Waikato University composer partners with medical technology

19 October 2016

Martin Lodge

Associate Professor Martin Lodge.

University of Waikato composer Associate Professor Martin Lodge is leading a team that has created an interactive music installation as part of New Zealand’s first ever medical technology showcase open to the public.

The MedTech Silo6 Exhibition takes place in the Wynyard Quarter on the Auckland waterfront later this month.

MedTech is a leading medical research research centre based in the Bioengineering Institute of Auckland University. Dr Lodge was invited to use some innovative sensors from MedTech to create an interactive multimedia work in which live medical data is used to generate some elements of a musical composition.

“There are four audiovisual stations in the installation, showing the heart, the lungs, the stomach and the arm. At each station volunteers can be hooked up to a sensor that detects pulse, breathing, pressure or arm movement. These sensors tell four linked computers how to make changes to the musical composition in response to changes in the physiology of the volunteers at the time,” says Dr Lodge.

Dr Lodge formed a small team of PhD students including Teresa Connors from Canada, Xu Tang from China, and former University of Waikato student Oliver Stewart from Hamilton, to help create a new musical work that responds to the medical data received. Musical tohunga Horomona Horo made a special recording of traditional Māori flute music to represent the lungs.

“The composition has presented many challenges, and the result is very much a team effort. I am tempted to call it ‘organ music’ since it responds to organs of the body,” says Dr Lodge.

“The underlying idea comes from something I realised a few years ago when lying close to death in Waikato Hospital. As the days went by and I struggled to survive collapsed lungs, I understood that the human body is not a machine, but really an enormously complex and interrelated ecosystem. That’s why medicine is so complicated, but also why it can be so rewarding. I find music has the same qualities,” he says.

The MedTech Silo6 Exhibition will be launched on October 27 and will run from October 29 to November 6. The exhibition is open to the public on the weekends, and during the week will cater for school visits. Entry is free.

For more information contact Martin Lodge at [email protected] or visit the MedTech website.