The Lattice harp
The Lattice Harp is a new musical instrument which challenges the separation of audio control and generation. The design is modeled after instruments such as the Zither or Hammered Dulcimer, but rather than using a unidirectional plane of strings, two perpendicular planes are overlapped, creating a lattice. At its core, the Lattice Harp is an acoustic stringed instrument with 16 tunable strings, 8 on each plane. It is also an electric instrument - with each string having a dedicated pickup and output. It also functions as a hardware controller; every string is connected to a microcontroller, which detects when two strings are physically touching. By monitoring these electric connections, the Lattice Harp can trigger 64 discrete buttons. Finally, by measuring the vibrational output of each string, it can be used as a 16 channel analog controller.
A traditional audio hardware controller is not inherently instrument-like or expressive. While musical mappings can be made for buttons or knobs, there remains a vast disconnect between controller and instrument. By marrying these two concepts, many unexpected, interesting, and musical effects result. The use of strings in place of buttons and knobs provides a familiar tactile interface for control which can be plucked, bowed or pressed, and where imperfections quickly become features. As a hybrid control device and instrument, the Lattice Harp becomes a sum greater than its parts.
A presentation on the Lattice Harp can be seen in the video below. You can also see a performance of a piece composed by Diane Douglas for the Lattice Harp here. In 2010, I presented a paper on the Lattice Harp at the International Computer Music Conference in New York City. You can read the paper here.