MIT Media Lab., 20 Ames St., E15-494, Cambridge, MA 02139
Since 1986, the Hyperinstrument Group at the MIT Media Lab. has been designing intelligent, interactive musical instruments to measure and interpret musical performance and enhance and expand the possibility of a particular instrument. A series of hyperinstruments was designed, some based on existing musical instruments, others based on new models for musical expression, such as hand gesture. From 1986 to 1991, hyperinstruments were designed for virtuosos and emphasis was placed on measuring very subtle differences in interpretation and articulation from performer to performer, and between different performances by the same virtuoso. Since 1991, concentration has been placed on expanding the hyperinstrument model for use by amateurs not proficient on an instrument. An attempt has been made to create systems that stimulate the imagination and allow room for growth and learning, investigating how musical composition will change when instruments are smart and listeners can actively shape music. This paper will explore recent hyperinstrument experiments for experts and amateurs, and will discuss an opera project currently under development in which an audience of one hundred people will work together at every performance, using specially designed interactive instruments, to help create and perform a complex piece of music they have never heard before.