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Electroacustic Meeting: Digital Music Workshops

By Myrian Desainte-Catherine, Gyorgy Kurtag, Philippe Guillem

For three years, in Bordeaux, France, the SCRIME (Studio de Création et de Recherche en Informatique et Musique Electroacoustique) Bordeaux 1 University/ ENSEIRB MATMECA and the Dolabip association (pedagogy of electroacoustic music for children) have been organizing the Electroacustic Meeting in January during the French national manifestation called "La Semaine du Son" (or The Week of the Sound). This event has three objectives:

(1) Work out new musical pedagogy with new digital instruments with classes of children from 3 to 10 years old .

(2) Demonstrate to scientific students the technological innovations in the domain of musical electroacoustic instrument making.

(3) Demonstrate for teachers the new musical pedagogy possibilities by using those instruments.

Workshops for classes of children from 3 to 10 years old took place during these events with around 600 children participating to these workshops. Each year, the organization is the following one. Each class is split into three teams which work successively with three digital instruments on a 3 hours period. Before this manifestation, teachers receive a formation to electro-acoustic music and digitals instruments, so they can work with their class before coming to these workshops.

This article focuses on two particular workshops that were made by Gyorgy Kurtag (SCRIME) with the HandSonic instrument (Roland touch sensitive pads) and by Philippe Guillem (DOLABIP) with the Méta-Mallette (Joystick Orchestra developed by PUCE MUSE in Paris). During these works we have collected numbers of video observations and built the beginning of a new way for thinking musical pedagogy.

HandSonic: Creativity thru dialogic communication 

This workshop uses The HPD-15 HandSonic, an electronic hand percussion multi-pad with triggering capabilities. Divided into 15 parts, the HPD-15 allows to play up to 15 simultaneously with a great sensitivity.

The objective is to connect listening with gesture quality. For that purpose, Gyorgy Kurtag proposes an access to the sound using pressure and uses short and very fast musical dialogs on the pad.

The configuration created by Gyorgy Kurtag on the Handsonic pad allows to drive synthetisers by an extremely fine control of pressure (several grams) on the pad.

The method of continuation dialogique is borrowed from the program "Continuator" created by François Pachet (SONY CLS). It allows to develop sense of continuation of musical flow. During the dialogs between the child and the expert playing on the pad, a transmission of experience takes place. The musician can alternatively play, improvise, ask or answer questions like in a verbal exchange. The expert shows always new examples of his own instrumental technic and adjusts his propositions to the answer of the child. They have to create a fluent musical flow therefore a continual exchange.

Experiments with the Méta-Mallette

The Méta-Mallette is a device enabling multiple players to perform live sounds and images thanks to video game joysticks, all connected to one single computer. It was designed in 2005 by the PUCE MUSE music company. Based in Paris, the company is also a resource centre specialized in "Live Visual and Virtual Music".

- Live, for playing  in concert these new digitals instruments so refined, precise, adapted to any player.

- Visual, for developing the hearing by the seeing. Increase the musical gesture and give to see something of the sound.

- Virtual, for creating illusion that sounds seem to move in the space.

- Music, for playing together a digital, electronic, and experimental music.

Méta-Mallette proposes a collective musical practicing. All players in the same place sharing the same computer.  A bit like video games with more of one player  but totally opposite to the common organization one people/one computer used in social networks or MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). Musicians are sharing a computer but also the same sound vibration in the same room. They can see and hear each other, talk together, make signs.... Even in this "digital world" human proximity is needed for communication.

Méta-Mallette suggests a multi-sensorial musical approach using simultaneously ears, hands, eyes, and brain. All thatcontribute to a best appropriation and memorisation of knowledge. Pictures can really help to increase memory capacities, and structuring knowledges. Each player can see his graphic trace linked to his musical gesture. He also can locate his graphic trace in a personal space of the screen. It's so easy to know who plays what even if sounds are mixed into the speakers.

A lot of users have contributed to the development of the Méta-Mallette (music school, musicians, teachers, handicapped persons, university, and orchestras) by relating and sharing their utilizations, problems or experimentations.

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