Berklee Demonstrates New Music Therapy Technologies

By 
Liz Burg
April 6, 2012

Berklee College of Music's Music Therapy and Electronic Production and Design departments continue developing cutting edge music therapy software and hardware that extend beyond those offered for general clinical use. At The Future of Music Therapy: Training in New Music Therapy Technologies, Music Therapy and EPD students and faculty will demonstrate software allowing visually impaired individuals to create and improvise music with electronic instrumentation. Richard Boulanger, professor of electronic production and design and a pioneer in computer music and computer-based alternate music controllers, will showcase the latest advances along with keynote speaker Adam Boulanger. Adam is a Berklee Music Therapy and Music Business graduate who received his masters and doctorate degrees from MIT and now spearheads research and development in the intersection between music, mind, and health.

Open and free to the public, the symposium takes place on Friday, April 20, from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at Berklee's David Friend Recital Hall, 921 Boylston Street, Boston. Student developers will exhibit current projects while attendees gain hands-on experience through experimental demonstrations. New software packages will be given away to music therapy students and professionals who agree to pilot test these applications. A special station will feature what music therapy technology might look like in the future. Boulanger and his team of Berklee software developers will showcase their custom and "intelligent" music software written for the Windows PC, the Apple PowerBook, and the iPad. Throughout the day, musical performances will spotlight these systems in action—including the newest systems developed for the visually impaired. Attendees, of course, will be invited to play along.

What started as two classes from each department collaborating on a semester-to-semester basis in 2009 has evolved into a seamless cross-departmental collaboration that has resulted in new technologies that make music accessible to nearly everyone. Boulanger and his team focus on developing and designing technology that will empower everyone, regardless of their musical, cognitive, or physical limitations to play music solo or in an ensemble. Their systems feature "intelligently musical" wireless control from Nintendo WiiMotes, Rock Band guitars and drums, the laptop, iPad's built-in video camera (doing color and motion tracking), and custom BioSensor-extended instruments which use subtle muscle-motion to affect dramatic and powerful control over sounds, beats, and music playback.