Programming Expression - An expressive musical instrument (VIDEO)

Programming Expression - An expressive musical instrument (VIDEO)

Bare Conductive have collaborated with designer and musician Vahakn Matossian from Human Instruments to create an exciting new expressive digital instrument. Created using the Touch Board and Electric Paint, this instrument can be used by musicians with ranging levels of mobility and strength to compose and create expressive sound.  

This project won the Graham Massey (808 State) choice award at Music Tech Fest in Sweden.

“I’ve done some work back in Manchester with Drake Music who do some great work with disabled musicians. The kit that’s available to disabled musicians is quite limited, a people are trying to develop that all the time. This is st reets ahead…It’s a really expressive instrument that can be useful to everyone. I can't wait to have a go on it!” - Graham Massey (808 State)

Unique in its form and output, this physically dynamic instrument uses code as a means to allow for complex musical expression. 

Vahakn previously worked with the British ParaOrchestra, where he created instruments tailored to individual musicians, integrating capacitive touch sensors for more accessible keys.  

“We met people who have dexterity in their hands and fingers, but maybe not the strength to manipulate and control traditional instruments, so we looked towards open source hardware and sensors to help us develop interfaces to allow control over notes and music via synthesisers, with expression which is really the key.” 

John, a musician based in London, commented on how Vahakn’s latest creation enabled him to play chords with ease. “Usually a chord is three notes so you need at least three fingers, so that can be problematic” he said. “This device enables me to play a full chord with just one finger.“ The flexibility of the materials also means the design could be reconfigured to suit different preferences, or the code on the board modified to have alternate ranges in expression and response. 

The instrument works via two highly responsive sets of sensors painted with Electric Paint which communicate with the Touch Boards. One controls the chord, and the other selects the note. Sipping and blowing the breath sensor or rolling fingers over stripes of paint on the wooden panels also manipulates the sound being played and allows for a huge range of musical expression.

For Vahakn and Bare Conductive, creating a physically dynamic instrument was tantamount to achieving complex musical expression with code on the Touch Board. While some accessible instruments make pressing triggers or buttons easier, they are not sophisticated in their level of sound manipulation and production, which is frustrating for experienced musicians.

The team is excited about the possibilities for musical expression this prototype opens, and are encouraging others to use Electric Paint and the Touch Board as a platform for further experimentation. 

About: Touch Board 

About Bare Conductive: Bare Conductive is a design and technology startup based in East London. The company designs and manufactures a suite of conductive materials, hardware, and kits that connect any surface, object or space to the digital world. 

About Human Instruments: Human Instruments is dedicated to the design and production of digital musical instrument interfaces for people with varying physical ability. Working closely with the British ParaOrchestra, we are developing the worlds first commercially available hands free instrument that will give its player total musical freedom of expression, with a resolution of sound as close as possible to traditional orchestral instruments.

For more details on the project please get in touch!

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