• World

Making Music Into Art

1 minute read

404 Not Found

404 Not Found

nginx/1.14.0 (Ubuntu) What’s more surprising: Finding a classically trained composer at M.I.T.’s Media Lab or discovering that his research there has produced a Fisher-Price toy? Either way, it is hard to question the pedigree of Symphony Painter, a new kind of electronic music software designed for the Color Pixter electronic sketchpad. The brainchild of M.I.T. professor Tod Machover, Symphony Painter ($20, fisher-price.com; Color Pixter sold separately) combines visual arts and music: you draw a picture and then press the triangular play button to hear a musical interpretation of your artwork. Experienced musicians might predict some outcomes: lines curving up tend to produce increasingly higher pitches, and parallel lines generate harmonies. Different colors represent different instruments’ melodic riffs or percussion beats, and the stylus can change tempo.

Machover thinks formal notation systems are restrictive. “You would never tell a 5-year-old to imitate an existing painting,” he says. “You just give them paint and guidance and let them do the rest.” Although there’s no definitive evidence that electronic music toys help kids become better musicians, Symphony Painter does make composing fun — and that may be music to some parents’ ears.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com