The Roll Your Own Zone

Interactive Programming Languages

In many successful interactive performances, the sensors may be directly connected to the presentation device. However, there are several situations where this is not sufficient. The simplest example of this is when the sensory devices does not speak the same "language" as the presentation device. In other situations, the final result you are looking for may require a rely on interpreting the sensory data in a sophisticated way. In both of these cases, you may need to employ an interactive programming language as a go-between.

We have attempted to compile a list of the most useful languages for artists. We have developed a couple of criteria that a language must meet to be on the list:

The term artist-friendly is used with a certain hesitation. The fact is that, programming is programming ­ whether you do it in C++ or a less traditional language. The type of methodical thinking required is the part that may be the least conducive to being creative. Still, some environments make this easier than others and those are the ones we have attempted to include here.

Usually these languages require an external computer. Many of the languages described below are written for the MacOS. We are attempting to compile a complete list, so if you are aware of useful languages for the PC, please make sure to let us know.

Note also that many of these languages rely on MIDI as their primary source of input and output. (MIDI, an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a communications protocal that allows electronic musical instruments communicate with one another.) This is probably due to the long history of musicians and composers who have explored the area of interactive live performance. Though limited in some respects, MIDI has flourished as a unviversal standard due to its wide implementation in keyboards and other electronic instruments.


Probably the most popular such language is MAX, available from Opcode systems. MAX is a graphic programming environment in which the user's program is built by connecting various "objects" together with vritual "wires." The resulting program, which resembles a flow-chart, routes the data from external sensors to the various MAX objects, which process the data in some way, and pass it on to the output devices connected to the computer.


Another such language is Interactor®. Interactor was created together by composers Mark Coniglio and Morton Subotnick. It was originally designed specifically as a tool for Subotnicks interactive performances, but has grown into a general purpose environment suited to implementing interactive performances. Like MAX, it has a graphical user interface that artists may find easier to handle than a traditional programming language.

Sensors | Interactive Languages | Presentation Devices | Roll Your Own | DT&Z

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