Researchers develop prosthetic musical instruments

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Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath is the digital editor & staff writer of BBC Music...

Rosie Pentreath
, Updated 6th September 2013

Thirty different digital instruments have been designed to be ‘worn’ by performers

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have designed and produced the first prosthetic digital instruments for music and dance.

Made to be worn by performers, the musical instruments contain sensors that respond to touch, movement and orientation to produce sound.

PhD researchers Joseph Malloch and Ian Hattwick collaborated with composers, choreographers, musicians and dancers to produce something that can endure extensive use in performance while being visually striking. Many of the transparent structures resemble the human skeleton and are lit from within by small lights.

‘Unlike most computer music control interfaces, they function both as hand-held, manipulable controllers and as wearable, movement-tracking extensions to the body’ explain Malloch and Hattwick. ‘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.’

A piece called Les Gestes, scored for two dancers and two musicians, has been written for the prosthetics and toured Canada and parts of Europe earlier this year.

Contributor profile

Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath is the digital editor & staff writer of BBC Music...

Rosie Pentreath