Imperial's Magnetic Resonator Piano Strikes a Chord at Cannes Film Festival


Magnetic Resonator Piano

The Magnetic Resonator Piano, developed by Professor Andrew McPherson debuts at Cannes Film Festival in the movie "Beating Hearts."

The best part of designing new instruments is getting the chance to collaborate with amazing musicians. Professor Andrew McPherson Chair in Design Engineering and Music, Dyson School of Design Engineering

At the Cannes Film Festival 2024, director Gilles Lellouche is shortlisted for the prestigious Palme d'Or for his film "L'Amour Ouf" (English title: "Beating Hearts"), which features the innovative Magnetic Resonator Piano (MRP). Scored by LA-based composer Jon Brion, the MRP offers audiences a glimpse into its musical potential. 

Developed under the expertise of Professor Andrew McPherson, Chair in Design Engineering and Music, Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London, the MRP represents a new chapter in musical expression, blending tradition with technology to create a harmonious fusion of sound and soul. 

Exploring the Magnetic Resonator Piano 

his is a demonstration of the magnetic resonator piano

The Magnetic Resonator Piano (MRP) introduces a paradigm shift in traditional piano performance, seamlessly merging advanced technology with the acoustic grand piano. It utilises electromagnets to induce vibrations in the strings, offering musicians unparalleled control over dynamics, pitch, and timbre without the use of speakers. This innovative instrument extends the sonic vocabulary of the piano, providing endless possibilities for artistic expression while preserving the acoustic richness of the traditional grand piano. 

Moreover, the MRP delivers its unique sounds acoustically, distinguishing itself from conventional electronic instruments. Its design enables subtle gestures that enhance dynamics and expression, enriching the performer's musical journey. Furthermore, the MRP's versatility has been demonstrated in various compositions, performances, and recordings worldwide, showcasing its adaptability across musical genres and artistic endeavours. 

Applications of the Magnetic Resonator Piano 

The MRP opens doors to sonic exploration beyond conventional piano sounds. By playing lightly and bypassing hammer strikes, the electromagnets produce sustained, evolving tones reminiscent of the piano's acoustic resonance. Composers and musicians have embraced the MRP for its ability to evoke a wide range of emotions and atmospheres, from ethereal soundscapes to dynamic compositions that push the boundaries of traditional piano performance. 

Jon Brion not only utilised the MRP in the French movie "L'Amour Ouf" but also incorporated its distinctive sounds into the enchanting soundtrack of the 2018 Disney movie "Christopher Robin." 

Working with Jon Brion has been inspiring, both for the rich and distinctive sound he achieves when he plays the magnetic resonator piano and for his keen attention to detail. Jon discovers techniques with the instrument that I hadn't expected and continually challenges me to improve the instrument itself. It has been a real privilege to be involved in the music for Beating Hearts. - Prof. Andrew McPherson

Additionally, the MRP has made significant contributions to television soundtracks, with Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson using the instrument in the soundtrack of the Apple TV+ series "Silo." Örvarsson's innovative use of the MRP, which came out of a collaboration with Dr Jack Armitage at the Intelligent Instruments Lab at the University of Iceland, contributed to the immersive and atmospheric quality of the series, earning him a BAFTA award. Dr Armitage completed his PhD in Professor Andrew McPherson's Augmented Instruments Lab. The head of the Intelligent Instruments Lab, Professor Thor Magnusson, commissioned an MRP from Professor McPherson in 2021. 

From Design Engineering labs to Cannes

The MRP being featured on the international stage at the Cannes Film Festival highlights the growing influence of music technology in the global entertainment industry.

Imperial College London takes pride in Professor Andrew McPherson's pioneering work. His leadership and vision have propelled the MRP from a concept to a globally recognised instrument. As the MRP continues to captivate audiences and inspire creators worldwide, the Dyson School of Design Engineering remains committed to fostering interdisciplinary excellence and shaping the future of design engineering.


Sanjana Kakar

Sanjana Kakar
Dyson School of Design Engineering

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