Designing Inclusive Interactions 2015

A musician wearing a glove with LEDs attached, sat in front of a laptop.
Musician Marylouise McCord tests her bespoke instrument.


Maker technologies such as Arduino-based micro-controllers and modular electronics hold significant potential to contribute toward reducing access barriers to music-making. As part of the Big Ears – sonic art for public ears initiative, in 2015 Performance without Barriers ran Designing Inclusive Interactions: a three-day design event, grouping disabled musicians from the Drake Music Project Northern Ireland with music technologists. Together, each group collaboratively designed accessible digital musical instruments tailored toward the unique aesthetic tendencies and access requirements of an individual musician. These bespoke instruments were then used by the musicians in two improvised ensemble performances in SARC’s Sonic Lab.  

As detailed in the Big Ears Evaluation Report, the event was an overall success, receiving positive feedback from audience members. The reception of the prototype instruments by the musicians was mixed. Due to time constraints, some instruments were far simpler than first discussed with the musicians, subsequently falling below expectations. In other cases, the opposite was true, with musicians impressed and happy with the resulting instrument. This event laid important foundations for Performance without Barrier’s later research projects, that further explore the application of maker technologies in inclusive music. 


  • Franziska Schroeder 
  • Michelle McCormack 
  • Koichi Samuels 
  • Brendan McCloskey 
  • Ray Hamilton 
  • Kim Ho 
  • Hugh Sheehan 
  • MaryLouise McCord 
  • Richard McReynolds 
  • Helena Hamilton 
  • Danny Todd 
  • Stephanie Jones 
  • Shane Byrne 
  • Sedelle Wagner 
  • Aonghus McEvoy 
  • Ruben Gibson 
  • Ronan Killough 
  • Edward Butt


The Drake Music Project Northern Ireland 

Research Outputs 

Performance without Barriers: Improvising Accessible Digital Musical Instruments. Koichi Samuels and Franziska Schroeder. Contemporary Music Review. 2019.

The Meanings in Making: Openness, Technology and Inclusive Music Practices for People with Disabilities. Koichi Samuels. Leonardo Music Journal. 2015.

 Big Ears Evaluation Report. Aonghus McEvoy. Unpublished. 2015.

Sample recordings of the performances. 

A video overview, featuring instrument demonstrations. 


This project was generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.