Dr. R. Benjamin Knapp, Dr. Miguel Angel Ortiz Pérez, Javier Jaimovich, Niall Coghlan, Brennon Bortz, Tom Cochrane

Dr. R. Benjamin Knapp

Ben leads the Music, Sensors, and Emotion (MuSE) research group at SARC. His research at SARC focuses on the understanding and measurement of the physical gestures and emotional states of musical performers and their audience.

For over 20 years, Ben has been researching and developing user-interfaces and software that enable the composer and performer to augment the physical control of a musical instrument with more direct neural interaction. From his first article on the BioMuse system, “BioController for Computer Music Applications” in the 1990 Computer Music Journal to his 1996 Scientific American article on “Controlling Computers using Neural Signals” to his 2006 presentation at the International Computer Music Conference introducing the concept of an Integral Music Controller (a generic class of controllers that use the direct measurement of motion and emotion to augment traditional methods of musical instrument control), Ben has focused on creating a user-aware interface based on the acquisition and real-time analysis of biometric signals.

Ben received his Master of Science and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in the area of speech and sound coding for a multi-channel cochlear prosthesis. At the same time he collaborated with researchers at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) and began developing novel musical interfaces based on physiological signal acquisition. Ben then became a faculty member and eventually Professor and Chairman of the Computer, Information, and Systems Engineering Department at San Jose State University. In 1999, he left academia to become a director at the consulting firm MOTO Development Group where he helped develop new human-computer interaction systems for companies such as Sony, Microsoft, Logitech, and Teledyne. Ben is also co-founder of BioControl Systems, a company that has commercialized some of his interface designs. In the Spring of 2006, he served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at University College, Dublin where he is now a Senior Research Fellow working as part of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers helping elderly people live independent lives.

Ben’s most recent work at SARC includes collaboration with the HUMAINE (Human-Machine Interaction Network on Emotion) EU Network of Excellence where he is working with the group in Genoa to learn more about the emotional state of world-class violinists during performance.

Dr. Miguel Angel Ortiz Pérez

Miguel Angel Ortiz Pérez is a mexican composer and sound artist based in Belfast. Born in Hermosillo Sonora, he has been involved in a vast range of activities related to modern music and sound art. He has worked professionally as a composer, sound engineer, lecturer, score editor, promoter and sound designer.

Sporadically, he takes part as a performer in ensembles such as BLISS, Control Group and M&B; where he explores a vast array of performing mediums ranging from traditional acoustic instruments such as cello and trumpet, to laptop improvisation, performance with bio-instruments and hyperinstruments.

Miguel graduated from the Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, México under his mentor Eduardo Solís Marín before pursuing a Masters degree at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast under the guidance of Ricardo Climent and Pedro Rebelo. He is currently a PhD candidate at SARC, focusing the use of biosignal interfaces for musical applications under the supervision of Professor Michael Alcorn and Dr. R. Benjamin Knapp.


Javier Jaimovich

Javier Jaimovich is a researcher from Santiago, Chile, interested in the development of new interactive instruments for musical expression.

After completing his BA in Music Technology at Universidad de Chile in 2004, Javier was offered a position as Teaching Assistant in the same University, where he worked during 3 years before leaving to pursue an MA in Sonic Arts at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s University Belfast. Currently, Javier holds a lecturing position (with leave) at Universidad de Chile, where he is expected to return after finishing his postgraduate studies.

In Belfast he completed his MA, studying topics as psychoacoustics, surround sound, programming for musical applications and interactive performance systems (Ground Me!). For his dissertation he specialized in pattern recognition of physiological signals in music performers. Currently, Javier is a PhD candidate at SARC researching the use of biosignals and emotion for musical performance, within the MuSE research group.

Besides his academic work, Javier performed and recorded his first album with the band Sicotropa in Chile, and has worked as a sound engineer in different productions, including the experimental album Experiencias Sonoras.


Niall Coghlan

Following many years in the dark depths of the music business, Niall eventually emerged into the sunlight to teach sound engineering and DJ skills, as well as kick starting music technology projects for urban youth.

This led him to SARC in Belfast where he became a Master of Sonic Arts and began to focus on biosignals as a means of human-computer interaction.  His PhD research continues this exploration and applies it in the fields of music, emotion, interactive art, interface design and assistive technologies.

He is also a researcher with the EU funded CAPSIL consortium, roadmapping future directions for research and policy collaboration between the EU, US and Japan in the field of assisted living solutions for older adults and technologies for independent ageing.

Niall continues to produce and DJ contemporary electronic music under his alter-ego 2BiT, with releases on the Alphabet Set, Invisible Agent and !kaboogie labels, as well as live performances all over Europe.

He is also a contributor to ‘cool nerdy music tech stuff’ blog AudioLemon and dubstep editor for UK dance music magazine Core.

Brennon Bortz

Brennon Bortz, who joined the MuSE team in 2009, is an American researcher and composer. He is interested in new developments and creative applications in mobile, multiuser environments of the various affective technologies the MuSE cluster is developing.

Originally born in a small town near Amarillo, Texas and later transplanted to northern California, Brennon then moved to Los Angeles in 1998 to pursue his B.A. and M.A. in music composition and theory at Pepperdine University and the University of California, Riverside, respectively. He has studied composition under Byron Adams, Paulo Chagas, Timothy Labor and N. Lincoln Hanks, as well as conducting under Milton Pullen and Thomas Osborne. At UC Riverside, Brennon was also a Gluck Fellow and instructor of musicianship. It was here that Brennon first began to explore electronic music. During a symposium that Brennon coordinated with Paulo Chagas, Brennon was introduced to the SARC programme and facilities, and made plans to pursue a second M.A. there.

During his M.A. work at SARC, Brennon studied composition, psychoacoustics, and instrument design. His dissertation work culminated in the production of a suite of technologies connecting biosignal acquisition sensors (Galvanic Skin Response, Electrocardiogram, and Electromyogram) to the iPhone platform. This work introduced Brennon to the MuSE research cluster. Brennon began the Ph.D. programme at SARC and continued to work with MuSE. There Brennon is extended these iPhone/iPad technologies, as well as developing innovative ways to extend and apply MuSE technologies creatively in mobile environments.
Also while in Ireland, Brennon worked as a software researcher for the Centre for Affective Solutions for Ambient Living Awareness (CASALA) at Dundalk Institute of Technology in Dundalk, Ireland. Here, Brennon was part of a team focused on bridging on-going basic and translational ICT and gerontology research in Ireland with emerging ambient living awareness market needs, benefiting partner companies by supporting innovative product commercialisation pathways.

Brennon moved with Ben Knapp to Virginia Tech to continue his Ph.D. studies (now in computer science) there where is now the head of lab for Ben’s research group in the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology. His current work focuses on the development of technologies to assist children with autism in emotion recognition and regulation through sonic/musical feedback.

Beyond his research and work, Brennon enjoys rock climbing, photography, travel, whiskey, and home-brewing.

Tom Cochrane

Tom Cochrane joined MuSE in September 2010 to pursue an individual postdoc project entitled ‘The Mood Organ: Putting theories of musical expression into practice’. It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. His background is as a philosopher and to a lesser extent as a composer, specialising on the relation between music and emotions.

Tom has a myspace music page with a few old compositions here. And an academic bio here with links to his publications.

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