The SonicJumper, which is a gestural controller of my own design, can be classified as a symbolic immersive controller. It was first developed in 2003.
A performer is immersed – so to speak – in his or her own bodily movement. Moreover, he or she does not make contact with any physical device while performing. The impression is that the performer ‘performs’ his or her own body – the human body becomes the instrument.
Various types of movement sensors are attached to the body and measure: bending action of joints such as fingers and knees; acceleration of body parts such as the hands, feet and hips; lifting of the foot; reaching of the arms; directional glances of the head; among other movements. All sensors send out a tiny voltage reading between zero and five volts. A separate unit then converts these voltage readings into MIDI(Musical Instrument Digital Interface) values.
The sensors are held in place using various types of sport braces – stretchable bands of fabric that comfortably fit around the body and do not limit movement. The convertor rests in a belt pouch along with its portable battery supply. One long MIDI cable connects the convertor to a computer.
The sounds of the SonicJumper are entirely synthesised by a computer, thus the performer is able to access the wide-open sound world – anything that can be synthesised or sampled. In this way, the rich timbral possibilities of this digital instrument reveal the potential for an increased level of musical expression. For instance, the potential for musical expression on the SonicJumper is as follows. First, the physical gestures of playing the SonicJumper serve as expressive visual cues to the audience. Second, the performer’s movement instantaneously changes the sound of the instrument-controller. Furthermore, the complexity of the sound reflects the intricacy or vigorousness of the physical gesture.