Japanese Koto Brought Bang Up To Date Via Lasers

I'm going to try to write this post without mentioning laser-loving muso Jean Michel Jarre, but it could be difficult.  Still, Miya Masaoka has some serious gadget-music history of her own; originally outfitting her instrument of choice, the koto, with midi interfaces, microphones and infra-red sensors, together with a system of gesture-sensing wires binding her own arms during performances, she's recently moved into using lasers and a G4 PowerBook to recreate the 1,300 year old instrument.

 

Masaoka's laser koto consists of four "metaphorical strings", each a laser beam, mounted on vertical posts, and an array of infra-red proximity sensors that measure her proximity to the instrument.  All this data is sent to the PowerBook, which runs the appropriate samples from a bank of 900 specially-recorded koto sounds (and a number of environment ones that Masaoka has recorded on her travels) through a variety of software-based audio processing tools. 

Musician Plucks Sound From Lasers [Wired News]