The Loh Down On Science

An engineer hopes to inspire musicians with a very strange invention

Queen Mary University of London / EPSRC

Classical guitarist Michael Poll tries out the experimental digital music cube.

Digital music is so square!   Literally!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Andrew McPherson from Queen Mary University of London.  

He's an electronic engineer – and a composer.  Combining his talents, he designs digital musical instruments.  The latest?  An eight-inch wooden cube.  Creatively called "The Cube." 

One side houses a speaker.  Another a smart-phone-type sensor.  Underneath that is a pressure sensor.  Both react to touch.  And inside?  A computer.  It interprets what happens to the sensors, and sends notes through the speaker.

McPherson is inspired by musical breakthroughs when someone sees a musical device in a new way.  Think:  electric guitar distortion and Jimi Hendrix.  Turntables and Hip Hop DJs.

He hopes the Cube will generate similar, let's call it "out of the box," thinking. 

How have actual musicians played it?  Well, one licked the sensor.  The spit generated a continuous tone while he tapped rhythms with both hands.  Rock on!

The results could pinpoint design principles conducive to creativity.

Or inspire a new video game.  Instead of Guitar Hero, Cube Hero!  We admit the idea needs work.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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