Jam Station, an interactive project created in ATLAS Professor Ellen Yi-Luen Do's Music Technology and Wellness class, is one of several installations being displayed at Maker Made 2020. The gallery show, which runs through March 30 at Boulder Library’s Canyon Gallery, displays "diverse and inspiring work produced by local makers," according to the library's website.
Jam Station promotes musical improvisation, also known as "jamming," among those who have difficulties learning to play instruments, said Pete Pascente, CTD master's student, who along with researchers Torin Hopkins, ATLAS PhD student, Wayne Seltzer, ATLAS technologist-in-residence and Kellie Masterson, developed the project. Jamming is considered difficult even for experienced musicians, he said.
"We wanted to allow people who know nothing about music to experience the joy of a jam - to collaborate and feel like they're part of a something a little bigger than themselves," Pascente said.
The station is a 7-by-4 feet rectangular PVC cuboid, whereby four instruments crafted from everyday materials are situated so that each jam member faces a vertically oriented neopixel display. Embedded sensors in Jam Station's instruments trigger complex and colorful light displays as collaboration between musicians improves, and these visual cues help novice musicians improvise music together.
"The instruments are designed to not resemble what we normally think of as instruments, so they're more approachable," Pascente said.
Initial survey results showed overall positive reactions to the experience, Seltzer said, with all six self-described "nonmusicians" rating their experience as "good."