IanniX — From UPIC to IanniX from IanniX on Vimeo.

In the beginning, there was the bar.

Actually, wait – that came later. In the beginning, there were sketched outlines of notes. And the notes became fixed in pitch space, and then, increasingly, in time, in divided measures from left to right. And so, what we know today as Western music notation came to be.

But then, in the 20th Century, composers began to undo the rigid boxes that score produced. First with pen and paper, later armed with the computer, composers connecting graphic and sound started to violate those grids. They even escaped the idea that a score was a piece of paper you left for a musician to (you hoped) get them to do something. Iannis Xenakis, architect and composer, went perhaps further than anyone else, translating between pictures and sound and buildings and music. His UPIC system, sketching sound with a graphics tablet, was ahead of its time not only in the music world but in interactive design for the planet at large.

Xenakis would undoubtedly have loved the chance to use today’s IanniX – and not just because it’s named for him. The software takes his spatial ideas and imagines them both in two- and three-dimensional space.

In a new video, at top, the French development team explains what IanniX is, where it came from, and where it’s going. You may have seen this software before, but it’s been evolving at breakneck speed. The free and open source (GPLv3) software is now more mature and more flexible than ever before.

There are also some inspiring ideas in the video.

Connecting time and space. This relativism is what it’s all about. There, this futuristic software does owe something to what came before. Inspired by the left-to-right event structure of notation, or the advance of a tape head, the cursor is an essential element of the design of any such system. Since a sculpture can exist essentially out of time, this allows the three-dimensional forms to have some temporality. A line wipes across the geometry and triggers events and envelopes, so that the structure can unfold musically. Where things get interesting is in how you can shape those curves, in three dimensions and as well as two, and in the ability to use multiple timeframes at the same time.

Independent from any sound source. Part of what makes IanniX a “score” is that it doesn’t make any sound itself. Using protocols like OSC and MIDI, it’s intended to be used with other software, like Ableton Live, Max/MSP, Pd, and SuperCollider, just to name a few.

Visual – and now with Syphon support. To allow others to see the visual structure, IanniX is graphical – beautifully so. It now supports Syphon on the Mac for connecting to other tools (like MadMapper).

New spatial possibilities – now with Kinect. Because its design is spatial, scores in IanniX can be related to physical spaces or movements. You’ll see a brief proof-of-concept demo of Kinect integration. Given the topic of movement elsewhere this week, this is a big deal. It allows users to move beyond just using computer vision to turn body motions into a stand-in for a knob. Instead, physical motion can navigate a musical structure in a meaningful way.

Interfaces are so often locked in two dimensions, in virtual representations of knobs and faders, that it seems a great deal of this territory is unexplored. At first, like any unfamiliar landscape, it can also be unfriendly, too. (Some adventurers, in other words, land on new worlds. Others run out of food part of the way through and sink in a storm. I, uh, imagine all of us have felt a little like we’re experiencing each of those scenarios at one time or another, creatively speaking.)

But I hope that other artists take on IanniX and make it their own, and that soon IanniX isn’t quite so lonely on the frontier of spatial and three-dimensional musical interaction. The more musicians who boldly go where no music software has gone before, the brighter our electronic futures can become.

IanniX is developed for Mac, Windows, and Linux, with documentation in English and French.


Via Synthtopia, always-prolific source of everything happening – and I agree, in comments, in the need for a how-to video. Maybe I can carve out some time and give it a go myself, at least once I work out how to use it.

Have a good weekend, CDM readers.