Augmenting the piano keyboard: From the lab to the stage

Augmenting the piano keyboard: From the lab to the stage

Date: 9 Sep 2014
Time: 18:30

Location: Arts One, Queen Mary University of London (Mile End campus)

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Lecture by Andrew McPherson, Queen Mary University of London

This talk presents two augmented musical instruments which extend the capabilities of the familiar keyboard. The magnetic resonator piano (MRP) is an electronically-transformed acoustic grand piano. Electromagnets induce vibrations in the strings, creating infinite sustain, crescendos from silence, harmonics, pitch bends and new timbres, all controlled intuitively from the piano keyboard.

The TouchKeys add multi-touch sensing to the surface of any electronic keyboard. Capacitive touch sensors measure the position and contact area of the fingers on each key, allowing the performer to add vibrato, pitch bends and timbre changes to each note independently just by moving the fingers on the keys during performance. The mappings between touch data and sound have been designed to avoid interference with traditional keyboard technique, so the TouchKeys can build on the expertise of trained pianists with minimal relearning.

Both instruments have established a continuing musical presence outside the research lab. In addition to presenting the instrument designs, this talk will discuss recent collaborations with the London Chamber Orchestra and the band These New Puritans using the magnetic resonator piano, and a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for the TouchKeys which raised support for producing and distributing TouchKeys instruments to musicians in 20 countries.

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