3D Collaborations Build New Worlds for Musicians

3D Collaborations Build New Worlds for Musicians

In 2017, Stony Brook graduate student and ethnomusicologist Jay Loomis and assistant professor of computer science Roy Shilkrot teamed up to secure a grant to create 3D printed replicas of ancient wind instruments.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Roy Shilkrot, left, and grad student and ethnomusicologist Jay Loomis collaborate on creating 3D replicas of ancient wind instruments.

The goal? To give museum-goers an opportunity to interact with rare instruments rather than merely viewing them through a glass enclosure.

Loomis had been interested in wind instruments since he was a boy in Wisconsin, when he was struck deeply by flute music wafting from his car radio. After he moved to Long Island, his thirst for playing dovetailed with an insatiable curiosity about indigenous musical instruments. He hoped to build such instruments, as a way of sharing aspects of Native American culture with the public.

In his travels as an academic, he encountered musical virtuosos, acoustic experts and computer scientists who shared his passion. That passion gained momentum when Loomis became a teaching assistant at cDACT, the Stony Brook-based Consortium for Digital Art, Culture and Technology.

Through cDACT Director Margaret Schedel, Loomis connected first with Shilkrot and later Hideo Sekino, a visiting professor from Tokyo Institute of Technology, who is associated with the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook.

In spring 2017, Loomis and Shilkrot developed a 3D scanner and used desktop and professional 3D printers to recreate playable replicas of wind instruments, including flutes, ceramic ocarinas and whistles of different shapes and sizes. An integral part of the process was to recreate the sound of the original instrument and mirror its physical characteristics as well.

The greatest challenge the collaborators experienced was in designing the cavity of the instrument, which was essential to recreating the authentic sound.

The results were encouraging but weren’t as precise as Loomis wanted. Schedel recommended collaborating with Sekino due to his interest in the traditional Japanese flute known as a shakuhachi. After she introduced the two musicians, Loomis was inspired to feature the instrument in an electronic piece he co-composed with Timothy Vallier.

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