P-Bow: a profane electric violin and bow for use in Ambisonic audio environments

Cloud Unknowing, Sophie Rose



In 1977 Laurie Anderson created the tape-bow violin which used magnetic tape in place of horsehair on the violin’s bow (Anderson, 1977). We ask about how this may be implemented with modern technologies, such as Arduino, motion sensors, Ambisonic sound-fields, and nichrome wire. Similar to Anderson, we take a postmodern punk approach to this design to create the P-Bow, or Profanity-Bow. This design allows the user to have two independent sources of control, including linear controllers, binary controllers, direction, and speed. The P-Bow has three parts: the bow, a wrist-mounted enclosure, and the violin. We used 3D-printed enclosures, three Nano-style microcontrollers, two BlueSMiRFs, nichrome wire, buttons, 6- and 9-Degrees-of-Freedom sensors (accelerometer, gyrometer, and compass), aluminium flashing strip, aluminium plate, knurled steel, and an LM317 as a Kelvin sensor. It was programmed in C++ for Arduino (arduino.cc, 2019) and connects via system serial ports to Max/MSP, and Max-for-Live and Ableton (2018). We discuss two preliminary works to chart the potential of the P-Bow, Cockwomble (Rose, 2020) and Tubular (Unknowing, 2020). This paper discusses the design, construction and development of the P-Bow and an evaluation of the current design.

Keywords: Ambisonic; electroacoustic music; punk; interactive music; interface design.


Cloud Unknowing is a sound artist, sound engineer, maker, musician, and electronics enthusiast. He is studying a Bachelor of Sound Production at Box Hill Institute. Unknowing has worked in theatre and immersive theatre, installation, instrument design and building, and film. He often works with subversive themes with technical challenges, science fiction, and the retrofuture. In his spare time, he builds valve amplifiers, effects pedals, and collaborates with Sophie Rose.

Sophie Rose is a doctoral student at the University of Melbourne and contemporary vocals lecturer at Australian Institute of Music. She is a singer, extended vocal technique enthusiast, composer, improviser, performer, and maker. She explores the relationship between creative practice, interactive technology, and embodied cognition in her work. She performs and collaborates regularly with Cloud Unknowing and surrealist music collective Little Songs of the Mutilated.