Stanford students invent new music

April 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
On Wednesday, three Stanford students were selected to appear at an international music conference in Italy, the 8th annual conference, "New Interfaces for Musical Expression", will be held in Italy June 5-7.

The trio have developed a new kind of instrument that makes playing notes as easy as playing with blocks. Stacking blocks to make music; Deceptively simple, but a lot of hard work for these grad students.

"Yes!" they agree. "Yes it was!"

They're part of a famed program at Stanford called the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics -- at the forefront of the boom in music-making for the non-musician.

As evidence of the boom, grad student Hayden Bursk cites "Garage Band, things like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. They have just brought the idea of making music and composing and recording into everyone's home."

Bursk and his colleagues Steinunn Arnardottir and Nick Bryan call their shiny black box Cubeats - for making beats with cubes. Dropping one cube gives you a kick bass, two cubs a snare, and three a high hat. The beat is kept from left to right, across the board. And it's not just for drums. It's 3-dimensional.

"The second row could have your base sounds," Hayden Bursk explains, "here you could have a piano line, and on the third you could have some vocal sounds."

They're careful to point out that they don't aim to put the professional recording engineer out of business.

"...as though their experience is useless," says music science major Steinunn Arnardottir. "Not at all. It's just about making it accessible to more people."

As an example, Nick Bryan tells the story of a little drummer boy. "We had a young kid come in. He was 10 years old, and he just started putting cubes on the rod. He played drums, actually. And he goes, 'Man, I could never do that on my drum set!' And, for us, I think that was really gratifying."

Bursk sums it up: "So kids now will grow up to know that making music is going to be with either videogame systems or cellphones, or with computers, as opposed to people who grew up a long time ago believing you had to be in a studio with a tape machine."

------- Links -------

Cubeats Home

Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University

New Interfaces for Musical Expression 8th International Conference 5 - 7 June 2008, Genova, Italy


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