Research@Schulich: Eduardo Meneses

Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Eduardo Meneses is in the fourth year of his PhD in Music Technology. He will present his research on the GuitarAMI at this week’s Doctoral Colloquium.

Eduardo Meneses has a background as a classical guitarist, and has worked as a guitarist on album recordings and jingles, as a composer and music consultant, as a producer of tracks for several short films, as an instrumentalist and musical director for theatrical productions, and has participated in over 50 different opera productions in his home country of Brazil.  He is currently a PhD candidate in music technology at McGill University, under the supervision of Prof. Marcelo Wanderley. Eduardo also plays in B.E.A.T Trio with Alê Damasceno (drums + electronics) and Walmir Gil (trumpet + electronics). 


What made you choose McGill for your studies?

I was (and still am) very interested by the research coming out of McGill. The work developed in the Music Technology labs, and more specifically, at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory (IDMIL), expanded my relationship with music and arts. I wanted to be a part of this world.

How has being a McGill student influenced you and your research?

The university's structure and access to information have an impact, but the collaborative aspect I discovered at McGill has been the most influential aspect for me and my research. Being able to access people and make interdisciplinary research are critical in areas like Music Technology. The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) does a great job fostering these initiatives.

Explain your research in four sentences or less:

Acoustic musical instruments, although very versatile, have intrinsic sonic limitations due to their construction characteristics. For the classical nylon-stringed guitar, these restrictions include short sustain and the lack of sound intensity control after the attack.

The GuitarAMI is an Augmented Musical Instrument (AMI) I have developed that allows performers and composers to explore and modify any sound constraints imposed by the classical guitar's physical construction. It is also possible to use the AMI to control any performance aspect such as lights, video, other musical sounds or instruments.

What led you to this particular topic?

During my undergraduate studies in music composition, one of my teachers introduced me to Pure Data, a visual music programming software. More than designing my own sounds, I got interested in exploring how this particular software could be used to modify complex instrumental sounds. This curiosity led me to my master's in music technology, and on to my current position as a Ph.D. student.

What is new in this research?

Most augmented musical instruments – instruments created by using sensors and actuators in acoustic instruments – aim to expand the possibilities of the acoustic counterparts by adding new features. The GuitarAMI's goal is to modify characteristics already present in the acoustic instrument, simultaneously allowing the performer to control these new behaviours organically. As a research by-product, we also expand the understanding of how performers interact with their musical instruments.

Current GuitarAMI Prototype. (a) Processing unit with embedded microprocessor and visual feedback; (b) GuitarAMI Wi-Fi sensor module and guitar body.

Were there any findings that you found particularly surprising?

It is interesting to note that both performers and musical instruments have limits regarding the gestural possibilities during the performance, and the performer's limitations vary significantly among individuals. This information was already known, but the variance between classical guitar performers is surprising.

What are the practical implications of your research?

There are practical constraints for digital musical instrument designers, who should not assume that a particular gesture that is physically possible is useful in performance.

What are your next steps?

I plan to graduate in 2020, and continue to research augmented instruments and human-computer interaction.

What advice would you give to new students in your program?

Talk to people from both inside and outside your research department. CIRMMT, as well as other spaces dedicated to interdisciplinary research, are great places to meet performers, composers, music technologists, engineers, philosophers, neurologists, otolaryngologists, etc. Talking to someone from a different research area can expand your horizons.


Where is your favourite place to study?

CIRMMT and IDMIL.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I go to Parc La Fontaine, bike anywhere on the island, and find new parks to BBQ in during the summer.

What is your earliest musical memory?

I remember listening to a samba LP with my mother as she cleaned the house (with me trying to help).

If you hadn’t ended up in music, what would your alternate career path have been?

A computer engineer.

What was the last book you read?

Boulez on Music Today (in Brazilian Portuguese).

If you were offered a return plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

With a round-trip ticket (to get back to Canada at the end of the trip), I would go to Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. I’ve always want to visit that island - a quick Google image search will answer the "why" part!

If you could invite any four notable figures from history (or alive today) to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

I would invite John Cage, Buddy Guy, Joseph Haydn, and Luciano Pavarotti. The reason is that I don't like boring dinners, and they are all musicians known for their sense of humour.