Risk and expression in musical improvisation

In 63 A.D. Roman court physician Scribonius Largus directed patients with leg pain to stand on a rocky sea shore with electrical fish underfoot until the pain subsided—or to place one directly on the head as needed to alleviate headaches. These black torpedo (from the Latin torpere) fish propagated the use of electrical signals to stimulate bodily muscles as therapy that lasts to this day.

The Torpere is an instrument designed to facilitate explorations into the role of physical and material risk states in creative and expressive musical practices. A TENS unit, connected to the instrument’s strings, produces an unpredictable tactile experience that prompts the musician to apply their skills in new ways, reconsider their relationship to an instrument, and push past their boundaries of comfort.

Torpere is an ongoing study with practicing improvisational musicians.