​Sébastien Schiesser - Research and Development

Sébastien has been part of the SABRE project from the beginning. He started experimenting with sensors and attaching devices with scotch tape and modeling clay to his saxophone during his studies in Montreal (Canada) from 2005 to 2006. A publication about his experiments led to his participation at a NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) conference, demonstrating an enormous interest in this field of music technology.


When he returned to Zürich after his studies abroad, he took on a temporary position as the assistant to Jan Schacher at the newly founded ICST – Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology. After a while, he was offered a permanent position at the institute, specializing in the field of augmented instruments and sensor interfaces.


At the same time, Matthias contacted the ICST, expressing his interest in developing an “electric clarinet” (as he had called it back then). Open to how the instrument would look, Matthias’s only explicit wish was to eliminate extra equipment such as foot pedals when performing with live electronics. His main goal was more ergonomic control of the electronics via the musical instrument itself.


The first step for Sébastien in collaboration with Jan Schacher was to decide which kind of sensors he wanted to use. He chose very popular motion sensors (at that time) and a very innovative air pressure sensor, as well as key sensors that sent information on the fingering of the instrumentalist to the computer. This arrangement allowed the instrument to act as a synthesizer while using the information sent via the air pressure sensor and the key sensors.


At the first SABRE symposium in 2011, Sébastien presented his first prototype model of a bass clarinet augmented with the sensors. With Arduino parts attached to it, partially hot glued and partially attached with Velcro—not to mention cables hanging all over the place—the model was barely usable. However, the possibility of realization was proven, and Sébastien refined the instrument up to a third prototype, the prototype with which Matthias currently performs.


Another goal was to develop the SABRE into a marketable product, which could be used on all reed instruments, and not just bass clarinets. This led the SABRE team to come up with the idea of the SABRE multisensor, which has air pressure and motion sensors. From this point onward, Sébastien’s work changed from developing the augmented instrument to combining the features of the SABRE into a small portable device that would work on all clarinets and saxophones.


Today, he is almost done with the adaptation of the SABRE multisensor and spending more time on the SABRE remote and the Bluetooth connection of these devices to the computer. He is very excited about having a product that he helped develop on the market soon!