String Thing

String Thing, by Benjamin Dove, is a cello-like electronic instrument played by stroking or beating metal rods with the hands. The use of body gestures, variable and visible to the audience, avoids the “mechanical” and visually uncommunicative aspect of computer-based music performances.


Four parallel metal rods are each divided into a long and a short section by a bridge element. The pressure and position of the fingers on the longer rod section are sensed to control pitch and expression; pressure on the shorter sections controls velocity, attack and volume. MIDI software converts the data into sound and, through magnets under each rod, vibrates the rod according to the pressure it senses, thus returning haptic feedback to the player.

String Thing produces continuous pitch: notes bend seamlessly into each other. Light from a laser pointer above each rod, reflected as a dot on the player’s finger, is detected by a small webcam in the bridge; this movement controls the pitch.

Video of the prototype testing (wmv, 32mb).

Other work by Ben Dove: Audiograffiti.