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In praise of MIDI, tech’s hidden gift to humanity


The Register posted an article today about Firefox supporting Web MIDI. 

MIDI was created by a small group of American and Japanese synthesiser makers. Before it, you could hook synths, drum machines and sequences together, but only through analogue voltages and pulses. Making, recording and especially touring electronic music was messy, drifty and time-consuming. MIDI made all that plug-and-play, and in particular let $500 personal computers take on many of the roles of $500/day recording studios; you could play each line of a score into a sequencer program, edit it, copy it, loop it, and send it back out with other lines.

Home taping never killed music, but home MIDI democratised it. Big beat, rave, house, IDM, jungle, if you've shaken your booty to a big shiny beat any time in the last forty years, MIDI brought the funk.

It's had a similar impact in every musical genre, including film and gaming music, and contemporary classical. Composers of all of the above depend on digital audio workstations, which marshall multiple tracks of synthesised and sampled music, virtual orchestras all defined by MIDI sequences. If you want humans to sing it or play it on instruments made of wood, brass, string and skins, send the MIDI file to a scoring program and print it out for the wetware API. Or send it out to e-ink displays, MIDI doesn't care.

By now, it doesn't much matter what genre you consider, MIDI is the ethernet of musical culture, its bridge into the digital.

by The Register

The Register Post was inspired by this Tweet from the BBC Archives.

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