When Roger isn’t working on his cool musical instruments, he is working on a new musical instrument concept. He is interested in the idea of new musical instruments that overcome the limitations of traditional mechanical instruments. His particular interest is in a new instrument that while capable of entirely new sounds and playing techniques, is also able to reproduce the sounds, virtuosic performance capabilities and subtleties that we’ve come to know and love from traditional musical instruments, but without all their problems and limitations.
He has come up with a prototype of an instrument design that he liked. Below is is a brief video of what he has got so far:
The prototype consists of a multi-touch, pressure-sensitive, high-resolution USB touch surface from a company called TouchCo (details below), plus a Max/MSP patch written by me and my wife Ingrid, and an OSC/TUIO driver written by a friend and fellow music/art/technology enthusiast named Tim Thompson.
Below is a rendering of what it might look like as a finished product:
This design uses a fingerboard grid consisting of 6 rows of 24 semitones each, similar to a guitar. It also has two thumb control strips, one on each side of the fingerboard, to be used for sustaining fingered notes after release, strumming, bowing, blowing or restriking, and also has a wind sensor for added expression. (Ignore the 4 long, thin bars on each side; they were to be used as separate palm-actuated sustain bars, but I’ve decided that the two thumb strips work better for this.) This design is intended to be played from either of two positions:
1) On a table, with both hands playing from one side and using only one thumb control strip for both thumbs. Because note expression is controlled by subtle changes in finger pressure, the table provides the necessary resistance to that pressure.
2) On your chest vertically, with one hand playing from each side of the instrument. In this case, the left thumb control strip is used by the left thumb and the right thumb control strip is used by the right thumb. Because note expression is controlled by subtle changes in finger pressure, your body provides the necessary resistance to that pressure. This position conveniently places the wind sensor close to the mouth.
Read more about Roger’s protoype on his blog/website.