The Prosthetic Instruments

What would musical instruments designed for dancers look like?

The Instruments are easily removed and used as handheld instruments. Here, Soula Trougakos dances with two of the Ribs in her hands. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.
The Instruments are easily removed and used as handheld instruments. Here, Soula Trougakos dances with two of the Ribs in her hands. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.

They would allow for new forms of movement as well as music performance, and would be played not only with the hands but with the dancer’s whole body. They would become an extension of the body, figuratively and literally, bringing into being new opportunities for gestural expression. They would fill roles as costume, staging, lighting, performer.

Motion sensing is integrated into all of the Prosthetic Instruments. Here Sophie Breton prepares to to whip her head around while wearing the Visor. This will send sound spinning throughout the performance space. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.
Motion sensing is integrated into all of the Prosthetic Instruments. Here Sophie Breton prepares to to whip her head around while wearing the Visor. This will send sound spinning throughout the performance space. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.
The Prosthetic Ribs have touch-sensitive panels along their length. Here Marjolaine Lambert plays the Ribs while they are worn by Sophie Breton.  Photo ©Michael Slobodian.
The Prosthetic Ribs have touch-sensitive panels along their length. Here Marjolaine Lambert plays the Ribs while they are worn by Sophie Breton. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.
The Instruments are easily removed and used as handheld instruments. Here, Soula Trougakos dances with two of the Ribs in her hands. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.
The Instruments are easily removed and used as handheld instruments. Here, Soula Trougakos dances with two of the Ribs in her hands. Photo ©Michael Slobodian.

The Prosthetic Instruments were designed to provide real-time musical performance through the use of wireless sensor technologies – but they do much more than this. They also allow for an exploration of new forms of gestural performance. Whether held in the hand or attached to the body, the forms of the instruments suggest postures, movement, and choreography. When wearing the instruments, the dancers are forced to change their kinaesthetic conception, coming to terms with the limitations and possibilities of these strange new appendages.

The structure of the Ribs and Visors consists of layers of laminated acrylic, creating a form which is lightweight yet strong and rigid.
The structure of the Ribs and Visors consists of layers of laminated acrylic, creating a form which is lightweight yet strong and rigid.
A small Rib with its cover removed, showing the way in which the electronics enclosure is integrated into this structure.
A small Rib with its cover removed, showing the way in which the electronics enclosure is integrated into this structure.
A total of 46 instruments were created over the course of the design and manufacturing process, of which an assortment are pictured here.
A total of 46 instruments were created over the course of the design and manufacturing process, of which an assortment are pictured here.
Most of the technologies used in the Prosthetic Instruments were developed at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Lab. The capacitive sensing in particular went through a dramatic transformation, moving from copper panels to transparent plastic touch sensors connected with thin copper wires. Pictured here is the evolution of the Ribs, moving clockwise from the initial copper pads on top left  to the final version on the bottom left.
Most of the technologies used in the Prosthetic Instruments were developed at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Lab. The capacitive sensing in particular went through a dramatic transformation, moving from copper panels to transparent plastic touch sensors connected with thin copper wires. Pictured here is the evolution of the Ribs, moving clockwise from the initial copper pads on top left to the final version on the bottom left.

Credits

Concepteurs et développeurs d’instruments | Instrument Designers and Developers : Ian Hattwick, Joseph Malloch, Marlon Schumacher
Directeur de la recherche et du développement | Director of research and development : Marcelo Wanderley
Directrice artistique | Artistic director : Isabelle Van Grimde
Directeur musical | Musical director : Sean Ferguson
Créé avec et dansé par | Created with and performed by : Sophie Breton, Soula Trougakos
Costumes : Pascale Bassani
Acknowledgements
Funding provided by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture, the McGill Dawson Chair (Wanderley), and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology. Thanks to Anthony Picciacci for his assistance.
Publications
Ian Hattwick, Joseph Malloch and Marcelo M. Wanderley [2014]. Forming Shapes to Bodies: Design for Manufacturing in the Prosthetic Instruments. In Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, pp. 443-448, London, UK.

Performances

March 13-16, 2013 — Agora de la Danse, Montreal, Canada
March 21, 2013 — Théâtre Centennial, Lennoxville, Canada
April 10, 2013 — Schouwburg, Arnhem, The Netherland
April 13, 2013 — Forum Blanc Mesnil, Blanc Mesnil, France
April 18, 2013 — Concertgebouw, Bruges, Belgium