Synthetic Twin is an exploration of physicality and communication in music. The sound world is entirely electronic, generated from two instruments designed specifically for this piece. These instruments, called Rooks, are an extension of standard performance techniques for percussionists. Infrared sensors interpret hand movement, while a contact microphone provides subtle rhythmic control. Spatially, the quartet is divided into pairs with two performers standing on either side of each instrument. This orientation creates two “twin” layers. Each individual pair can rely on visual and gestural communication, while the pairs collectively must use sonic cues to effectively generate the music.


Instrument Design

The instruments, called Rooks, feature three sections. An infrared sensor (Sharp GP2Y0A21YK) reads the height of a hand above it. A capacitive touch board (designed with Fritzing) features two touch strips, each of which sense finger placement (using four Adafruit MPR121 chips). And the last section uses a contact mic to provide more rhythmic content. The Rooks are powered by two microcontrollers – an Arduino Uno, which processes data from the infrared and capacitive sensors, and a UDOO board, which runs Pure Data software to generate the sounds. The body of the instruments were designed using Inkscape and laser cut by Ponoko.


Composition Details

Completed in 2016 and premiered on April 19th, 2016 by the Kansas University Percussion Group at Swarthout Hall in Lawrence, KS. The piece was commissioned by the Kansas University Percussion Group.



Percussion Quartet and Electronic Instruments



~10 minutes


Performers: Sandbox Percussion