Distributed Mechanical Actuation of Percussion

Eric Sheffield‘s M.A. in Media Arts Thesis “Distributed Mechanical Actuation of Percussion” explored the collaborative design (with performers) of mechanically actuated percussion instruments. Control of the mechatronic system was shared and distributed among performers and between them and the computer. Performances by Shane Jones, David Newton, and Chris Sies, University of Michigan, Winter 2015.

Tile Array
Metal band

Candelabras (2016)

In 2015 and 2016, my Electronic Chamber Music ensemble responded to the theme of “Techno.” In collaboration with the students, we developed a series of instruments for playing Techno. The first iteration was known as the Tridents.

Photocells embedded in the Tridents are activated by the colored light controllers, which emit light pulses according to sequences programmed live by one performer. Performers can use the proximity of the controllers to interpret the sequences

In 2016, the design evolved. We felt that the performers should have more rhythmic autonomy, and wanted to update the design. We added a third sensor to each instrument for a total of 15 possible voices, and migrated from PVC pipe to steel and stained wood. The controllers are slimmer and more compact. Performers can play rhythms in any note value down to 16th-note triplets with coded buttons on each controller, all synced to a master clock.

2 Improvisations With Candelabras