RE: Percussive dance sensors - request for any information

Bryce Hartford (
Tue, 1 Jun 1999 13:05:03 -0700

While searching for information such as you are looking for, from the movie
"Tap", I found this web site.
This site features many artists, but in particular, Al Desio. He invented
electronic tap shoes that were worn by Gregory in the movie.

I am quite intrigued with the concept of "zapped taps" and would like to
a pair of my own. I am looking to do this with as little cash outlay as
since I would also need to get all the other electronic equipment that goes
with the taps. Equipment like, synthesizers, remotes with battery packs,
speakers, a computer or two, etc.

Also, there was an incredible device I saw on a "Scientific Frontiers" show
Or perhaps it was "Beyond 2000". Anyway, this was a virtual drumset. The
was a professor at a university back east. The entire concept was so
He developed this equipment that would project an invisible "grid" of
infrared light
in front of the musician (the inventor, in this case). He would make
movements such
as beating a bongo, or strumming a guitar, or playing a violin, and the grid
detect the position, speed, and direction of the hands. It would then pipe
this data
through a computer and a synthesizer, producing a huge variety of musical

If a person were to have seen this, without also hearing it, one would
believe that
the musician were slightly crazy. But wow, what a cool invention. My
goes wild when I begin to think of this being used in a stage production.
But so
far in all my searching, I have not been able to find anything more on this
or it's inventor. Perhaps you could help on this one.

Bryce R. Hartford
Microsoft Commercial Internet Systems
Volt @ Microsoft
(425) 703-2255 ext. 23665

-----Original Message-----
From: Ross Allen []
Sent: Monday, May 31, 1999 12:09 PM
Subject: Percussive dance sensors - request for any information

This is my first posting, I'd be very grateful for any assistance or for

I run DanceAV, a percussive dance group (any form of dance where the primary
component is sound, normally of feet on floor e.g tap, irish hard-shoe,
appalachian clogging, step-dance traditions from canada, english clog,
flamenco, kathak etc.) and would like to explore the possibilities of
dancer's beats triggering samples etc.

My ideal would be to develop a complete instrument - a floor based
'drum-pad' large enough to be divided into zones much as the steel-pan drums
used in steel-bands. Ideally this pad would provide position and velocity
information for each impact to a system which would interpret these two
factors and fire off the appropriate MIDI message in real-time. This
'system' (application hosted on a notepad?) would allow sophisticated
control over the placing of the zones and the parameterisation of the
effect, e.g. increasing echo or changing the pitch as a boundary is
approached. My limited reseach has suggested than this is not likely to be
feasible but that is the concept!

More realistically I can envisage a small number of robust sensors (perhaps
those used in drum-pads) suitably protected feeding into a drum machine. I
have no knowledge of the sensors required or their characteristics
(including cost) so any information would be most welcome, as I am unsure as
to how I can proceed further.

Particular questions:
a) Has anyone done this already? They appeared to use a sequence of five(?)
mats in 'Tap Dogs', each one triggering a single drum sample, leads for
further info?

b) There was a sequence at the end of the film 'Tap' starring Gregory Hinds
where the sensors were built into the shoes and the sound was then altered
at a sound-desk. Unfortunately, I believe this was just the magic of
cinema, does anyone know?

c) I've been told that the sensors in drum pads are binary (ie off or on
when a certain threshold is reached), is this true? My problem is that
percussive dance isn't this discrete...a limited number of levels would be
fine but just on/off would be very limiting.

d) Finally I've heard of an impact-sensitive peripheral for the Sony
Playstation previewed at a Japanese trade-show for the home version of the
Japanese arcade hit bust-a-move (basically follow the on-screen disco moves
with your feet). Any more info?

Thanks for your time!

Ross Allen