Tag Archives: DMI

Jimmy raps

Jimmy raps is a 20-minute audiovisual composition during which a “rap” is put on display via gestures (instrumental, typographical, spatial, epistemic, ancillary, etc.), which are given tangible form through the use of a biosignal interface and the browser-based textual performance and visualisation interface known as Live Writing (Lee, 2015). Live Writing is a web browser-based textual performance and visualisation interface using Javascript, Web Audio, WebGL and OpenGL Shading Language. It features dynamic and animated text rendering, allowing the performer to explore a potential for visual and musical expression through the creation of live poetry, live electroacoustic sound and temporal typography. The MYO biosignal interface is an electromyography armband with additional inertial measurement sensing (3DoF accelerometer; 3DoF gyroscope).

Live writing interface created by Sang Won Lee

The MYO developed by Thalmic Labs

Working song and the last dead leftover

“Working song and the last dead leftover” (for amplified string quartet and karlax digital musical instrument) combines the classical string quartet ensemble with electroacoustic sound, which is played (produced and modulated) by a new type of 21st-century electronic musical instrument, known as the karlax.

This new composition was composed for the Penderecki String Quartet, who premiered the new work on 2 June, 2016, at the Perimeter Institute (Waterloo, Ontario). This first performance was part of an engaging concert theme that explored the integration of the string quartet, which is by far one of the most significant instrument combinations of classical music, and innovative music technologies of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As a result, at the heart of this concert theme was a meeting between the arts and sciences – old and new – presented at a leading institute for theoretical physics.

In “Working song”, one of my creative goals was to “fracture the acousmatic” (Adrian Moore, 2008). That is to say, my composition supplants the traditions of studio-produced electronic music by the live control of sound synthesised in real time. Unlike the studio tradition, in which sound is “fixed” for future replication in a concert, musical sound is entirely generated anew with each performance of Working song. At the same time, in my composition, I adapt acousmatic techniques and tools, which “allow the creation of sounds that transcend the physical constraints of instrumental and vocal musical practice” (John Young, 2015), to a new form of embodied (gesture-dependent) electronic musical performance.

Two aspects comprise the title of this composition: “working song” and “last dead leftover”. In the case of “working song”, this facet can be understood as both implementing/exploiting features of musical song and music for singing while working (e.g., work chant). The two primary materials (above) are brought together in an effort to showcase a perpetual melody and at the same time, evoke the sonic environment of repetitive, mechanical labour (come un meccanismo di precisione [György Ligeti, 1968]). With respect to the “last dead leftover”, I take a philosophical viewpoint regarding the present-day global population movements. Through my art, I wish to highlight the importance of recognising the humanity of migrants who are labouring to escape civil unrest. Furthermore, in popular media culture (e.g., The Last of Us, The Leftovers), I detect trends that appear to interrogate this humanity – nurturing fears of annihilation (political, economic, social, etc.). Working song was composed in an effort to challenge these fears – calling forth melody from incessant noise, as a metaphor for the inherent humanity of a people, no matter their origins.

For more information and implementations of the karlax, please see:

My Vimeo Karlax “Album”

Karlax developer and manufacturer (and links to the karlax community)


Immortal-machine is my first solo work for the méta-instrument digital musical instrument. The instrument features forty-six discrete pressure-sensing ‘keys’ or touch points, thumb sliders, pivoting hand grips (measuring hand rotation) and elbow ‘ball and socket’ joints (measuring the horizontal and vertical movements of the forearms over an angle of ninety degrees) – fifty-four channels of continuous control data, in total. In composing and performing my composition, I am interested in investigating whether the concept of an ‘immortal machine’ is an appropriate analogy for the human body. Important aspects of Immortal-machine are, on the one hand, a contextualisation of the human body as a hyper-body (‘hyper’ referring to the tradition of the hyperinstrument or metainstrument) and, on the other hand, the drawing out of possible ‘superhuman’ capabilities and higher-level corporeal models through a reinterpretation of the human body in relation to its surrounding environment. My work with the méta-instrument is aimed at furthering my ideas on concurrence and counteraction in digital musical instrument composition.

“Thank you Darryl, for your help re-soldering and calibrating.”


The karlax resembles a clarinet or soprano saxophone in size and geometry, although its control structures do no involve blowing air through the instrument. Instead, the karlax wirelessly transmits data to a sound engine (e.g., computer software instrument) by manipulating 10 keys (with continuous range output), 8 velocity-sensitive pistons, 17 buttons and a combination mini-joystick and LCD character display, operated with the thumb of the left hand. The interior of the karlax contains both a 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis accelerometer. In addition, the upper and lower half of the karlax can be twisted in opposite directions; that is to say, the upper and lower half can be rotated in opposite directions because the joint between the two halves of the instrument acts as a type of rotary potentiometer with a maximum rotation angle of 65°. Furthermore, at each angle boundary (i.e., 0° and 65°), the karlax offers an additional 12.5° of resistive twist space, providing a resistive force for the performer, who may have a sensation similar to bending or pulling a spring – albeit the movement is still a twisting/turning motion.

Development on the karlax began in 2001.  This digital musical instrument has been commercially available since approximately the mid-2000s and is manufactured by DA FACT, in Paris, France.

For more information and performance footage: