Idiomatic Patterns and Aesthetic Influence in Computer Music Languages

Andrew McPherson, Koray Tahiroglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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It is widely accepted that acoustic and digital musical instruments shape the cognitive processes of the performer on both embodied and conceptual levels, ultimately influencing the structure and aesthetics of the resulting performance. In this article we examine the ways in which computer music languages might similarly influence the aesthetic decisions of the digital music practitioner, even when those languages are designed for generality and theoretically capable of implementing any sound-producing process. We examine the basis for querying the non-neutrality of tools with a particular focus on the concept of idiomaticity: patterns of instruments or languages which are particularly easy or natural to execute in comparison to others. We then present correspondence with the developers of several major music programming languages and a survey of digital musical instrument creators examining the relationship between idiomatic patterns of the language and the characteristics of the resulting instruments and pieces. In an open-ended creative domain, asserting causal relationships is difficult and potentially inappropriate, but we find a complex interplay between language, instrument, piece and performance that suggests that the creator of the music programming language should be considered one party to a creative conversation that occurs each time a new instrument is designed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalOrganised Sound
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Idiomatic composition
  • new interfaces for music expression
  • computer music
  • computer music languages

Field of art

  • Performance
  • Contemporary art
  • Composition

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  • Projects

    Digital Musical Interactions - Instruments - Performances

    Tahiroglu, K.


    Project: Academy of Finland: Other research funding

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