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UT Arlington professor explores intersection of music and technology to manipulate sound

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: faculty, liberal arts, music

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A University of Texas at Arlington associate professor is pushing the limits of music and technology thanks to a new Research Enhancement Program grant that will allow him to enhance musical sounds with sensor-laden gloves.

Cavanagh

Dan Cavanagh, a jazz pianist and associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts, recently earned the UT Arlington grant to modify a pair of gloves with embedded electronic sensors. The sensors are designed to enhance and manipulate sounds of an instrument.

Cavanagh is hoping to build on open source technology to create software and hardware capable of creating a new dynamic for established musical genres.

“The equipment and software I’m looking at has been used in pop music for years, especially avant-garde pop music,” Cavanagh said. “It hasn’t been done a lot in art music. Jazz is such an improvisation thing. I’m curious to see how it can be combined live with that genre.”

Rick Bogard, professor and chair of the Department of Music, said his colleagues are eager to see Cavanagh’s results from what he called a new branch of research with electronic gloves.

“This is an area of technology which is new to the field of music, and I’m very happy that we can be on the cutting edge of this research,” Bogard said. “I know that Dan’s energy and forward-thinking ideas will vitalize this growing area of our department, and will bring positive collaborative research to the University.”

Cavanagh has already collaborated with the Department of Art and Art History’s Studio Create© program to develop a version of the gloves based on current open-source designs. Over the past year, Clint Niosi, a digital media specialist for Art and Art History, fashioned the gloves for use in sound design and acoustic art environments. Cavanagh plans to work closely with Niosi and Robert Hower, professor and chair of Art and Art History, to improve the design to include bend and rotation sensors.

The changes will allow for the creation of unique combinations of moves and sounds, as Cavanagh plays piano. The moves could drastically alter what his audience hears and enable him to create a more fluid manipulation of notes than today’s electronic keyboards allow.

“I was exploring the history of synthesizers,” Cavanagh said about his project’s genesis, “and there hasn’t been a natural way to control sound. It’s all been very artificial with buttons or diving down to a menu.”

Cavanagh was recently appointed to the newly created position of director of Music Industry Studies, which includes the music media and music business areas within the Music Department. He hopes to have a working prototype by December and intends to debut his creation in a spring 2016 recital. He will utilize hardware and software components available online, but his prototype will extend original designs currently available.

“I think I’ll be able to find all the components I need online, then modify those existing plans or parts to do what I need them to do,” he said.

Additionally, Cavanagh sees application for his project in aiding budding conductors in a symphony or musicians eager to move beyond their repertoire of standards. 

-- James Dunning, contributing writer

About the College of Liberal Arts

The College of Liberal Arts includes 12 departments that house disciplines in the arts, with national accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art & Design and The National Association of Schools of Music; the humanities, the social sciences, and the areas of communication, languages and linguistics. More than 4,700 students are enrolled in its 27 undergraduate and 19 graduate degrees, which include the master’s of fine arts and Ph.D. programs in English, Transatlantic History and Linguistics. Students and faculty have been recognized nationally and internationally for their research scholarship and creative activity. Visit www.uta.edu/libarts to learn more.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at http://www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.