What is the future of the music industry’s most powerful tool?

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Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, is the digital orchestration of various musical creation devices. Just as a symphony incorporates many musicians and physical movements, MIDI does so in the digital realm – equating samplers, synthesizers, and other melodic tools with a virtual interface.

These musical devices and their evolving interactions have opened up uncharted audio avenues for innovative – and sometimes unimaginable – sounds, as well as a wider range of feelings they invoke. The benefits of MIDI are vast, but include easy digital editing, arranging and composition.

MIDI has changed the nature of music

MIDI was developed in the 80s to allow communication between different instruments such as synthesizers, samplers and computers. “Connections between instruments were not standardized”, but the advent of MIDI transformed individual devices into compatible music, enabling the fresh, funky pop sounds of the decade. The technology has since been simplified and democratized so that anyone can create, store and edit tracks.

MIDI messages are the mechanism by which information is transmitted between different pieces of equipment such as a keyboard, synthesizer or computer. The format of MIDI messages is a multi-byte packet that contains a status byte followed by one or two data bytes (one byte is 8 bits of digital information). Encoded in the MIDI message is information such as note events (starting and stopping of various notes), timing events, pitch variations, and pedal information which is then transmitted between connected equipment via ports. MIDI IN and MIDI OUT.

Armed with an understanding of message format, music makers and general tinkerers can modify these coded messages in any way desired to produce unconventional art.

The modern MIDI movement

Modern trends have made MIDI more accessible to all audio enthusiasts. And because MIDI is less dependent on physical tools, sounds are no longer produced solely by hardware, but by software.

An even more modern and potentially promising trend is the development of AI-based musical compositions. While MIDI has revolutionized sound by introducing an advanced integration interface, the next step may be the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) agents.

Machine learning processes can create melodies, concoct lyrics or set sounds on a video. As a result, artists and experimenters are integrating AI-created tracks, songs, and even albums. Will these smarter, ever-learning machines eventually create music indistinguishable from that made by humans? Or will “artificial” music still bear the acoustic tinge of the synthetic minds that spawned it? Only time and technology will tell.

Image Credit: eakasarn / Shutterstock.com

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Alice P. Darby