SIGGRAPH ASIA 2015 Course on How to Design and Build New Musical Interfaces

Details of our SIGGRAPH ASIA 2015 course are now available at the SIGGRAPH ASIA 2015 web site:

How to Design and Build New Musical Interfaces

This year SIGGRAPH ASIA will be held in Kobe, not so far from Ritsumeikan University.

ACM CHI 2015 Course

We’ll be offering the ‘Introduction to Creating Musical Interfaces‘ course again this year at CHI 2015, which is to be held in Seoul. The course has also been offered at SIGGRAPH, SIGGRAPH Asia, and NIME.


ACM CHI 2015 Course proposal on Musical Interfaces Accepted!

Our CHI 2015 course proposal, ‘Introduction to Creating Musical Interfaces’ has been accepted! By chance this was submission #101, and I’m thinking of retitling the course ‘Musical Interfaces 101’.

ACM CHI is the largest and most influential conference in the field of human-computer interaction (ヒューマン•インタフェース in Japanese).

The ACM CHI 2015 conference will be held in the Gangnam district of Seoul and pop musician Psy will be keynote speaker this year.

We also offer versions of the course at SIGGRAPH, SIGGRAPH ASIA, and NIME itself.

SIGGRAPH ASIA 2014 Course: How to Design and Build New Musical Interfaces

Our course proposal was accepted at SIGGRAPH ASIA 2014. The course will be held December 3, 2014 in Shenzhen China. More information here. It will be great to have active participation at SIGGRAPH ASIA from Ritsumeikan !

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SIGGRAPH Asia 2012: Advances in NIME

Prof. Sid Fels (UBC) and I will be presenting our course on Advances in New Interfaces for Musical Expression at the upcoming SIGGRAPH Asia conference to be held at the Singapore Expo in November 2012. Looking forward to spending more time in Singapore.

The SIGGRAPH Asia web site is using our photos as the main banner for the courses page, and these are also visible on the preview slideshow playing on the main conference page.

The First NIME

The BBC News web site currently has a good article about the Theremin, an electronic instrument invented by Russian Léon Theremin in 1919. Though it was not the first synthesizer, I consider the Theremin to have been the first NIME: earlier electronic synthesizers like the Telharmonium (1897) mainly used keyboard-like controllers. The Theremin, by contrast, is played with non-contact gestures (waving your hands in the air). It is a full blown new electronic instrument, the product of a futurist/modernist outlook and cutting-edge technical mastery (for the day), which opened the potential for completely new forms of human artistic expression.

I am not going to introduce the Theremin here. Better to start by reading the BBC article or Wikipedia entry, both linked above. You can get an idea of how it can be played by watching any number of videos on YouTube. Here’s Léon Theremin’s neice, Lydia Kavina, playing Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”:

The BBC article quotes an interesting statement from Theremin biographer Albert Glinsky which I would like to include here:

RCA felt this was going to replace the parlour piano and anyone who could wave their hands in the air or whistle a tune could make music in their home with this device. The Theremin went on sale in September 1929 at the relatively high price of $220 – a radio set cost about $30. It was also much more difficult to play than the advertising claimed. And just one month later came the Wall Street Crash. You took it home and found that your best efforts led to squealing and moaning sounds. So the combination of the fact that only the most skilled people could teach themselves how to play it and the fact that there was a downturn in the economy meant that the instrument really wasn’t a commercial success

This seems to be a somewhat common story with the most unusual/innovative new music technology – it is difficult to get make significant cultural impact.

The Theremin, however, has had good staying power. It is still a niche instrument with few virtuosi, but you can, in fact, purchase a Theremin and find someone to help you to learn how to make music with it. High quality Theremins are made by Moog Music. As it turns out, electronic instrument pioneer Robert Moog got started by selling Theremin kits while he was still an undergraduate physics student. Moog represents an important link between the earliest NIMEs and contemporary electronic music technology and culture. For this reason we invited Dr. Moog as a Keynote speaker for NIME-04, which was held in Hamamatsu, Japan’s mecca for music technology.

I had the good fortune to invite Dr. Moog to give a talk at the company where I used to work, ATR, in southern Kyoto prefecture. It was a great experience to spend time talking with Dr. Moog and to introduce him to a huge and enthusiastic audience who showed up from all over Japan to hear him speak. I will never forget what a kind-hearted person Bob Moog was.


Singing with your Hands

Currently reported on Gizmodo: friend and collaborator Prof. Sidney Fels, University of British Columbia, and part of his team describe their work on using hand gestures to control speech and singing synthesis. Those interviewed in the video, including Sid, graduate student, Johnty WangProf. Bob Pritchard (School of Music, UBC), professional classical vocalist Marguerite Witvoet are some the people I enjoy hanging out with when I attend the annual NIME conference, which Sid and I co-founded in 2001.

The video contains demos and an excerpt from a vocal performance by Marguerite.