Interaction with musical polytempi

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There are many musical styles that employ polyrhythms, in which different beat patterns are superimposed (for example, superimposition of 3/4 time and 6/8 time is a simple orchestration technique that adds complexity to classical music). It is also possible to create dramatic musical effects with musical parts that are relatively faster or slower - perhaps by small amounts, such that they shift in phase over a period of time. Exploration of musical polytempi has only become possible with the use of mechanical aids, such as Conlon Nancarrow's use of player pianos, or Steve Reich's use of tape recorders.

This project created a system that allows parts to have their tempi changed dynamically by a conductor during performance, rather than simply defining set tempi for each part. A novel musical visualisation indicated the relationship between parts in terms of phase shift, allowing the conductor to vary the musical tension and resolution of subtle polytemp effects. The tempi were controlled by a gesture controlled based on a full body motion tracking system.

Nash, C. & Blackwell, A.F. (2008). Realtime representation and gestural control of musical polytempi. In A. Camurri, S. Serafin and G. Volpe (Eds), Proc. 8th Int Conf on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME'08). Genova Italy June 4-8, pp. 28-33.

Crucible project team:

Crucible Theme: Music technology