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The University of Southampton

Subtlety, Nuance and Latency in Digital Musical Interaction Seminar

16:00 - 17:00
10 December 2019
Building 13 Room 3017

Event details

ISVR Engineering Research Seminar Series 2019-2020

Everyone is welcome to attend every seminar.

The design of digital musical instruments presents a multidisciplinary challenge, incorporating knowledge from electronic engineering, human-computer interaction and artistic practice. Although many new instruments are created each year, relatively few enter widespread use, while traditional acoustic instruments still remain ubiquitous in many styles of music. This talk examines both technical and cultural challenges to the uptake of new digital instruments, including questions of sensorimotor skill and aesthetic familiarity. A particular area of focus will be the micro-scale nuances of interaction that expert performers come to rely on from their instruments, which place stringent demands on the specifications of real-time digital audio systems, including the requirement for low and consistent latency. The talk will conclude by presenting Bela, an open-source embedded hardware platform for creating highly responsive, ultra-low-latency digital musical instruments.

Speaker information

Andrew McPherson , Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London. Andrew McPherson is a Reader in the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London. A composer (PhD U.Penn 2009) and electronic engineer (MEng MIT 2005) by training, his research focuses on digital musical instruments, especially those which extend the capabilities of traditional musical instruments. Within the Centre for Digital Music, he leads the Augmented Instruments Laboratory (, a research team investigating musical interface design, performer-instrument interaction and embedded hardware systems. He currently holds an EPSRC research fellowship on the topic of designing interfaces which build on the existing expertise of trained performers. Notable projects include the magnetic resonator piano (, an electromagnetically-augmented acoustic grand piano which has been used by dozens of composers and performers worldwide; TouchKeys, a sensor overlay which transforms the electronic keyboard into a nuanced multi-touch control surface; and Bela, an open-source embedded hardware platform for ultra-low-latency audio and sensor processing. TouchKeys ( and Bela ( both successfully launched on Kickstarter (2013 and 2016) and are now available to the public via spinout companies.

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