ReSounding: Bringing the University’s Musical Instrument Collections to Life

IT Innovation ChallengesStaff project based in IT Services

Michaelmas 2014 round

For more information, please contact<!–or visit the re-sOUnd page to find out more and download the app (iOS only)–>.



Virtual versions of musical instruments in the University’s collections will allow members of the public to play the instruments on their mobile phones by tapping, swiping, shaking, or blowing into the microphone. While the app will be available to users everywhere, locative technology will present users in the museums and the Bate collection with virtual versions of instruments near them.

Where possible the instruments themselves will be sampled to create playable notes. Where it is not possible to sample the instruments or isolate playable notes from previous recordings, users will be offered historical recordings and a playable version of a similar instrument. The instruments in the Bate Collection are accessible for sampling and in addition to being globally iconic instruments in their own right, can provide compelling alternatives to instruments in other collections. This has the additional benefit of linking the collections together: A visitor to the Ashmolean might be presented with an image of the Stradivarius “Messiah” violin, hear a recording of it being played, and then be offered a playable version of the Henry Jay violin from the Bate Collection – with an appropriate explanation of the substitution, and of course an encouragement to visit the Bate! In the Pitt Rivers, the recently digitised ethnographic sound collection will provide historical recordings.

In addition to linking collections, the app will be able to plug into other music making apps in order to allow musicians to utilise the instruments in compositions. SoundCloud and YouTube channels will be set up to feature these compositions.

We propose an initial set of 20-30 instruments, which could be expanded in the future with additional funding. Crowd-sourcing offers a potential future mechanism for expanding the collection with users submitting samples of their own instruments.

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