Atau Tanaka


Suspensions, for piano and EMG interface, is a work by Atau Tanaka for solo pianist and electronics. Originally commissioned by Sarah Nicolls and premiered at the Huddersfield Contemprary Music Festival in 2009, it has been reworked in 2017 to work a widely available wearable interface (the Thalmic Labs Myo). The interface amplifies physiological signals from the pianists forearm muscles as well as position and orientation of the arms. The electromyogram (EMG) signal are electrical signals from the body resulting from the neuron spikes that cause muscle tension. The inertial measurement unit (IMU) in the device carries out motion capture of the pianists forearms. Together the EMG an IMU report on both the delicate, subtle muscular expression as well as gross limb movement. In the piece, the pianist’s acoustic sounds are shadowed by an electronic part that takes the sound of the piano as a point of departure, to stretch and freeze by means of granular synthesis – the digital processing of sounds into short grains that allow smooth, static reconstitution. The pianist performs both the acoustic and electronics parts solo, in real time, with the Myo interface capturing gestural articulation of the electronic part. By tilting the arm and exerting muscular force, the pianist enables a phantom piano to sound, in gestures off-instrument, realising the dream to shape pianistic timbre after striking a note, and for a note to sustain to infinity.