Imagining a future of instruments now can involve combinations of electronics, voltage, computation, and the physical. Grab a virtual seat at this talk from Ableton Loop for more.

Getting into 2018’s Loop in LA was a challenge already; now Loop is very much disrupted by this pandemic. So we’ve got you covered, thanks to Ableton. And the timing is perfect – just as we announce this year’s Guthman competition for new musical instruments, here’s more inspiration for what form those designs can take.

Class – slash – science fair is in session, with three unique instrument designs and detailed demonstrations and descriptions of how they were produced:

Astrid Bin shows a percussion instrument that grew out of a study in her PhD research – including a look inside her “breadboard-ilicious” poster tube enclosure and lots of details of both construction and playing techniques. She covers a gamut from percussion to drone effects.

Dan Moses makes instruments and controllers; he shows the Callichord Strum – “a way to offer to keyboardists some of the rhythmic elements of electric and acoustic guitars.” (Definitely don’t miss his demo.) The original Callichord makes an appearance, too, as he explores a unique overlap between software models and physical, material interfaces. (Also – rotation!)

Stephanie Cheng Smith has work that lies between performance and installation. In this case, she works with a kinetic electroacoustic construction that began as an installation but that she eventually preferred in its performance adaptation. These have really simple electronics and then work with motors and bells and … well, have a look/listen; it’s really beautiful. She does a lot with simple modulation of parameters – as a great composer can.

There’s some funny guy doing the moderation; don’t know what’s up with him.

Two of our panelists run on the wonderful Bela embedded platform for music, to which Astrid is a contributor. We go into a ton of additional detail in the cross-talk – about how these are made, but also how non-engineers got into technological invention from various art fields. (And “chonky” coding.)

It’s a good study in education and exchange of knowledge, especially now when gathering in schools is a challenge.

Dr. Astrid Bin was (is still?) a post-doc at Georgia Tech, host to the aforementioned Guthman prize.

Dan Moses is an Oakland-based instrumentalist / composer / engineer-designer.

Stephanie Cheng Smith‘s experimental electronic music performances and installations have taken her to residencies across Europe, work with various American ensembles and projects, and now she’s a Web dev for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as an educator teaching interactive programming.

Loop is on hiatus because of the pandemic, but you can check out #LoopAtHome in its place: