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Research Program
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Section: Research Program

Synchronous and realtime programming for computer music

Participants : Julia Blondeau, Arshia Cont, Jean-Louis Giavitto.

The research presented here aims at the development of a programming model dedicated to authoring of time and interaction for the next generation of interactive music systems. Study, formalization and implementation of such programming paradigm, strongly coupled to recognition systems discussed in the previous section, constitutes the second objective of the MuTant project.

The tangible result of this research is the development of the Antescofo system (cf. Section 5.1) for the design and implementation of musical scenarios in which the human and computer actions are in constant real-time interaction. Through such development, Antescofo has already made itself into the community; it serves as the backbone of temporal organization of more than 100 performances since 2012 and used both for preexisting pieces and new creations by music ensembles such as Berliner Philharmoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain or Orchestre de Paris to name a few.

Compared to programmable sequencers or interactive music systems (like Max or PureData) the Antescofo DSL offers a rich notion of time reference and provides explicit time frame for the environment with a comprehensive list of musical synchronization strategies and proposes and predictable mechanisms for controlling time at various timescales (temporal determinism) and across concurrent code modules (time-mediated concurrency).

Multiple Times.

Audio and music often involve the presence and cooperation of multiple notions of time: an ideal time authored by the composer in a score and also a performance time produced jointly by the performers and the real-time electronics; where instant and duration are expressed both in physical time (milliseconds), in relative time (relative to an unknown dynamic tempo) or through logical events and relations (“at the peak of intensity”, “at the end of the musical phrase”, “twice faster”).

Antescofo is the first languages that addresses this variety of temporal notions, relying on the synchronous approach for the handling of atomic and logical events and an anticipative notion of tempo for the handling of relative duration  [35], [45]. A first partial model of time at work in Antescofo (single time, static activities) has been formalized relying on parametric timed automata  [43] and constitutes the reference semantics for tests (cf. section 3.3). A denotational semantics of the complete language (multiple times and dynamic constructions including anticipative synchronization strategies) has been published in  [44].

Human-Computer Synchronizations.

Antescofo introduces the notion of temporal scope to formalize relationships between temporal information specified in the score and their realization during a performance  [36]. A temporal scope is attached to a sequence of actions, can be inherited or dynamically changed as a result of a computation. A synchronization strategy is part of a temporal scope definition. They use the performer's position information and its tempo estimation from the listening module, to drive the passing of time in a sequence of atomic and durative actions.

Synchronization strategies have been systematically studied to evaluate their musical relevance in collaboration with Orchestre de Paris and composer Marco Stroppa. Anticipative strategies enable handling of uncertainties inherent in musical event occurrence, exhibiting a smooth musical rendering whilst preserving articulation points and target events  [63].

Temporal Organization.

Several constructions dedicated to the expression of the temporal organization of musical entities and their control have enriched the language from the start of the project. These construction have been motivated by composer's research residences in our team: representation of open scores (J. Freeman); anticipative synchronization strategies (C. Trapani); adaptive sampling of continuous curve in relative time for the dynamic control of sound synthesis (J.-M. Fernandez); musical gesture (J. Blondeau); first class processes, actors and continuation combinators for the development of libraries of reusable parametric temporal behaviors (M. Stroppa, Y. Maresz); etc.

The reaction to a logical event is a unique feature in the computer music system community  [57]. It extend the well known when operator in synchronous languages with process creation. Elaborating on this low-level mechanism, temporal patterns  [48] enable expression of complex temporal constraints mixing instant and duration. The problem of online matching where the event are presented in real time and the matching is computed incrementally as well, has received a recent attention from the model-checking community, but with less constrained causal constraints.

Visualization and Monitoring of Event-driven and Time-driven Computations.

The authoring of complex temporal organization can be greatly improved through adapted visual interfaces, and has led to the development of AscoGraph, a dedicated user interface to Antescofo. Ascograph is used both for edition and monitoring interface of the system during performances  [34]. This project was held from end 2012 to end 2014 thanks to Inria ADT and ANR support.

An information visualisation perspective has been taken for the design of timeline-based representation of action items, looking for information coherence and clarity, facility of seeking and navigation, hierarchical distinction and explicit linking  [33] while minimizing the information overload for the presentation of the nested structure of complex concurrent activities  [32].