The Worlds first Multi-player Networked Indian Drum
By Ajay Kapur, Ge Wang, & Perry Cook
Princeton University SoundLab
The Traditional Indian Dholak
The Dholak is a barrel shaped hand drum originating in Northern India. It has two membranes on either side of the barrel, creating higher tones on the smaller end, and lower tones on the larger end. The smaller side has a simple, single layer membrane, where as the larger side has dholak masala (a composition of tar, clay and sand) attached to the inside of the single layer membrane, to lower the pitch and produce a well defined tone. The dholak can be tuned in two ways depending on the type of drum. The traditional dholak are laced with rope, so tuning is controlled by adjusted by a series of metal rings contolling tightness of the rope. Modern dholaks have metal turnbuckles which are easily adjusted for desired tone.
Project Description and Goals
The purpose of this project is to use technology to create a real-time instrument that models the Dholak. This Electronic Dholak (known as the EDholak) has digitizing sensors, custom positioned to traditional Dholak technique, which converts finger strikes to binary code which computers can recogize. These signals are then used to trigger real-time sound and graphics. We also wish to take advantage of the collaborative nature of the traditional drum and explore building a multiplayer networked controller.
The design of the Electronic Dholak is inspired by the collaborative nature of the traditional drum. Two musicians play the EDholak, the first
striking both heads of the double-sided drum, and the second keeping time with a “Digital Spoon” and manipulating the sounds of the first player with
custom built controls on the barrel of the drum and in software. We further explored multiplayer controllers by networking three drummers playing two
EDholaks at the two geographically diverse sites.
Finger strikes are captured by five piezo sensors (three for the right hand and two for the left hand) which are stuck directly on the the EDholak’s drum skins. Sensors are placed in positions which correlate to tradional Indian drumming. The left drum-skin had captures Ga and Ka strokes, while the right hand drum-skin captures Na, Ta and Ti strokes.
All piezo triggers are converted to MIDI by the Alesis D4 8-channel Drum trigger box. The Controller Box is built using a Parallax Basic Stamp which converts all sensor data to MIDI. When two EDholaks are used in distinct locations, MIDI signals are transferred using GIGAPOPR and then processed and then merged together by an Alesis D4.
The EDholak world premiere was at New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME 2003), in a networked concert between Mcgill University (CANADA) and Princeton University (USA). The EDholak is featured in an excerpt from this networked performance, known as The Gigapop Ritual.
Kapur, A., Davidson, P., Cook, P.R., Driessen, P.F., and W.A. Schloss. "Digitizing North Indian Performance", Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference. Miami, Florida, November 1-7, 2004.
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