The Tromba Moderna

A Digitally Augmented Medievil Instrument

This was a wonderful project that came out of a proposal from Musikmuseet in Frederiksberg, Denmark.

We addressed their desire for increased visitor interaction by building a replica of an instrument in their collection that the public could play. The instrument we chose was slightly taller than the average double bass, had only one string, and sounded like a trumpet: The Tromba Marina.

We made the instrument more playable by feeding sound from the bridge, electronically, back into the body. We also simulated the sound made by the instrument’s vibrating bridge using pure data.

Great fun.

Speech Feature Extraction

For this project I designed an audio based computer game. The player controls the environment with their voice. The Pure Data patch that I wrote is able to distinguish between various vocal sounds.

  • Open vowels
  • Hard constanants

These four sounds were used to drive an external physical model of a D.C. motor.

Saying ‘ssss’ or ‘zzzz’ is effectively putting your foot on the gas, say ‘ka’ or ‘pa’ changes up a gear. ‘Aaaah’ turns on reverb and a ping ping delay to simulate other traffic, and, for the icing on the cake, ‘sssss’ switches on a randomly sweeping notch filter, the center frequency of which jumps further, with increased time intervals, the louder the input voice. This has the effect of making the motor sound like a speeding boat. ‘Zzzzz’ switches off the notch filter, and engages a three tap dynamic chorus effect, again controlled by amplitude. This makes the motor sound like a plane.

Despite making people look quite silly, it proves to be quite an addictive waste of time.

Screen shot 2016-VocalExtractionScreenShot02-15 at 21.42.45

Despite some glitches in the behavioural routines, this is the interactive product I am most proud of

Having worked on this project as part of a small, but superb team, for a little over four years I feel deeply invested in it’s future.

Move your hips!

How movement affects audience perception

In this experiment I set out to determine if musicians can sell themselves more convincingly, just by moving a bit more. It turns out it’s true. it may be obvious on an intuitive level, but obtaining proof is another matter!


You can download the full report here: PeceptionCognitionPeterWilliamsMP

The Awesome ACPAD

ACPAD – This new interface for musical expression looks like a great deal of fun. In fact it is very similar to an idea I had recently had, and was considering mounting to my short scale bass guitar. I eventually decided to put that bass up for sale and watch an episode of Star Trek Voyager instead. This was no great loss to the music world. This device is clearly far more advanced than anything I was dreaming of. But, I wish they had gone in a fundamentally different direction.

There is a tendency, when music instruments and tools arise from technology, for the inventive mind to find ways to replace musicians, rather than empowering them. Here we see a guitarist performing the roll of guitarist, drummer, keyboard player and programmer. It’s very impressive, and will no doubt facilitate the production of fresh music. But would it not be more exciting if the interface was just controlling the sound of the guitar. Allowing varying amounts of delay, distortion, portamento and so on. Yes, these effects can be produced with the use of pedals, but I suspect with less freedom and control.

A great example would be Future man, seen here playing his crazy home made percussion instrument that he started work on in 1988. It’s not a world away from Acpad, but I feel there is a stark contrast in the philosophical approach. Roy Wooten, is a musician first, then an inventor, and he explains something of that process here.

For me, the most exciting thing about music is the interplay between musicians. Let’s not use technology to kill the band!

lenovoPhoneSynthesizer interfaces using laser projection are nothing new. Jean Michelle Jarre was famous for playing around with such devices back in the eighties when I was a kid. Lenovo are not the first tech company to play around with interactive projected control surfaces either. This review (below) would suggest that they have not cracked it. But I still want one.

jean michel jarreBeing able to project video or a presentation on a wall from your phone sounds like fun. Being able to flip that around and project a computer keyboard onto the table sounds like even more fun. Being able to project a piano keyboard onto a table top and play some music with tolerably low latency sounds like as much fun as you could have from a mobile device. So I’m going to be watching this market very closely. My next smartphone might not be the S6 edge after all!

Read the full review here

3D sound

Earphones may be able to truly record 3d sound.

Innovation or just a good press release?

At the very least the idea here is not a new one. It is a concept that dates back to the very first days of recording with microphones.


Also for spiders


According to this study, we can perhaps thank spiders for figuring out that learning to play an instrument is the best way to get the ladies:

Spiders strum on leaves for love

If there is such a thing as a line between madness and genus, I believe I have found it:

If I had a time machine, one of the first things I would do would be to go and catch a Roland Kirk gig. Enough said.

The Octobasse

This would just about complete my collection.



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