Video-game tech hits classical music
Inside a darkened studio at Ball State University here, world-renowned classical musician Francois Rabbath stands surrounded by infrared lights.
The double-bass player is outfitted in black lycra fitted with technology that looks like something out of a sci-fi film. A black cotton sweatband with bauble-like fixtures rests on his forehead. Attached with double-sided tape to his joints, most abundantly upon his left hand, are dozens of tiny, reflective spheres. The garb is far from the formal dress of a classical musician but it suits Mr. Rabbath well.
"I look good in this costume, no?" he asks, patting a small, black-suited belly.
The form-fitting attire is configured so that computers can digitally record the virtuoso's skills through a process known as motion-capture. Best known for bringing characters to life in video games as well as in such films as "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Polar Express," motion capture will allow researchers to create an animated model of Rabbath's techniques for an instructional DVD titled "Art of the Left Hand."
"Francois is to classical music what Michael Jordan was to basketball," says Hans Sturm, a double-bass professor at Ball State, who counts Rabbath as both mentor and close personal friend. "Nobody else does what he does. And I doubt anyone ever will."
The state-of-the-art technology will preserve Rabbath's bowing and fingering techniques - his "fingering gymnastics," as Mr. Sturm calls them - so that others can analyze the master's approach to the double bass.
With assistance from Ball State's Biomechanics Laboratory, Rabbath is changing the art of the modern-day music lesson, says Sturm. Whereas most instructional books or videos employ a single camera to capture two-dimensional views of an artist, "Art of the Left Hand" will feature the Syrian-born musician's fingering techniques in 3-D through the use of multiple camera angles.