Mad Skills:

MIDI and Mu­sic Tech­nol­ogy in the 20th Cen­tury


The split ti­tle is telling: on one hand

Mad Skills (play­ful old-school hip-hop) and on the other, MIDI and Mu­sic in

the 20th Cen­tury, which sounds far more aca­demic. There are light­hearted anec­dotes rub­bing shoul­ders with deep so­ci­o­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of tech­nol­ogy; it’s a tad jar­ring. The his­tory of key­boards is a tale worth telling; the story of how MIDI (Mu­si­cal In­stru­ment Dig­i­tal In­ter­face) came to be is also in­ter­est­ing. A mul­ti­tude of com­pet­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers man­aged to im­ple­ment a sys­tem that al­lows a user to con­nect var­i­ous dif­fer­ent de­vices from all man­ner of com­pa­nies. It’s pretty un­prece­dented stuff.

Yet, for all the in­ter­est­ing tid­bits, there’s a moun­tain of te­dium. When Diduck gets down to the nitty gritty of MIDI’s adop­tion, there are pages upon pages of leg­isla­tive lan­guage. As MIDI rose, ap­par­ently so too did a plethora of or­ga­ni­za­tions to gov­ern or dis­cuss it, and at points it seems like there are more acronyms than keys on a pi­ano. There’s also a ton of tech­ni­cal jar­gon — if you’re not fa­mil­iar with terms like baud rate, ana­logue mod­u­la­tion, or even oc­taves and semi­tones, you might be left scratch­ing your head. Of course, this was never meant to be for the masses; it’s for a niche au­di­ence, but a very niche one in­deed. In or­der to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the book, you’ll need to have an in­ter­est in his­tory, cod­ing, cap­i­tal­ism, leg­is­la­tion, a se­ri­ous love of mu­si­cal gear and tech­nol­ogy, and be­lieve it or not, so­ci­ol­ogy. For every­one else, it comes off like a some­what en­ter­tain­ing aca­demic the­sis. (Re­peater, re­peater­

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