Face of Mei Fang Liau

Mei Fang Liau

Master Thesis Student

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I'm a master thesis student under supervision of Jonathan Diehl.

DISCO: Disk-based Interface for Semantic Composition

Musical structure is defined by the biological constraint of being human and having absorbed cultural influences. The semantics of music is the interrelationship between its musical elements structured by its composer.

Creating music is an iterative process. The composer captures an idea, realizes it and evaluates the result. This process repeats and the musical material evolves. The composer might constantly shift his focus between considering the song structure as a whole and a detail such as the musical feature of an individual note. However, such an activity is not well supported when moved to the desktop composition environment. Typical track-based environments are regarded as the composition tools for all aspects of music, while they are initially aimed at assisting the composition of preconceived material. Previous research has given efforts to visualize the composers' musical structure but the musical semantics are still not well considered. This results in an ineffective creative process as well as the ineffective organization of the low-level musical elements.

Therefore, we have designed the system DISCO tailored to support the creative process of music composition. The musical material is organized based on the composers' musical concepts and visualized in different layers. The composers are able to work at the abstract level of their structural definition, but can also easily shift to edit specific detail and its conceptually related elements. With the vertical prototype as a rhythmic composition tool, we demonstrate how the iterative process of composition could be assisted. The composers are free to perform ideation and concept realization, while the low-level musical elements are semantically organized.

Before developing DISCO, we have gained many insights of the composers' workflow through field interviews. The development of the system is based on an iterative, user-centered design process, where our prototype evolves from a storyboard to a paper prototype and finally a working software prototype. The final evaluation of the system shows the proposed workflow is in tune with the majority of the composers we interviewed. To achieve a complete environment for creative workflow of musical composition, the system shall be able to incorporate other instruments and visualize the musical semantics they convey with the consideration of their distinct musical idiosyncrasies.

Download Thesis Download Software Prototype (internal only)



  • Mei-Fang Liau. DISCO - Disk-based Interface for Semantic Composition. Master's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany, October 2008.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Mei-Fang Liau, Jonathan Diehl and Jan Borchers. DISCO: Disk-based Interface for Semantic Composition.  In Workshop Proceedings der Tagungen Mensch & Computer 2008, DeLFI 2008 und Cognitive Design 2008, pages 107–109, Logos Verlag, September 2008.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry

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