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The composer Edward Williams is responsible for development of Soundbeam, the ultra-sonic distance-to-MIDI converter which enables movements, at a distance and without physical contact to 'play' electronic musical instruments. One of its more remarkable features is that many, young and old, with various forms of disability, can now make music in this way too - often leading to noticeable increases in their physical or intellectual skills. Soundbeam's potential is currently being extended (by Brian Johnson) to include the use of light-related sensor technology.

Soundbeam was originally conceived as an esoteric performance tool for professional dancers; the recognition of its significance in the special education and therapy fields is a user-led phenomenon.

Soundbeam provides a medium through which even profoundly physically disabled or learning impaired individuals can become expressive and communicative using music and sound. The sense of control, agency and independence which this provides can be a powerful motivator, stimulating learning and interaction in other areas. Soundbeam is identified as a key resource by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in assisting children with learning disabilities to attain learning targets as prescribed by the National Curriculum for Music. Its success rests upon two factors: the sensitivity of the beam means that even the most unreachable or immobilised individuals can ‘play’ independently; secondly, electronic technology makes available a huge palette of possible soundworlds, releasing the player from the traditional limitations of percussion-based activity.

Soundbeam works by sending out an ultrasonic ray which can be varied in length from a few inches to several metres. It converts information about movement and distance into a language called MIDI - an electronic code which is used to send instructions to electronic instruments.

"A Soundbeam is an invisible elastic keyboard, in the air, but it's a keyboard that you can adjust; it doesn't have all the notes all the time and it isn't necessarily one sound all the time, or necessarily one size - so it can have one note and be tiny or it can have 64 notes and be 6 metres long! - or 64 notes and be 43 centimetres long - you know it can have anything you want in it, but the important thing is that you have to move within it and the better your quality of movement within it the more beautiful the music's going to be because that's always been the case with music. You have to programme what notes are in the beam, programme the articulation and the articulation is a very, very powerful part of Soundbeam, because it allows you to play up and down the beam, in and out of the beam, start and and stop sounds in the beam, lots of very sophisticated playing techniques for the beam which really have to be taught - but, having said that, certain disabled people play it with an intuitive understanding which defies belief - they seem to know how it works, which is marvellous." (David Jackson)

What are Soundbeam's applications?

- can offer an expressive medium, giving motivation to move, to compose, to explore movement and sound;
- can be tuned to respond to the tiniest gestures or the most sweeping movements, so that a really broad range of ability/mobility can be accommodated;
- is excellent for simple cause and effect work, giving an experience of control which can help to establish the basic building blocks of learning;
- can assist with the delivery of the National Curriculum and be used for ambitious composition and performance projects;
- has a spectrum of applications that makes it ideal for inclusive activities.

David Jackson's Jellybean Eye is his ingenious switching system that enables up to eight people (who may have disabilities) to access eight different instruments in one go.

The Jellybean Eye

The Jellybean Eye


David Jackson suggests you choose from the following activities and skills:

Soundbeam Training

Soundbeam Awareness Day: an introduction day for teachers, support staff, parents, families, music students, and other practitioners - to the amazing possibilities of David Jackson, his music and his Tonewall. (Soundbeams, Jellybean Eye and Echo-Mirrors)

Tonewall in School: a ‘blow them away-day ‘full of interactive workshops and/or concerts using full interactive Tonewall rig. This is suitable for Special and Mainstream Schools (adapted to age and ability). It could act as a first introduction to Soundbeam - or be thematic and act as a pointer to the wider future possibilities. This day can include a twilight session for staff, parents, & governors.

Soundbeam Rig Design and Build: David is an independent consultant. He can find the best, most ergonomic and economic solutions to all your Soundbeam Rig problems.

Tonewall Master Classes:
1. ‘Soundbeam in Performance’ - join David working with a wide range of physically disabled children - preparing for a concert.
2. ‘Soundbeam and Dance’ - join David working with top Soundbeam choreographer Den Roper with mainstream and/or special kids in the creation of new work.
3. ‘Composing with Soundbeam’ - bring your musical and conceptual ideas to see and hear them rapidly take shape and form. Afterwards, ship them home in your Soundbeam2!

Tonewall in Concert: a full blown solo Concert with the ‘Sax and Soundbeam Maestro’ - a one man band like you never imagined possible. Various DVDs available!

Major Works for Combined Forces

"Marvellous; a great day for music!"
Andy Baker - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

"One of the most absorbing and convincing dialogues that I've heard between man and machine."
Chris Blackford - The Wire

"We are marvelling at your ability to bring the best out of everyone. You turned our youngsters into stars and gave them a tremendous sense of pride, worth and self-belief."
John Sweeting - Chief Executive, Treloar Trust

"Original, captivating and professional."
Barnardo's High Close School, Wokingham

TRAINING "School for Soundbeam" Project at Meldreth Manor School - declared outstanding by OFSTED

Tonewall - featured in The Times Interface, The Independent & The Guardian; BBC, ITN, CNN & NBC TV NEWS, Tomorrow's World; Radio 1 - Newsbeat, Radio 3 - Music Matters & Radio 4
Education Matters and You & Yours.


SOUNDBEAM 1 & 2 - Invisible e-l-a-s-t-i-c keyboards in the air...

JELLYBEAN EYE - Jackson's totally revolutionary new Switching System allows up to 8 performers to become an orchestra, rock band or simply the notes of scale.

ECHO-MIRRORS - The famous digital sound effects for stunning voicework or sampling.

BAGS OF PERCUSSION - Fascinating hand-held musical instruments from around the world.

...and of course the remarkable VdGG saxophones!


TONEWALL requires a space of 4 x 2 m for equipment,
plus a minimum interactive space 4 x 2 m



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