London Design Festival: Project Resonance

At this years London Design Festival, students from RCA developed a number of musical instruments in collaboration with Yamaha for the Resonance Project. The aim was to design instruments that would bring together the experience of performers and audience members, and to encourage participation and collaboration.

The purpose of Sam Weller‘s ‘Public Resonance’ project was to enable any object to be transformed into a percussion instrument. It uses a selection of G-clamp pick-ups that can be fixed to an object which detect vibrations when the object is hit, scraped or tapped.

‘Music Within’ is a project by Petter Thörne and Youness Benali whereby small cameras are attached inside guitars, drums and flutes providing an alternative visual representation of the performance.

Music Within

Lingjing Yin‘s concept, ‘Touch the Sound’, uses under floor sensors and an XBox Kinect camera. In this project, performers have the ability to create the music as they perform, the musical output is dependent on how the performers move together and touch.

In ‘The Cisum Music’ five cylindrical shaped speakers contain different elements of a musical piece and the sound is produced as the spheres are moved. The overall musical performance is dependant on which spheres are moving, which enables an interactive method to generate the music. The concept behind ‘The Cisum Music’ was developed by Anton Alvarez and the musical elements were provided by Rickard Jäverling.

The Cisum Music

‘The Human Speaker’ project was developed by Nic Wallenberg it uses a collar that fits are the user’s neck. Sound is produced by creating vibrations in the upper throat which means the vocal chords are not used.

The Wekinator

The Wekinator is a software application developed by Rebecca Fiebrink which uses machine learning principles in order to help develop interactive systems. The GUI provides the user with a way to ‘create machine learning models from scratch, without any programming’.

A number of example applications are suggested including development of musical instruments, video games and other systems for gesture analysis and feedback. The Wekinator supports OSC so any device that can output OSC can be used as a controller and anything that can receive OSC can be controlled. A list of hardware and software that support OSC can be found on the opensoundcontrol website. As an example, a user may want to use a Wiimote accelerometer to control the volume of a sound. So the first thing they would need to do is perform the specific gesture a number of times and associate them to the volume parameter. The wekinator creates a mapping relationship between these two values and starts to develop new mapping relationships between inputs and output parameters.

The following diagram, sourced from the ChucK/Wekinator integration instructions, provides an overview of the system.

wekinator system

Human Instrument

Latest work by Daito Manabe and Masaki Teruoka combines myoelectric sensors with electric muscle stimulations to create a human played and human responsive musical instrument.


Sound Builders

The Sound Builders series on highlights musicians who develop their own musical instruments. The first episode followed Peaking Lights as they prepared for their live tour. Subsequent episodes have included interviews with Diego Stocco, Eric Singer, Steve Mann, Liz Phillips, Reed Ghazla, Felix Thorn, Ranjit Bhatnagar and Ken Butler.

Electric Stimulus To Face

Daito Manabe uses small electrical pulses to stimulate his facial muscles.


Actively Controlled Acoustic Instruments

A definition for ‘active controlled acoustic instruments’ can be found in the paper by Edgar Berdahl, Hans-Christoph Steiner, and Collin Oldham for NIME2008 called ‘Practical Hardware and Algorithms for Creating Haptic Musical Instruments [pdf]‘.

An actively controlled acoustic musical instrument is an acoustic musical instrument that is augmented with sensors, actuators, and a controller. These instruments can be considered a special case of haptic musical instruments where the interface is the entire acoustic instrument itself. For example, a monochord string can be plucked and bowed at various positions as usual, while its acoustic behavior is governed by the control hardware. Simple and appropriate control algorithms emulate passive networks of masses, springs, and dampers or implement self-sustaining oscillators.

The paper looks at two examples the Haptic Drum by Edgar Berdahl and the Cellomobo by Collin Oldham.

The Haptic Drum uses haptic feedback to control the mvoement of a drum stick. It can produce high speed accurate drum rolls using just one hand so you can use your other hand to play something extra!

The Cellomobo produces feedback as a user bows a virtual string. Both of the instruments are described in more detail in the paper.


Sormina is a musical instrument developed by Juhani Räisänen.

The aim of my project is to gain knowledge about instruments and their impact in the western classical music. My point is that the material quality of acoustical instruments has had a major effect in the development of music

Sound is created by noise generators and the instrument is used to shape the sound via eight potentiometers controlled by the fingers. The sensory data is then passed to a computer via bluetooth. Each potentiometer controls a different sound parameter, such as attack, delay, gain and effrect parameters.


IanniX is a graphical editor based on the UPIC compositional tool which was created by Iannis Xenakis. The following video shows Iannix in action with max/msp.

John Cage and Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Sound?? (1966)

An amazing video combining the talents of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage. The video questions the definition of sound…

Snowball the Cockatoo Dance

Snowball the Cockatoo loves to get down!

The Bird Lovers Only Rescue says that no one taught him how to dance, ‘he just heard this song and suddenly felt like dancing. When he’s really in the mood, he dances and sings.’

Does this mean that Humans are not alone in enjoying listening to music, or is this just a learned habit?

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