Pratt DAHRC has launched an initiative to cater to the needs of the musicians and the society.

This introduction article has been prepared for the purpose of sharing ideas, references, and examples in order to facilitate discussion among the researchers.  Please provide thoughts and comments as the initiative and the article develops.

Teaching at Spotify 2016

Spotify Workshop WEB - DSC04121_Cropped

Jay Jie Qian, Kaydi Kedi Li, Chanel Zuhlin Shi, Clarice Assad, Lara Bello, Thor Kell, HyukJae Henry Yoo, and other participants at Spotify workshop

Pratt MID alumnus Chanel Shi and collaborating guest artist Clarice Assad were invited to teach an experimental workshop at the New Musical Instrument Hackathon 2016 at the Spotify headquarters in NYC in June 2016:


Background and Mission

Musical creations are highly integral to the historical, social, ethnic, and cultural aspects of the society.  They are influenced by, and in turn influences, technology, commerce, and in the more recent times, the digital connectedness of the global communities.  Throughout history, timeless classics in music have embodied and showcased all of these aspects plus others which are relevant to humanity in a holistic manner, reflecting the values and tastes of the society for the particular times and locations.

The causes to which this initiative will aspire to contribute are as follows:

    1. Enable musicians & performers to improve their music & performance
    2. Enhance people’s experience of music & performances
    3. Expand the boundaries of the Music Industry

Based on the deep knowledge and skills possessed by the DAHRC researchers and collaborators who are expert level musicians and instrument makers, further empowered by the state-of-the-art technology such as 3D scanning, 3D printing, Motion Capture, vast encyclopaedia of sensors, deep and wide investigation on the creation, the performance, the delivery, and the overall experience of the music will be carried out.  The primary outputs and results of the research initiative will be:

    • New Kinds of Music and the Corresponding Creative Process
    • New Kinds of Musical Instruments & Interfaces
    • New Experiences for the Audience and the world at large
Music Research Group - WEB

DAHRC researchers and collaborating experts for the Better Music + Music Better Initiative. From left to right: Kevin Hoil Yoo, Peter Argondizza, Jiaju Shen, Clarice Assad, Keith Kirkland, Feifei Yang, HyukJae Henry Yoo, and Irina Pantaeva

Feifei has recently produced a new music video for her new piece, Tug of War:


Feifei and her group produced and performed on stage at the Times Square Ball Drop Stage on New Year’s Eve on 2016/12/31.  Feifei appears at around 3-minute mark:


Music Research Group Discussing - P1070702 WEB

Irina Pantaeva, Keith Kirkland, Kevin Hoil Yoo, Peter Argondizza, Jiaju Shen, and Isabella Argondizza


Clarice Being Scanned - P1070667 WEB

Clarice Assad

Clarice Assad Being 3-D Scanned to become the virtual avatar of herself.

Feifei Being Scanned - WEB

Feifei Yang is being 3-D scanned and will be ready to enter the Virtual Reality world


The digital data will be used to create virtual avatars of the musicians, which will make it possible for them to perform in the VR and AR world and connect to the audience in a new way.

The most significant way for musicians to connect with the fans has been through the live performances, much like the old times.  Under the Better Music / Music Better Initiative, we will explore and develop new methods and experiences using the latest and emerging technologies.




Avant-Garde artists such as Bjork have been exploring new ways to deliver experiences.  Bjork’s new album is to be experienced through VR:





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Relevant examples of music creation which cross the cultural, historical, technical boundaries will be studied.

One notable worldwide phenomenon is that there is a strong movement and high appreciation of the Heavy Metal and Rock & Roll music being imported over and being played by the acoustic & traditional instruments from many cultures:

Steve & the Seagulls performing Thunderstruck by AC/DC:

The 35 milllion+ views is not a light response.  Furthermore, it is more likely a sincere appreciation by each viewer about the artistic quality of the music, rather than simply getting on the bandwagon for a trend.


The core value question here is, “Would a band covering Thunderstruck using electric guitar and bass have a better or worse chance at demonstrating their artistry compared to Steve & the Seagulls and the 2 Cellos?”  Surveys have consistently answered, “No.”  By covering a popular hit song with a different instrument, a new kind of experience is provided to the audience with sufficient level of freshness, if the essence of the original song is sufficiently retained with good taste.


Pipa, Gayageum, Kora, Mandolin, and Guitar Music

Rock & Roll and Metal music being played with ancient and lighter string instruments have been a strong trend & movement internationally.

A teenager Korean girl Luna Lee playing Hendrix, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, AC/DC with a traditional Korean instrument Gayageum has been a recent sensation:



Fode Sissokol from Senegal is the direct descendent of the creators of the Kora and the Kora music, who lives and evangelizes the instrument and the music in NYC:


Ancient Chinese Erhu playing Western Violin Music

The all-time classic Zigeunerweisen by Pablo Sarasate is performed by Sun Huang on the Chinese instrument Erhu.  Playing Zigeunerweisen on the violin is equivalent to playing Eruption by Van Halen on the electric guitar, in that every electric guitar player is asked to meet the challenge at one point.  In this example, the piece is performed on the Erhu, which only has two of the middle strings of the violin.  Hence, it’s the equivalent of arranging and playing Eruption with only three strings on a six-string guitar!


Rodrigo y Gabriela duo fills the entire Madison Square Garden with just two acoustic guitars, playing only instrumental music.

Unlike the typical reaction by casual observers that they might have their roots in the latin and Flamenco music, their actual primary and foundation influence is heavy metal, particularly groups such as Metallica.  This performance of Orion illustrates the connection well:


At this point, they have enough presence and following worldwide that they have started to exert influence back onto the metal music and its audience. Members of the group Metallica who had influenced them in the first place are honored to appear on stage together with them.

Rodrigo y Gabriela Joined By Members of Megadeth and Metallica at Hollywood Bowl Show



This phenomenon is an example of the various influences in music flowing across time, geography, and genre, eventually completing the full circle back to where it started, all made possible by deep exploration & high craft of musicians, in this case for Rodrigo and Gabriela.  The level of response by their supporting fans, who primarily support their creations at visceral level without the preoccupation of trying to fit their music into pre-existing categories which they can assign labels, is the assurance that thye are doing something original.



You Must be able to Bridge between Genres – Classical, Rock,  Metal, and Pop


Case Study #1: Lady Gaga & Metal/Rock Music

Even after the Grammy performance by Lady Gaga & Metallica, 99% of the public do not seem to understand that the musical core of Lady Gaga has been deeply influenced be metal music.  There is sufficient information available which can be gathered to demonstrate deeper & foundational connection between her music across all genres, and that pop music output is only one of her channels.

Grammy Award Performance Lady Gaga | Metallica
Metallica reveals how Grammy Awards duet with Lady Gaga happened


Even more interesting of a phenomenon is that Metallica fans have been producing the “Mic turned on” version of the performance for the people to hear the song correctly.  It speaks to the dedication of the fans, as well as the fact that the fans truly believe there is substance and quality to the music… just like Lady Gaga, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Steve & the Seagulls, 3 Cellos, and countless more musicians.

Lady Gaga on Howard Stern Demonstrating her ability to sing Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog

Lady Gaga Sings Sound of Music at the 87th Oscars Award

Julie Andrews Interview: Lady Gaga’s Oscars Tribute

Contrary to the popular perception, the structure dynamics of classical music and metal tend to be quite similar. It is demonstrated by this performance of Metallica’s One by Harp Twins Camile and Kennerly. Although the composition is a metal song, the piece arranged for and performed on the harp results in an output which can comfortably be played in many places where only classical music repertoire would be the norm.




Su – Korean Girl Guitar Funk Jam is a small internet classic.  She had taken the Doobie Brothers’ Listen to the Music and added her arrangement for the solo in this performance.



There are many great resources for music available on the internet.  Of particular and noteworthy are the teachers who provide guidelines and tips on not only technique, but also essential understanding which will allow leapfrogging of lifetime’s trial and error.  Such examples will be gathered and shared in order to increase knowledge.

To sum up the above examples into a teacher’s lesson, here is an example where Paul Gilbert explains the importance of rhythm in guitar playing, which is applicable to plucked instruments in general:


More updates to come, so please check back soon.