Pluck Sound From Lasers

02006-11-23 | Computer, Guitar, Music, Technology | 5 comments

Wired News: Musician Plucks Sound From Lasers
Miya Masaoka is a composer, koto player and inventor of the Laser Koto — a tripod-mounted laser array that she plays by passing her hands through the beams, triggering a variety of sampled and processed sounds from her G4 PowerBook. Each flick of the wrist and twitch of the finger is interpreted as a stroke on the instrument’s virtual strings.

Here is a direct link to Miya Masaoka’s web site.
Interesting. If you click on the above link, there is also a YouTube video of the performer playing her virtual koto. I find it interesting that people are creating these more and more complex interfaces to create music from samples. I appreciate that it has become obvious that it is not fun to make music using a laptop keyboard. The keyboard may not be capable of translating the subtleties that handmovements are capable of. On the other hand, I find such pleasure in playing the actual strings and touching the wood of my guitar that I would never switch to a virtual laser guitar…

At some point we may well have these choices: a real French Burgundy, made from real grapes, fermented in real barrels, and crafted by real hands versus a nano copy of a great Burgundy. The look, smell and taste may very well be identical – but some occassions will, at least for me, call for the former. Or, a guitarist playing his guitar versus a software program creating music using perfect samples. Will we all instinctively feel the difference? Will we sense the human interaction, the work, the sweat, the living spirit? I mean, the creators of the guitar-software or the particular wine-replicating nano technology have put their spirit into their work – but that is different from the winemaker walking through the fields to find the perfect time for the harvest, mixing the grapes, testing and tasting the fermenting wine etc… or is it?


  1. Adam Solomon

    Yes, a laser guitar may not be nearly as nice to play, but from a technical standpoint, that’s not just amazing, it’s pretty damn cool! Plus, every instrument brings a unique, signature sound, so I would bet one could still find some use for a laser koto (or laser guitar, etc.) that produces a nicer, more interesting, etc., effect than the real thing does.

    heh, as for the question in the second paragraph…would it be considered naive or incomplete to suggest the purely naturalist viewpoint that, say, if the computer samples perfectly reproduce the sound waves that the musician produces (the breaths, the touch of the finger on the string, etc.), or if the molecular composition of the wine is the same as if sweat and tears went into it, then to the consumer there is no difference? That’s my instinct but it might not be the best answer–either too simplistic or, as I think, too unrealistically ideal…

  2. Adam Solomon

    Now I must point out, after watching the video, I really dislike the sound of the laser koto…not just too impersonal, but too harsh and robotic. Doesn’t at all seem to reproduce the sound of a genuine wood+string instrument.

  3. ottmar

    RE your first comment: I don’t think that can be assumed. Certainly to me the labor that goes into a wine or a wood-carving will differentiate it from a nano-produced copy. Whether that can be noticed/sensed by some or all will remain to be seen. For me it would be enough to read the certification.

    RE second comment: I agree the sound was not great – I have sat right in front of a great koto player and know what the instrument sounds like – but that could be due to the YouTube video’s sound quality.

  4. paula

    As for wine…the creation of great wine is the artistry of the winemaker. It is creation from the elements. I make wine, but even with the best grapes, my wine would fall short of Randall Graham’s. However, once the wine is created, It would be nice to duplicate it with nano tech…just so everyone would have an opportunity to partake. Just like prints and posters of Van Gogh…not as good as a real Van Gogh, but still nice to experience.

    Also would be nice to have this nano technology for those long space flights.

  5. Carol

    for lots of music it certainly wouldn’t matter much . That’s not the music I need. Your music is you.You can be felt in each note. The subtle nuances that bring us together. I have heard piano concerts where every note was perfection. Nah that isn’t REAL music.


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