 March 2011, <http://mixonline.com/online_extras/mainstage_mat_mitchell/>
Cody, B. 2010, Disturbed Posts In Studio Footage For Recording Of New Album, Metal Underground, Vancouver, viewed 30 March 2011, <http://www.metalunderground.com/news/details.cfm?newsid=58239>
Moxey, J. 2011, The Midi Interface, Songstuff Music Resources, Edinburgh, viewed 28 March 2011, <http://midi.songstuff.com/article/the_midi_interface>
Smith, D. 2001, Magical MIDI, TechTV Vault, Tallahassee, viewed 28 March 2011, http://www.g4tv.com/articles/8027/Magical-MIDI/
By Tommaso Parisi