Two McGill University Ph.D music students, Joseph Mallock and Ian Hattwick, have spent 3 years on a project to produce musical instruments that are effectively an extension of the human body. The project is called “Instrumented Bodies: Digital Prostheses for Music and dance Performance“.
Working closely with dancers, musicians, composers and a choreographer the Input Devices and Music Interaction Lab (IDMIL) students developed prosthetic musical instruments that are worn and produce music in response to the dancer’s movements. Using the latest fabrication techniques and equipment at the McGill University School of Architecture, such as laser cutting and 3D printing, several instruments were produced including articulated spines, curved visors and rib cages.
The complex, transparent shapes are lit from within, and include articulated spines, curved visors and ribcages. Unlike most computer music control interfaces, they function both as hand-held, manipulable controllers and as wearable, movement-tracking extensions to the body. Further, since the performers can smoothly attach and detach the objects, these new instruments deliberately blur the line between the performers’ bodies and the instrument being played.
To sense the wearer’s movement each prosthetic contains several sensors, a power supply and wire data transceiver which transmits the digital signals through an open-source peer-to-peer software system to produce the music in real time. 3D printing the devices allowed them to accurately position all of the electronics in each prosthetic and make it rugged enough to be used during a performance.
Work is continuing on further development of the instruments, but the existing models have been used in a performance calles Les Gestes that has toured Canada and Europe. Watch a video of the instruments in action, below: