August saw Dr Alan Chamberlain (University of Nottingham) of the FAST project attend and help document a workshop that supported digital instrument designers to use the Bela platform “a new embedded audio / sensor platform…which provides sub-millisecond latency between action and sound, and which replaces the need for a laptop and external microcontroller boards such as Arduino to create digital musical instruments.” The instrument designers were able to create new instruments and design and develop better ways to interact with their existing systems. The Bela platform was designed by Dr Andrew McPherson (QMUL) see http://bela.io and was funded via Kickstarter.
Dr Chamberlain said, “Andrew asked if I was interested in studying the way that communities come together and use technologies such as the Bela platform, and I thought that this was a fantastic opportunity. Andrew and I had previously worked together on a series of workshops that enabled different groups of people to engage with the DBox (a musical instrument), and the research that we carried out was published  at ACM Designing Interactive systems last year.”
The workshop was held at STEIM (the STudio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam, a leading centre focusing on the performance and electronic music, which supports an international community of musicians, artists, performers and researchers.
As the workshop ran for three days with delegates attending from across Europe, the workshop outline states, “A major goal of the workshop is to make the new instrument designs sustainable by thoroughly documenting the process of building and using the instrument. In addition to the new artefacts created in the workshop, we hope (where the designer agrees) to support the release of documentation that will allow others in the community to replicate and modify the instruments. In addition to technical help, the organiser team will help the participants document their efforts as they go along, and they will record short interviews as part of a research study on digital musical instrument sustainability.”
Dr Chamberlain said, “It was a great experience to see people coming together to use these tools and it was evident that what Andrew had developed was a real benefit to the workshop attendees. Projects such as FAST enable and support researchers to work to their full potential, and work with others to help deliver tools that can have real impact for creative communities”.
- Andrew McPherson, Alan Chamberlain, Adrian Hazard, Sean McGrath and Steve Benford (2016) “Designing for Exploratory Play with a Hackable Digital Musical Instrument”, Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems, DIS’16, June 4 – 8, 2016, Brisbane, Australia. ACM Press. Pages 1233-1245. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2901790.2901831