Back in the 1970s Stephen Malinowski came up with the Music Animation Machine, an animated graphical interface that represents a musical performance. Instead of traditional musical notation, Malinowski’s interface uses geometric shapes on a bar graph to visualize sounds, making the complexities of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” or Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” easier and more intrinsic to understand for those of us who aren’t versed in the intricacies of musical notation.
Initially conceived as an animation, he used his basic programming skills—honed on an Atari 800—and made the idea into a piece of software. Björk spotted his videos on YouTube and got him on board to provide the animations for the apps in her Biophilia project.
Even though Malinowski came up with the Music Animation Machine 40 years ago, he’s still bursting with ideas, releasing apps like Harmonizer, which is a pitch trainer for infants, and is currently working on a live performance version of his animation software. We chatted with him via Skye about the Music Animation Machine and how it came to be featured in Biophilia.
Alida: One of the greatest performance of you are your machine was with “Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra” conducted by Alexander Shelley in October 12th and 13th in 2012. Would you like to tell me more about this concert? I think you were very excited!
Stephen: My policy is not to answer the same question more than once.
Most of what you’ve asked is covered in the interviews posted here …
Here a video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQfzNJGnqnw
Alida: An episode of your life, as reported by wikipedia was listening to Bach under the influence of LSD. A story that connects you to many writers such as Burroughs and beatnik, but also to Steve Jobs, I declare that after that experience like his brain had acquired the ability unimaginable. I understand that this does not want to be an incitement to drug use, but I guess for you that one time represented a cathartic moment.
Stephen: The experience was fascinating. I wouldn’t say cathartic. But the invention of the animated graphical score came later, as a result of that experience, not during it.
Users of hallucinogenic drugs have reported that my animated graphical scores are improved by being high.
Alida: Do you think that music has the ability to connect with other psychic dimensions?
Stephen: Sorry, I don’t know about any “other psychic dimensions” — just the one I’m in.
Alida: A book you’ve read recently and maybe inspired you.
Stephen: Starting with this morning and working my way back to the beginning of 2014:
All of those were inspiring in one way or another.
Alida: What do you do in your spare time?
Stephen: All my time is spare time — I’m retired. I do what I want all the time. It would be too boring for most people.
Alida: Your relation with Social Media, and your personal thought about new technology.
Stephen: Enclosed is something I wrote a couple of days ago.
Alida: A place in which you are particularly fond?
Alida: Future project
Stephen: My European partner (Etienne Abelin) and I are working on a project with some students in Vienna. They will study some music by Boulez, analyze it, and work with us to create an animation, and then present it in concert.
STEPHEN MALINOWSKI OFFICIAL WEBSITE: