Nfld. & Labrador

MUN team launches Kickstarter for new digital instrument

A team of musicians and engineers from St. John's is in the midst of a fundraising drive for a new musical instrument they've created at Memorial University.

Group behind the new instrument, called the mune, is hoping for $100K by Sept. 24

Scott Stevenson demonstrates the mune's capabilities at his lab at Memorial University in St. John's. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

A team of musicians and engineers from Memorial University in St. John's are in the midst of a fundraising drive for a new musical instrument they've created.

Scott Stevenson, Andrew Stanilandand Josh Bourden have been working for years on a prototype for the mune: an instrument they say has all the capabilities of a digital instrument, with the expressiveness of an acoustic one.

We didn't know if we were going to sell a single  mune  unit on our first day and we so far have sold I believe 25 units.- Scott Stevenson

"We wanted it to be a really versatile instrument that you could really hold any way," said Stevenson.

"That's why it's kind of got this symmetry to it, you can turn it, hold it a bunch of ways and play it different ways."

According to Stevenson, the project's genesis came when Staniland— a composer and faculty member at MUN — told him about a problem he'd been having.

Connecting dots between electronic, acoustic

As a musician, he often performed acoustic music with classical ensembles.

But when he began to use digital sound processing to enhance his performances, he found that using a digital controller or laptop onstage wasn't cutting it.

Stevenson said Stanilandsaid it was frustrating there was no immediate correlation between what he was doing on his computer and what audiences were hearing.

Similar to how when you see a guitarist pluck a guitar string, when a listener can immediately hear a note, Staniland wanted audiences to see him play an instrument in real time.

Enter the mune.

After years of hard work and testing, the team behind it is ready for their close up.

Kickstarter project of the day

If the project reaches $100,000 in funding from backers on Kickstarter by Sept. 24, the group's dream of bringing their product to market will be a reality.

If the mune reaches its funding goal of $100,000 on Kickstarter by the end of Sept. 24, the instrument will go to market. (Kickstarter )

"It took a long time to get there — way longer than we ever expected — to go from our 3D printed prototype to these beautiful wooden instruments," he said.

"The purpose of the Kickstarter is to raise funds for us to be able to overcome the up-front manufacturing and certification costs of our product."

So far, the project has been making considerable waves on the popular crowd-funding website.

In the mune's first week on Kickstarter, the website named it "Project We Love," and the "Project of the Day for Canada."

'We're not going to be too disappointed'

And as of Aug 26, they've raised about 25 per cent of the $100,000 goal.

"We didn't know if we were going to sell a single mune unit on our first day and we so far have sold I believe 25 units in [the first] four days," said Stevenson.

With about a month to go until the team finds out if the project is funded, Stevenson said he's hopeful, but not too worried about whether the product will get the funding or not.

If the funding goal isn't reached, Stevenson said it's likely the group will explore other, more traditional funding strategies. 

"If we don't reach our goal we're not going to be too disappointed," he said.

"This has been an amazing journey for everyone involved. We've learned a whole lot about how to create a hardware product, how to commercialise electronics, how to build music software."

About the Author

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.