Drawing on conceptual models informed by theories of play, media, systems, and cultural techniques, this book pursues the significance of play across a panorama of musical phenomena extending from Greek myth to contemporary digital games. In particular, it examines forms of play that have emerged at the digital interface of the keyboard. By situating the keyboard in a range of historical, cultural, and epistemological contexts, Keys to Play explores how it has been played in a multiplicity of ways (and to as many ends) by composers, improvisers, performers, and gamers. Reciprocally, the book makes the case that the keyboard itself has played the role of a medium, which is to say a means of generating, processing, relaying, storing, and accessing information. At the keyboard, play becomes apprehensible as a primary means by which musical behavior can be materialized, embodied, performed, and communicated. Through its affordance of modes of engagement that are at once playful and musical, the keyboard is implicated in diverse forms of what might be called ludomusical praxis.
As a threshold at which music becomes playable and play becomes musical, the keyboard defines a strand of ludomusicality that has woven its way across broad swathes of time and space. In mapping its course, the book shuttles back and forth to frame the keyboard from oblique historical, cultural, and disciplinary angles, some running parallel and others intersecting with established musicological perspectives. The warp and weft of this ludomusicological approach trace the crisscrossing processes by which music has been devised, realized, and recreated at the keyboard via techniques both in keeping and at odds with the prevailing rules of play.
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