Senior Project Presentation – Applied Physics

I’M STILL A JUNIOR! (I just started my Senior Project early)

This a video recording of my end-of-semester research presentation for my senior project.

This semester, I worked with Prof. Roman Kuc and Prof. Larry Wilen to develop a new way of approaching about acoustic and methods of transmitting live instrumental audio. My project was titled “Surrogate Soundboards for novel transmission of instrumental audio” and looks at how we can “transplant” the sound of a live instrument into a surrogate instrument. The motivating principal is to preserve the acoustical mechanics on the surrogate instrument so that both instruments sound identical. The device is prototype proof-of-concept of this idea.

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I’ve detailed the motivation of the project in previous posts but briefly: if you were to listen to a concert of a string quartet somewhere else, say in San Francisco…what would you do? You would probably find a live stream of the concert and play it through your speakers. And that is where the problem starts. Speakers are very directional – they send all frequencies in one direction. Contrast this with an instrument like the violin in which directivity is very important, especially at higher frequencies. A speaker is unable to recreate the spatial presence of an instrument, which is why listening to a recording of an instrument never sounds like the real instrument.

Is there a way we can extract the source vibration from the violin and apply the same vibrations artificially onto a “surrogate violin” located elsewhere? This is what I sought to answer in my Applied Physics Senior Project. It is a two-semester long research and I am very excited to continue working on the project next semester! In this video, I demonstrate a prototype that produces a violin sound when applied with the right signals but is still unable to capture the full behavior of the source violin.

Special thanks to Prof. Kuc for this encouragement and guidance. I met Prof. Kuc as a sophomore with a list of specific interests and Prof. Kuc has been a wonderful mentor in channelling my creativity and enthusiasm in the right direction. I would also like to thank Prof. Larry Wilen for his support and expert advice on the machining and mechanics of the device that I built. Also thanks to Nancy at Audobon Strings for giving away an entire violin body in support of my project! Next semester, the project will be funded by Yale Franke Fellowship in the Humanities and Sciences.

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