Charles Holbrow Dissertation Defense

July 21, 2021
2:00pm ET

Dissertation Title: Fluid Music: A New Model for Radically Collaborative Music Production

20th century music recording technologies were invented to capture and reproduce live music performances, but musicians and engineers used these new tools to create the art of music production, something distinctly different from - and well beyond - simple archiving. Are current technologies poised to bring about new kinds of musical experiences yet again? Could these new kinds of music be every bit as transformative and impactful as recorded music was in the 20th century? Fluid Music proposes one possible trajectory by which this could happen: harnessing the internet’s power for massive asynchronous collaboration in the context of music production.

This dissertation articulates how Fluid Music proposes new tools for computational music production, prioritizes human agency via audio production paradigms found in digital audio workstations, and rejects existing collaborative processes like remixing and crowdsourcing. It describes the Fluid Music framework, a software toolkit which provides the foundation to build, experiment, and study Fluid Music workflows. It discusses the long-term goals of Fluid Music, including the construction of a massive, open repository of music production Techniques that sound designers, producers, and composers can use to share malleable sound worlds without reimplementing complex music production processes, demonstrating how design choices in the Fluid Music framework support the project’s larger objectives. One consequence of these design choices is that Fluid Music encapsulates the art of music production in the same way that recorded music encapsulates the art of music performance.

The dissertation lays out next steps that are required for Fluid Music to grow into an entirely new art form which is clearly distinct from the recorded music that is pervasive today.

Committee members:
Tod Machover
Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media
MIT Media Lab

Tristan Jehan
Founder, CEO
Elis OS, Inc.

Nancy Baym
Senior Principal Research Manager
Microsoft Research

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