South Korean pianist Yeaji Kim has been completely blind since the age of 13 and learned to play piano using Braille scores, meaning that each page of music was covered with three-dimensional bumps that made it possible for her to read printed music.
But Braille has its limits; there are some important musical elements that Braille can’t transmit, like timing, piano pedal markings and other performance notations.
So Yeaji Kim came up with the concept of a complete 3D score for blind students, as part of her doctoral dissertation at the US American University of Wisconsin. Her 3D pen makes ordinary sheet music 3D by slightly elevating the staff and the notation printed on it. She hopes this will mean blind musicians will have access to all sheet music, instead of being limited to what is specially produced in Braille.
Jessica Johnson, a professor of piano and piano pedagogy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explained: “When young children are learning piano if they aren’t able to see they are denied access to a lot of the materials. There currently aren’t many braille scores in existence for studying music, particularly piano. And this system would revolutionise that.
At the moment, the 3D pen has to be used by a sighted person, and is extremely slow as everything has to be done by hand, note by note, so Yeaji Kim is hoping to find a new way of automating the process.