Tiny Motors Enable Experimental Piano Performance

Just when you think you’ve seen every possible way to play the piano, [Alessandro Perini] came up with a new one. In this piece, written for the percussionist [Irene Bianco], hand-held motors become a tangible interface between composer, electronic music equipment, and the performer.

The performance involved ten small disc motors, held above the strings by a wooden frame. The motors are controlled by a Arduino Nano, which turns the motors on or off based on MIDI commands from a computer. However, the performance is not entirely automated. [Irene] wears a pair of contact microphones on her fingers, which she moves around inside the piano to capture the sounds of the strings vibrating in harmony with the motors themselves.

[Alessandro] has been kind enough to share a tutorial on how to recreate the hardware and software behind the performance for those keen to create similar work of their own. As with any musical endeavour, MIDI can always make it better. Video after the break.

10 thoughts on “Tiny Motors Enable Experimental Piano Performance

  1. Yeah, the atonal isms of academia. Most any mic is a contact mic if placed on the source. Her fingers are miked and they interact with the strings including a screeching motion like a finger rubbing a wine glass. It’s possible to make a string to vibrate longitudinally that way, it’s much higher in pitch than the normal mode of vibration.

    Scraping bass strings may cause the Tardis to move unpredictably.

  2. Totally read the tape on their arms as muscle sensors.

    For some interesting wired up pianos check out Grandbrothers.
    Quite a good example of hacking taken to the professional level. They built really nice custom solenoid actuators complete with LEDs for debugging, neutrik connectors etc.

    If I read what’s happening in some of the videos they were actually using a coil as an electromagnet to directly vibrate the strings.


  3. Here I am in 2020 only one (small) music festival was maintained amid the pandemic. I’ve seen a woman playing the piano with many accessories put insides to change its sounds. Very soothing and impressive performance with sounds that were akin to an electronic instrument even if nothing but acoustic instruments (piano and drumming sticks) were used here.

    Happy to see that experiments are undergoing in this area.

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