Infinite Sustain Strings

Adam Schmidt, School of Music, Theatre & Dance and College of Engineering

Inspired by the eBow, Sustainiac, and Moog Guitar, I am working on a series of three projects involving the electromagnetic excitation and sustaining of metallic strings for creating music and art.

  • Project 1, Polyphonic Guitar Sustainer, investigates how I can create a cheaper alternative to the exorbitant Moog Guitar, and investigates what kind of music my colleagues can make with this typically inaccessible technology.
  • Project 2, GuitArt, reframes this technology as art – highlighting the high cost that music technology companies place on novel technology – the antithesis of my first polyphonic sustainer guitar.
  • Project 3, String Synthesizer, attempts to find a compromise between my first two projects and reconcile with the high costs of novel musical technology. 

This series of projects is deeply interdisciplinary as I draw from my backgrounds in Electrical Engineering, Performing Arts Technology, woodworking, luthiery, and visual arts. It is also inherently art-based as it involves music, design, and visual arts in an effort to create beautiful and functional musical instruments for the purposes of performance and display. I will explore the intersection between the performing and fine arts and update a pre-existing standard musical instrument – the electric guitar – by introducing complex and unique electrical engineering techniques, even taking it so far as to turn it into a new musical instrument, the String Synthesizer.

I will be using it as my Electrical Engineering Major Design Experience for my EE degree in Winter 2022, and 4 or 5 other PAT students will be taking it as well and plan on collaborating with me on the String Synthesizer project. All of these students bring skills in computer science, circuits, digital signal processing, and audio engineering. Outside perspectives will be critical in this context so that we do not become an echo chamber of ideas.

All three projects will be entirely complete and ready for presentation in March. The overall community impact I envision for this series is to showcase how an interesting engineering technique can be used in the context of art and music, as opposed to strictly scientific uses. This is an important lesson to extol because it emphasizes the inherently creative nature of engineering, and grounds its applicability to all facets of our creative and scientific world. In addition, it emphasizes the importance of using multiple lenses to look at a project to discover many possible artistic and practical functions. On a smaller scale, this project will also help unlock unique composition, performance, and mixing possibilities at an accessible level.