D-Box at ACM DIS Conference

I went to the ACM Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) conference in Brisbane this June to talk about our paper Designing for exploratory play with a hackable digital musical instruments and to demo the D-Box.



McPherson, Andrew P. and Chamberlain, Alan and Hazzard, Adrian and McGrath, Sean and Benford, Steve (2016) Designing for exploratory play with a hackable digital musical instrument.In: ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2016), 4-8 June 2016, Brisbane, Australia. doi>1145/2901790.2901831

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FAST at CHI 2016

Read the report from FAST project partners contribution to the CHI 2016 conference at San Jose, California, USA.


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FAST in Paris!

The FAST project had its second all hands meeting in the perfect surroundings of Paris this February. Find out more about it here.

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51. Play Along Polkas

Carolan Guitar

Inspired by Mark’s thoughts on embodied learning from our last post, we’ve been exploring how Carolan might support players learning new music. As a first step – and drawing on Carolan’s Celtic heritage – we set out to create a video tutorial for learning to accompany traditional Irish tunes.

We start by choosing a classic set of three Irish polkas, beginning with Egan’s Polka …


… before segueing into Jessica’s Polka …


… and finally ending with Ryan’s Polka …


Next we invite Carolan’s friends Milli on fiddle and Penny on flute to join Steve on banjo to record a the tunes, repeating each three times as is typical in sessions in our neck of the woods.

Our next task is to record an accompaniment on Carolan.

We then edit a composite of the two videos to demonstrate how they sound together.

Now we need to figure out how best to map these three tuition videos to the interactive surfaces of the guitar so as to support embodied learning.

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48. An Educated Thumb

48. An Educated Thumb.

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47. The Pipes are Calling

Carolan Guitar

A second installment from the New Instruments for Musical Expression (NIME) conference in Baton Rouge …

Compared to a traditional acoustic guitar such as Carolan, NIMEs are an unusual bunch, mixing physical controllers, with sensors, actuators and software to create highly innovative instruments. NIMEs range from traditional instruments that are augmented with digital technologies to radical, bespoke and often highly personalized instruments.

A lovely aspect of the conference is balancing a programme of concerts with a program of academic talks so that we get to see many NIMEs in action as well as learn about how they are put together.

There diannediantenne_2-3is Dianne Verdonk’s La Diantenne 2.0, a beautiful a harp-like instrument fashioned from tin plate that uses a contact microphone to produce sound in response to flexing, touching, stroking and percussive striking. Dianne’s paper explains how the instrument is also designed with the visual aspects of performance in mind. We’re struck by how her…

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46. Lousiana

Carolan Guitar

Louisiana! Swamps and ‘gators. Crawfish and po-boys. Cajun, Zydeco and New Orleans, the First City of Jazz. Carolan has seen them all this week in its first trip abroad (unless you count Wales that is). Ostensibly, the trip has been to present the first Carolan research paper at the Fifteenth Annual Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, or ‘NIMES’ as these new digital instruments are called, but of course this has necessitated something of a road trip. We’ll be writing about the conference and some of the quirky NIMEs that we’ve met and even jammed with soon, but for now we’ll just get our bearings.

The trip begins 5 AM on a Saturday morning – no time for a respectable guitar to be up and about – with Carolan being wrapped in layers of bubblewrap before being snugly fitted into its Hiscox flightcase.


The a car journey to Heathrow and checking…

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45. Geert, Claire and Dylan

Carolan Guitar

Carolan has left the country of its birth, crossing the border into Wales to spend a week living, composing and recording with Geert and his collaborators Claire and Dylan. Deepest thanks to Geert for putting Carolan through its paces and for such a monumental effort in documenting and blogging Carolan’s visit. We’re very happy to hand over to him …

Alan Chamberlain had mentioned that guitar a couple of times already. Something special, he promised. I couldn’t get a clear picture of what he was talking about, but I was quite willing to wait and to see. Yes, sometime – soon perhaps – he would ask me to try out a new kind of guitar some people had been developing. Exciting! My patience was rewarded, because evening time on 7 May, he came round, carrying a bulky guitar-case and a bag or two. This, he said, was the Carolan Guitar and its travel entourage…

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Innovation in Music Conference

Spent a great couple of days at the Innovation in Music Conference this week. Although the theme of the conference was looking ahead towards future developments in music production, I simultaneously stepped back in time by revisiting Anglia Ruskin University, the venue of my under graduate degree. Within 5 mins of arriving at the conference a familiar face sat down in the chair next to me – Ian Corbett – a peer from university who I played some particularly bad jazz/funk with in a band from the ‘old days’. Ian gave a great talk at the conference on ‘lossy’ compression and it was great to catch up with him since we last saw each other 20 years ago! Also, my old music technology and composition lecturer, Richard Hoadley made a surprise, but very welcome, visit.

There were some great talks and panel sessions that were saturated with enthusiasm for music, music production and the industry in general, Peter Jenner (producer, manager for Pink Floyd and general music industry activist) was particularly entertaining.

The FAST IMPACt project hosted a panel session to share and discuss out work on future semantic audio tools and opportunities. I would very much like to thank the panelists – Gary Bromham, producer / engineer; George Fazekas, Centre 4 Digital Music, QMUL;  Matt White, Omnifone; Peter Tolmie, Mixed Reality Lab, UoN; and Jon Eades, Abbey Road Studios for their excellent contribution to that session…FAST Project panel

…and finally Russ Hepworth-Sawyer and Rob Toulson for hosting a great conference and letting us at FAST share our work.

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A thing that tells its own life story…

The Carolan Guitar has appeared in the latest edition of ACM Interactions. A PDF version of the article can be found in the publications section.

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