RPI musicians transform the musical experience with groundbreaking inventions

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Musicians at RPI are inventing new instruments that can be appreciated by both the hearing and the deaf.

It’s a concert like no other featuring three musical inventions on three different floors. The instruments allow people to not only hear the music but to also feel it.

It brings together those with and without hearing impairment. The music coming from the instruments can be heard by some but felt by all.

They play frequencies that dip below the audible level and challenges what music is and how it’s experienced. It’s something that can’t be heard with the ears but felt with the bodies, which is how the deaf perceive music.

“They’re relation to sound,” Tarek Atoui said. “It’s not going through the ears. It’s going through the body, through the head, through the bones and the skull; through the eyes and sign language.”

Atoui is a sound artist from Beirut in residency at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at RPI where he’s making music inclusive.

“We created a common ground for deaf and hearing people,” he said.

Helping him is Pauline Oliveros, a pioneer of electronic music, who is also an RPI music professor. She said the goal is to expand minds.

“Just to challenge the status quo,” she said.

One of the instruments starts with a drawing.

“With this conductive ink, so it’s an ink when you touch it, it conducts electricity of the body,” Atoui explained.

Another involves moving hands above infrared sensors.

“So when you’re standing on the platform, you can feel the sensations so that they can perceive through sensation what we perceive through our ears,” Oliveros said.

“It’s really addressing the whole wide open palette of what hearing could be,” Atoui said.

And there’s no telling what the future might hold.

“What will it be like to improvise music with a robot?” Oliveros positioned.

The only way to truly get a feel for the experience is by visiting EMPAC, stepping inside the walk-in organ pipe, and feeling the frequency.

It is open to the public and will be available all summer.

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