PETE the bee

This project was curated by Dr Franziska Schroeder of Queens University, Belfast and facilitated by Koichi Samuels (also from Queens), Dr Brendan McCloskey of the University of Ulster and the Drake Music Project NI. The basic idea behind the project was to assemble several groups of musicians, designers and makers to workshop instruments that catered to the specific needs of musicians with physical disabilities that were affiliated with the Drake Music Project. We had three days in which to meet the musician which had been assigned to our group, and design and build the interface. On the evening of the third day the musician would then showcase the instrument in an ensemble performance in the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Queens.


I was part of a team of four designers whose task it was to create an instrument for a musician that enjoyed playing the piano but found that moving from chord shape to chord shape in time with the music was difficult. It took her quite some time reorientate here fingers into the correct shape and the frustration that she experienced at this meant that playing the piano was not as enjoyable as she would have liked. 


Our solution to this problem was to create a keyboard that would give her the ability to achieve polyphony with the use of only one button at a time. Along with this, we also included an infra-red sensor that the musician could use to articulate and manipulate the dynamics of the chord that she triggered. In general, resources were quite scarce for this workshop so rather than just buying prefab switches for our project, we created our own switches using conductive foam and copper tape. These input devices were then connected to an Arduino Uno which in turn sent midi messages to Ableton Live via Max for Live. The event was sponsored by Ableton which meant that the final musical output had to take place in the Ableton Live environment. Above are a couple of images of the final instrument (we were encouraged to leave the instrument ‘guts out’ so as to better explain our work to the audience members after the gig).


A video documentary can be seen here.


A blog of the 3 days can be found here.


The music made for the performances can be listened to here.