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Electronic Augmentation of Traditional Musical Instruments


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The talk will demonstrate how electronics and computer technology can extend the scope and capabilities of musical instruments and form a basis for design of new instruments and novel musical compositions

Date and Time

15 December 2017 - 14:00-15:30


London, United Kingdom - icon_popup  (See map)


Organised by the UK - London local network.

About this event

Computing has transformed the production, distribution and consumption of music, and many excellent digital musical instruments have been created. At the same time, traditional acoustic instruments remain ubiquitous in many styles of music. Our continuing fascination with centuries-old designs may partly be explained by the level of craft and technical refinement that these instruments have obtained after generations of development, but I suggest the most important factors are human. What sets familiar instruments apart is precisely that they are familiar: they have communities of performers and composers, established pedagogical practices, and bodies of musical repertoire which act as cultural reference points for new works.

This talk will discuss augmented instruments, which are traditional instruments whose capabilities have been extended with technology. The talk explores instrument augmentation not just as a technical challenge, but as an approach to extending the virtuosity of trained performers. New instruments can be created in a matter of months, but achieving proficiency on an unfamiliar instrument still requires many years of dedicated practice. With a careful design approach, the existing expertise of instrumentalists can therefore become a powerful tool for the creators of new instruments.

The talk will include several examples of new instruments created in the Augmented Instruments Laboratory within QMUL's Centre for Digital Music, including the magnetic resonator piano, an electromagnetically-augmented acoustic piano; TouchKeys, a touch-sensing keyboard which measures the location of fingers on the key surfaces; and the D-Box, a digital musical instrument designed to be modified and hacked by the performer. Hands-on demos will follow the talk.

About the speaker

Dr Andrew McPherson is a Reader (Associate Professor) in the Centre for Digital Music (C4DM) at Queen Mary University of London. A composer and electrical engineer by training, he studied at MIT (M.Eng. 2005) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. 2009) and spent a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Music and Entertainment Technology Laboratory (MET-lab) at Drexel University. Within C4DM, Andrew leads the Augmented Instruments Laboratory, a research team exploring the methods and tools for creating new digital musical instruments. Amongst his projects are the magnetic resonator piano, an electromagnetically-actuated acoustic grand piano which has been used by more than 20 composers and appeared in high-profile venues in Europe and the US, and the TouchKeys multi-touch keyboard which has shipped to musicians worldwide through a 2013 Kickstarter campaign and subsequent production runs. More recently, his lab created Bela, an ultra-low-latency embedded platform for creating musical instruments and interactive audio systems. Bela is an open-source tool which in April 2016 launched on Kickstarter, significantly surpassing its original goal and shipping to over 500 musicians, engineers and makers worldwide.


12:00 to 13:45 – lunch.
14:00 to 14:45/15:00 – lecture 
14:45/15:00 to 15:30 approximately – questions and discussion

Reasons to attend

General scientific and engineering interests; STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education.

Continuing Professional Development

CPD logo declaring this event can contribute 1 hours towards your Continuing Professional Development

This event can contribute towards your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as part of the IET's CPD monitoring scheme.

Additional information

Delegates will have the opportunity to pre book a lunch at Savoy Place.  The cost for a two course meal with wine is £16.95.  It is ESSENTIAL to pre book lunch.

Registration information

Those wishing to attend are asked to send an e-mail by the preceding  Monday, giving name(s), and requesting attendance at the lunch and lecture or just the lecture, and in the case of lunch, giving any dietary restrictions.  The e-mail should be sent to both johnfuller500@yahoo.com and tonydavies@ieee.org please note the triple 'e' in the Tony's address, with the subject line [15th December 2017  Friday Lunch and Lecture]. No acknowledgement will be sent unless specifically requested.

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