Andrew McPherson

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Now Lecturer in Digital Media in the Centre for Digital Music; Queen Mary, University of London.


  • Ph.D. Music Composition, University of Pennsylvania, 2009
  • M.Eng. Electrical Engineering, MIT, 2005
  • S.B. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT, 2005
  • S.B. Music, MIT, 2004


I am a post-doctoral researcher in the Music and Entertainment Technology Lab at Drexel. My work is supported by a "Computing Innovation Fellows" grant administered by the Computing Research Association and sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Before coming to Drexel, I completed my Ph.D. in music composition at the University of Pennsylvania. My research aims to bridge the gap between music and engineering, developing hybrid acoustic-electronic instruments and new performance interfaces for use by performers and composers, and studying the nature of creative expression from a quantitative computational perspective.

I did my undergraduate and Master's work at MIT, where I was a double major in music and electrical engineering. My engineering work focused on signal processing and analog circuits, with a particular focus on audio systems. My Master's thesis, completed in collaboration with John Harrison and Barry Vercoe at the MIT Media Lab, concerned the development of a system of interconnectable physical blocks for children to explore music and audio processing.

My compositions include orchestral, chamber, and solo instrumental music as well as pieces involving electronically-enhanced instruments. For samples of my music and information on upcoming performances, please see my website.

Research Interests and Projects:

  • Electronically-Augmented Piano: The acoustic piano is a percussion instrument: felt hammers strike steel strings, causing them to vibrate. As a result of centuries of development, the piano has a rich, vibrant sound and tremendous versatility; on the other hand, it lacks the degrees of performer control commonly found in electronic synthesizers. In particular, once a note is struck, the performer has no further control over it until it is released. My research installs electromagnetic actuators inside the piano to directly vibrate the strings, allowing continuous control of the resonant sound of the instrument. This hybrid acoustic-electronic instrument maintains the richness of the acoustic piano while expanding its vocabulary to include infinite sustain, notes that crescendo from silence, harmonics, and new timbres. More Info
  • Quantitative Study of Creative Expression: Electronic instrument design is often hindered by a mutual lack of understanding between musicians and engineers. For example, when describing a line played on violin, a musician might describe its intonation, articulation, and phrasing, whereas an engineer would focus on quantitative metrics of frequency, amplitude, and spectrum. Simple mappings from one set of parameters to the other rarely produce compelling results. My research seeks to quantify the processes involved in creative musical performance, using these findings to design intelligent human-computer interfaces which are intuitive for musicians to use.