Pianist and Piano, Disconnected, in Composition for Kinect and Grand

The piano is a conventional grand, but with digital interface and camera, the composer is separated from it by air, playing without touching. It’s a Theremin interface for a keyboard instrument. Piano post-modern? Gestural post-digital? Whatever it is, in a work composer Benjamin Martinson composed for player piano, computer, and Kinect camera, the piano work holds up as musical content – compositional gesture, not just gimmicky digital hand-waving. Martinson himself looks oddly isolated and awkward, a man making rough mime gestures in unseen water, molasses, and wind. I can’t tell whether this is more about our expectations of human movement, …

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As a Musician Loses Her Sight, A Rush for Music Apps for the Blind [Hack + Listen]

Take a good, long look at your computer screen. Now imagine you can’t see it. That’s the reality Mandy Matz is facing. At age 36, she’s losing her vision to glaucoma. The musician and multimedia artist makes some beautiful, ethereal music, having cut her teeth on Buzz. Listen to the haunting “Alpha Waves,” her first song. EP by Theory Anesthetic And now, because sight is so deeply connected to the way in which music developers map your brain to software, losing her vision could mean losing her ability to work with digital tools. It shouldn’t be this way. As Paul …

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Gestrument, Shaping Music with Kinect, Touch, and Acoustic Ensembles [Videos]

Swiping through clouds of timbre and melody, using Gestrument is an experience of a different musical animal. Jesper Nordin and Kymatica / Jonatan Liljedahl created the iPad version, available now for ten bucks. But it’s worth looking at that side by side with Gestrument for Kinect, as the same metaphors can translate across input methods. Both employ a kind of meta-composition – instrument as conductor of musical structures, more than an object for exclusively solo expression. What’s especially nice is hearing these digital, synthesized environments meld with acoustic instruments. The solution may not convince everyone yet, but there’s clearly potential …

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Move Over, Kinect: Early Gestural Musical Demos for Leap Motion Look Terrific

Microsoft’s Kinect has proven a compelling proof of concept for gestural control of music. But it could be just the beginning of mass-market gestural sensing technologies. The Leap Motion, like Kinect, promises to be affordable gear. Unlike the Kinect, the hardware is even more unobtrusive, and gestural control is more precise and responsive. Given the latency limitations of Kinect, that’s a huge deal for music. And better expression could inspire new musical ideas. We’ve spoken many times before about the limitations of touchless control – Theremins are spectacular but not the easiest instruments to play, and waving your hands in …

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"Look, [darling significant other], it'll even be totally at home in our modern decor!" Photos courtesy the artist.

Flying Saucer UFO Controller, Ultrasonic MIDI Instrument; Coming as Kit [Arduino]

The desire to be a little different in a band might drive someone to choose a custom guitar, or maybe, you know, change their hair. For some, it drives them to build a giant flying saucer they can play like an instrument by waving their hands. No, MIDI controller, don’t destroy Earth. Klaatu barada nikto. That’s the case with Helsinki-born artist Tommi Koskinen, now doing this as part of an MA thesis in the Media Lab of Aalto University. Another strange gestural controller? Yes. But this flying saucer might just land a bit closer to home. This is just the …

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Mudit is an Inexpensive, Open Source Gestural Loop Performer [Pd + Arduino]

Knowledge on how to build dazzling new interfaces for music is spreading. And because musical performance depends on sharing knowledge and practice, that could have a transformative effect. Literally as I’m walking out the door to leave for a showcase of gestural performance in Berlin, I get a chance to look at this team from Argentina. They’re purposely giving away the plans for their open source live performance instrument, built in turn with open source hardware (Arduino) and software (free graphical development environment Pd).

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The man who fell to Earth: Onyx Ashanti's open source hardware/software rig goes beyond computer and acoustic interfaces, alike, in a cyborg-style, enhanced human performance rig. Photo Zin Chiang, at CDM's recent Open Source Music showcase at Retune, Berlin.

Way Out From Behind The Laptop: Onyx Ashanti’s Beatjazz-Augmented Body Keeps Mutating

Onyx Ashanti can wail on a computer with no computer in sight, jamming on a virtual horn that has vanished into his cyborg-like live rig. Mouthpiece and head-mounted prosthesis replace what might have been a virtual reality helmet – or sax reed. Sensors in his hands provide more expression. But this isn’t just some flash and theater, while a laptop dutifully plays back loops. It’s really an interface to performance, both surfing samples and providing live solo lines improvised in real-time, in mid-air. For a sense of what I mean, check out the party hosted by Berlin’s Mindpirates, at an …

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Minority Report Meets GarageBand: Airborne Beats is Hand-Controlled Music Making

From the Lab: Airborne Beats from Oblong Industries on Vimeo. With hand gestures recalling those that first reached the mainstream in Minority Report, “Airborne Beats” lets you make music just by gesturing with your hands and fingers in mid-air. You can drag around audio samples, and make gestures for control, controlling both production and performance. Coming from the labs at Oblong, it’s the latest etude in a long series of these kind of interfaces (see below). They in turn point out this could work with any time-based interface. And because of the nature of the interface, it also makes those …

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Little White Box: A Look at the Ambitious Kinektron Music-Making Cube

How much music making can you pack into a space-age, sealed white box? Developers Kinektron proposed one solution last month. To examine their design direction so far, we turn to Create Digital Music’s summer intern in industrial design, Arvid Jense. Arvid is completing unique dual studies in Media Music (at the ArtEZ Conservatorium, Enschede) and BSc Industrial Design Engineering (at the University of Twente), both in the Netherlands. He’s working with us to research instrument design and musical interaction, and doing a set of studies and design experiments related to our own MeeBlip open source synthesizer. (More on Arvid and …

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Music Performance as Real-Time Special Effect: Kinect Jamming Gets More Futuristic

The V Motion Project from Assembly on Vimeo. It’s all real – in a manner of speaking. And it’s all real-time. But just what is a live performance made with cameras, gestures, and projection? It’s worth watching The V Motion Project and pondering those possibilities, amidst the flashy visual eye candy. It’s certainly optically impressive. It’s music made to be watched (and, in the video, filmed with iPhones and whatnot). Watch a second time, and you wonder: as we reach a new peak of maturity, decades into alternative interface design, what will come next? To say that this is a …

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