Composers who want to know what their hand-written sheet music will sound like may soon have a new tool at their disposal. Using a hand-held device hooked up to their tablet or laptop, they could “play” that music in real time, wherever they were – even if a piano or other instrument was nowhere in sight. That’s the idea behind the Gocen, a prototype device being developed by a team from the Tokyo Metropolitan University.
The Gocen is able to recognize staves, plus the hand-drawn notes on those staves, and the relative position of those notes. It can also recognize words such as “piano” and “guitar,” and will respond by playing the music in the sound of that instrument. Likewise, it can be instructed what key to play the music in, by adding terms such as Fm (for “F minor”) to the page.
The volume level of each note can be controlled by drawing it larger or smaller on the page. If users wish to prolong how long one note is played, they can just leave the Gocen’s optical play head paused over top of it. If they want to experiment with its pitch, they can then move the device up and down, as it’s still paused on the note.
Users could also just compose their music on a computer in the first place, although according to project leader Tetsuaki Baba, research has shown that composing on paper works well at the initial stages of the creative process.
The Gocen can be seen in use in the DigInfo video below.