Rolf Gehlhaar, Paulo Rodrigues, Luis Girao, Rui Penha

    Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchComposition

    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Bibliographical note

    The website mentions the performance of Viagem. The Serviço Educativo da Casa da Música in Porto, Portugal presented a premier performance of Rolf Gehlhaar‘s Viagem as part of their Ao Alcance de Todos (Within Everyone’s Reach) project on 3rd April 2010. Author's note: - Significance -
    The disabled encounter many obstacles in their quest for self- expression through music. Most musical instruments are difficult to use: they are the result of hundreds of years of an evolutionary process that has favoured able-bodied skilled performers. Consequently, the development of musical activities with people that have restrictions in their physical or mental capacities can be severely hampered by the lack of instruments that can produce proper musical results without needing to be mastered by complex bodily and mentally processes. The same applies to the processes that underlie the expression and structure of “musical thoughts”, either through improvisation or composition - either dependent on notation of music or not. Not many composers or musicians have developed “musical languages” that are accessible to non-musicians to perform and yet make musical sense and offer a proper challenging, aesthetically rewarding experience for the listener and the player.
    Rigour and Originality -
    Contacts with some 10 institutions for the disabled and a psychiatric hospital in the environs of Porto were established. Clients of the institutions – of with the aid of their carers – were interviewed as to their musical interests, musical needs, abilities and willingness to participate in the project. Upon the basis of these interviews, the authors designed and built 5 prototype instruments. These were then subjected to rigorous usability testing by the clients, in part redesigned, before they were manufactured and handed over to the institutions at a day-long workshop to which other music educators and teachers for the disabled were invited to participate. This workshop was held at Casa da Musica in Porto.
    In total 4 different instruments/interfaces were developed:
    1) SuperString: a long semi-mechanised string instrument with ultrasonic sensors, to played by up to 4 people (with learning difficulties & little motor control) simultaneously;
    2) MATRIXX: a large nest for 'eggs' which would allow the user (blind & autistic) to construct different rhythms depending on which egg was placed where in the nest;
    3) InstrumentA: a sequencer with which complete polyphonic songs could be constructed. The usual complex sequences of menu choices of such software were replaced with a rotating pointer at current options; a choice was made simply by pressing a single (head, foot, arm) customised switch. The instrument was designed for 6 clients who had very little motor control and/or missing limbs.
    4) SOUND=SPACE based upon computer vision. The original SOUND=SPACE is to expensive and complex to set up. 5 of he institutions had access to a room with 4m ceiling height. A camera was mnounted on the ceiling and new software was developed to mimic the musical topologies as expressed in SOUND=SPACE.
    5) A Choir of approximately 60 members was founded by the team at the local psychiatric hospital. It rehearsed every week for almost 2 years and participated in the final project.
    Each of these instruments were hand made/programmed (in numerous mulriple) by the creative team and then given to the institutions to absorb into their musical activities. For almost a year, a team of educators was sent weekly to each institution to teach the clients how to play the instruments, in order to embed them properly into the routine of the institution.
    The final project was VIAGEM, an 'orchestral' composition constructed by the principal author, based upon instructions for playing the instruments that the creative team had developed for the team of educators.
    There is no documentation of any such similar project ever having taken place before ours.
    A comprehensive paper of this project will appear as a chapter in the book Serious Games edited by Bronac Ferran (Royal College of Art, Innovation Design Engineering) in 2013.
    A DVD of the project is available from the author and the score of VIAGEM may be downloaded at:
    Format: VIAGEM performance - orchestral composition on DVD and score
    Extent: 50 min performance

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