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New Musical Instrument Could Change How We Interact With Computers
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/12/10 02 : 21

12/05/2008 05:24 PM
TANGIBLE SOUND
A Table of Light, Playing Music of the Future
By Manfred Dworschak



Scientists in Barcelona have created a new musical instrument that will produce remarkable sounds, even for an untrained novice. But the 'Reactable' is more than a digital synthesizer. It might also point to a new way of using computers.

Rarely have men been seen playing with blocks with such devout intensity. Four stand around a circular table, placing colorful disks and cubes onto the surface, occasionally moving, rotating or plucking them off again.

Each of these seemingly minor changes produces an effect -- noise ranging from gurgles, taps or booming to a loud drumbeat. When the objects on the table are moved a new and unexpected sound results. Suddenly there's a buzzing, followed by a heavy stomping bass. The sky-blue glow of the tabletop reflects in the faces of these peculiar musicians.

The audience might be witnessing an advanced form of witchcraft. But they're hearing a musical instrument unlike anything they have ever heard or seen.

The disks on the table produce the sound. Each has its own magic. Some disks emit sounds of various timbres when they make contact with the table; others reshape these sounds when moved close to the first disks. There are "scrambler" disks, and flicker cubes, and rhythm dice. Some pieces produce a rougher or choppier sound. The possibilities for music are endless.

The magic table was created at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, where a group of young music musicologists have spent years searching for a completely different type of instrument. "It was supposed to be capable of doing anything we wanted it to," says Martin Kaltenbrunner, one of the designers, "and yet be extremely easy to play."

Their efforts have produced a powerful synthesizer that emits any conceivable sound, but doesn't look like a synthesizer at all. There are no knobs or cables, no keyboard and no intimidating technological interface. In fact it seems to consist of nothing more than a blue, luminous table and a pile of translucent pieces, called tangibles.

The table is called a "Reactable." It's been displayed at exhibits and conferences throughout Europe. It was recently awarded the Golden Nica prize at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria. Many museums already have a Reactable in their collections, and the device has been so successful that its creators now plan to offer it to the public.




To read the rest of article and for more links,
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,594709,00.html
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