Disabled Musicians use Music Technology to Perform Software Instruments with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Big Band
ORCAS ISLAND, WA – December 2006 – Disabled musicians from the Drake Music Project had an opportunity to perform with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) Big Band. Sample-based software instruments, combined with the latest music technology, are enabling people with disabilities to play and compose music independently.
— MIDI technology and Garritan Jazz/Big Band Sample Library bring out the “ability” in “disability” in a unique concert —
The Drake Music Project (based in Edinburgh, Scotland) provides the opportunities and resources to support their nation’s disabled community in their love of music. The Drake participants performed along with the RSNO Big Band using the sounds of the Garritan Jazz and Big Band library triggered with the “Soundbeam” and other MIDI technologies. Soundbeam is an ultrasonic movement detector that analyzes the movements of a player’s hand, fingers, head or whatever physical movement they have. This movement is then converted into MIDI data, which sends note information. Expression and vibrato can also be controlled independently with a switch or sensor that responds to finger or muscle pressure.
“Advances in music and sampling technology over the past few years have been astounding” says Brian Cope, Artistic Director of Drake Scotland. “People who would otherwise be unable to play or compose music can now express their innate musical selves. Being able to play an instrument in real time with an accompaniment has opened up a whole new world of musical possibilities. The benefits of using Garritan’s sample libraries are that the instruments can be articulated and expressed in real time. By using pressure sensors, a disabled musician can control the notes using a single switch, and use muscle pressure to control expression and vibrato.”
Musicians often take the ability to play a musical instrument for granted, but there are people who will never be able to even hold an instrument, let alone play one or participate in music groups. Yet those who have had strokes, or have cerebral palsy or other physical or learning disabilities — or who have lost the capacity to play an instrument at which they once excelled (e.g., trumpeter Clarence Adoo) — have learned that courage, dignity, and ingenuity can make a mockery of the word “impossible.” Today, people who never imagined being able to make music are doing so and learning, composing and playing in ensembles. “Making music in a group is one of the things that all people enjoy,” observes Brian Cope. “What we are doing gives this opportunity to more people.” The Big Band concert with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Big Band that took place on November 15th was a resounding success! The performance received a standing ovation. The concert also merited a news report on the main BBC news program and the RSNO were very impressed and are still talking about it.
The Garritan Jazz & Big Band library, combined with the latest music and sensor technology, has helped those with disabilities to experience the pleasure and life enrichment that participatory music-making provides. It’s people like Brian Cope and his colleagues at Drake Music Project who stress the “ability” in disability.
For more information go to: http://garritan.com/drake.html
You can find out more about the Drake Music Project and their pioneering work at www.drakemusicscotland.org.