What is the Hyperbow?

hypberbow1.jpgThe hyperbow is a custom music controller first designed for use in violin performance by a Ph.D. candidate in the Hyperinstruments Group of the MIT Media Lab, Diana Young.

Young developed a new electronic gesture sensing system to measure minute changes in the position, acceleration and strain of a violin bow.The system can be used to evaluate different bowing techniques and may expand the expressive possibilities of the violin by electronic means.

The Hyperbow is an enhanced bow, used in conjunction with a Hyperviolin. The latter, another product of the MIT Media Lab, is an instrument that makes no sound but creates an electronic output when played. The Hyperviolin can readily be played by anyone used to an acoustic violin.

Young, who has a B.A. in music from Johns Hopkins University and a certificate in violin performance from the Peabody Conservatory, built the gesture-sensing system for her master’s degree, which she received from MIT in 2001. Designed as a performance interface for professional violinists, the Hyperbow includes a set of accelerometers, gyroscopes and force sensors all installed on a carbon fiber bow.

Because the system is wireless, it interferes only minimally with the violinist’s bowing.

Both the Hyperbow and the Hyperviolin have been played in concert, by the renowned violinist Joshua Bell among others; several composers, including MIT’s Tod Machover, have created new compositions for them.

From Todd Machover’s Lullaby1

The Hyperbow premiered at the 2002 Conference on New Instruments for Musical Expression in Dublin.

From “The Musical Staircase” by Clodagh Dack

From the Theme from CAPRICE NO. 24 by Niccolo Paganini

You can hear additional samples of Hyperviolin music on the Toy Symphony web site. Follow links for Sound and Images/Dublin – National Symphony Orchestra/AUDIO Samples.

The Hyperbow is just the latest in a series of Media Lab inventions on the vanguard of musical expression. Hypercello and Hyperinstruments were developed at the Media Lab by Joe Paradiso, Neil Gershenfeld and composer Tod Machover in the 1990s.

An abstract of Diana Young’s paper is available via the ASA web site.

The aim of the ongoing collaboration between researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory and the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) is to further explore the expressive musical potential of the Hyperbow. Through the creation of new repertoire, they hope to stimulate the evolution of this interface, advancing its usability and refining its
capabilities. In preparation for this work, the Hyperbow system has been adapted for cello (acoustic and electric) performance. See upcoming performances.

Sep 11, 2007
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