Electronic Music and Enablement

Exa: The Infinite Instrument
Inside VR: Exa the infinite Instrument

Making Music and Enablement technology

Enablement technology in making music is the application of new tech to diversify the amount of ways people from across the spectrum of abilities can make music. Whether with complex physical or learning needs, music technology now has a myriad of functionality that encompasses everything from sonar, facial recognition, virtual reality and the pitch, yaw and roll of your phone.

5 years ago in 2012 I started learning the drumkit in earnest. A few trips to Kasey Peter’s drum studio on the Ravenhill Roadand I began to feel more comfortable behind the kit, moving around the toms, getting the Amen break down and keeping the groove going through fills and frills. When back in the studio at home, I came accross the idea of hooking a keyboard through the boss loop pedal to record melodic loops I could jam along to. I started getting a feel for making loops, the styles of music that go with the drum beats, and my skills in drumkit and keyboard progressed slowly. Pretty basic set up, but worked for me, and I’m just glad I had understanding neighbours.

In 2013 I joined the Drake Music Project Northern Ireland. As an Associate musician with the organisation I get to deliver a range of programmes with communities and individuals, designing instruments in hardware and in Ableton Live.

If you are not familiar with Drake Music Project Northern Ireland, they are a charity that specialises in adapting technology to people to create music. Established in Newry, Northern Ireland in  1992 years working to assist people who would otherwise not have the ability to make music. An excellent team of people who have helped thousands of people to make music, and forever developing of how technology can open gateways to new opportunities for musicians of all abilities.
A community musician like myself, who specialises in percussion now creates on a day to day basis, compositions, recordings, editing, designing instruments, organising and filing sound. Facilitating a group of people and organising the huge amount of recordings that Drake Music can produce in an afternoon with a bunch of enthusiastic participants.

In order to do so I needed to get myself a copy of Ableton Live and get conversant with it. Not only conversant, but adept at manipulating the sounds and recordings, the midi information that needed to be sorted and presented back to participants in the workshop. On top of that, as a trainer now in Drake Music workshop techniques, I needed also while buried amongst all this tech to keep a group of people engaged in the process of compiling, sequencing and manipulation of audio and MIDI.

Using VR

In November 2018, Drake Music Project Northern Ireland, in conjunction with world-renowned The Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast partnered with The Hard Rain Ensemble to create an evening of music. The Sonic Arts Research Centre’s facilities include a forty-eight speaker array that can project and move sound around the space. The “Performance Without Barriers” project “VRIMM”, Virtual Reality Inclusive Music Makers initially worked towards an evening of music using Virtual Reality to manipulate sound. 
As technical assistant to Mary Louise McCord, a musician with  Drake Music, I combined the new feature of midi transport within the amazing VR application EXA, The Infinite Instrument, to Ableton Live using loopMIDI. The EXA software produced by Zach Kinster in Minnesota USA and created for Oculus rift and the HTC Vive virtual reality platforms is revolutionary in VR music by enabling instruments to be drawn in space and triggers assigned to midi notes or many instrument options within the programme’s default environment.

Arts Council Logo

Supported by the Arts Council Northern Ireland

In November 2018 I received a Support the Individual Arts Programme grant that enabled me to develop my work with Virtual Reality. “The Virtual Reality of Music” support enabled me to become portable and I invested in other music making programmes enabling many people since to create music within the VR and Ableton environment. I travelled to EUCREA Hamburg in March 2019 with Drake Music NI and SARC to present Performance Without Barriers at the Soundform International Symposium that represented musicians, developers and administrators working in making music accessible for special needs. 

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