I’ve recently been working on an adapted version of the classic Roland TB-303, using a selection of servo motors and muscle sensors.
Recent clones (including the new digital TB-3 and TB-03 by Roland) have introduced the possibility of automation. Call me a purist, but I feel that this detracts from the idiomatic qualities of the instrument and the affordances of the interface that made it so successful when it was first adopted in the acid house scene. It’s not that the servos I’ve added recreate that approach exactly, but they maintain the physical context, and bring their own possibilities and limitations. There’s something absurd but very appealing about modifying this much-revered, almost fetishised instrument in this way. The coupling of this with biofeedback gives the augmented version a certain organic (or even cybernetic) edge that somehow feels quite fitting.
The aim of this project is to expand the potential of the instrument as well as hopefully bringing some added physical accessibility. The instrument can be played with one hand or muscles from an arm or leg, and adds the possibility of controlling all six parameters (usually only accessible two at a time) while simultaneously tweaking other instruments on stage.
The Augmented TB-303 saw its live debut at the AlgoMech festival in November 2016. I’m currently working on recording some tracks with it.
I began working with EMG sensors through the DMLab Challenge earlier this year, where I developed a synthesised version of a Javanese rebab, with bowing motion emulated by muscle movement.