Karl Jóhannsson joins IIL this summer

An intelligent txalaparta percussion instrument is born
Mon Jul 04 2022

A warm welcome to Karl Jóhannsson who is working with us this summer researching a percussion instrument called txalaparta.

Man sitting in front of a wooden percussion instrument, holding large wooden sticks. Yellow and blue shelving system in the background.

Karl Jóhannsson with his work in progress.

About Karl

My name is Karl and I am a MSc student in Computer Science at Reykjavík University, as well as studying at the FÍH school of music. I have a BA degree in psychology and philosophy from the University of Iceland and, subsequently, worked in software development for 14 years, ranging from web design to app development.

About the project

My main project this summer will be teaching a computer to play an ancient Basque percussion instrument named txalaparta. It is typically played simultaneously by two players improvising in a call-and-response fashion and the goal is to get a computer to play along with a human txalaparta player. The instrument consists of a few long wooden planks that are beaten by special batons, which we have placed sensors on to abstract the human playing into data. The data is then fed into a system that processes it, learns its patterns, and responds with a prediction of when the next hit should be and which player will perform it. If all goes well, the computer will play along with a human txalaparta player in a convincing manner.

What is txalaparta

We’re very excited to see how that turns out as we will continue working with this idiophone instrument this year, studying the planks and sticks as well as the system that Karl is now working on. For those of you who don’t know the instruments, here are some cool videos we found on Youtube: