'Indiana Jones' movie to use professor's musical invention

University engineering professor Lippold Haken's musical invention, the Continuum Fingerboard, will be used in the soundtrack of the fourth Indiana Jones movie, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Created by the University professor, the Continuum Fingerboard is an electronic piano keyboard that uses sensors to detect every motion of the player's fingers. In addition to pushing down notes, the player can slide his or her fingers across the instrument.

For example, sliding fingers up or down the keys can increase or decrease the volume. Sliding fingers left or right will allow for seamless transition from note to note as one could do on a violin.

"I like the Continuum keyboard because it's very expressive. It's like a wind instrument," said Mark Smart, local musician and Engineering student who plays the Continuum.

The instrument can also be programmed to have different tones or effects ranging from melodic to grungy to psychedelic. It can modify the sound to mimic different instruments such as guitar, saxophone, organ, or percussion.

"It's like playing three or four instruments at the same time. ...The range of sounds is practically infinite," Smart said.

Randy Kerber, Academy Award-nominated movie soundtrack composer, has incorporated the instrument into songs he wrote for the latest edition to the Indiana Jones tetralogy, which is set to debut May 22. The music will be performed in collaboration with John Williams, composer of the Star Wars theme song. According to the Internet Movie Database, Kerber has played and orchestrated music for numerous other box-office hits such as "X-Men III," "Troy" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

According to Haken, the Continuum has been used in other movies such as "War of the Worlds" and "Superman Returns" for background ambiance. However, it was not yet been used in music for movies.

"It was used mainly for sound effects. You know alien sounds, alien voices, things like that. That's very different than using it for actual music in Indiana Jones," Haken said.

In addition to Kerber, there are many other mainstream musicians that have already adopted the Continuum into their playing. Terry Lawless, professional musician who tours with rock band U2, is currently using the Continuum for studio work with the band. AR Rahmen, award-winning Hollywood score composer, has used it for several genres of music ranging from pop to traditional Indian songs. Also Jordan Rudess, keyboard player for progressive metal band Dream Theater, has used the Continuum extensively for his live and recording performances.

Haken said he is glad to see that the Continuum is being used in such a diverse range of genres.

"When I first came out with the instrument, I thought, 'Oh no, will it identified as an academic instrument playing only academic music,'" he said.

Through Kerber's use of the Continuum with an orchestra for Indiana Jones, the Continuum has also been introduced into the realm of classical music, a genre known for its rigid adherence to traditional form.

"Classical music does not have a very flexible audience. Classical musicians generally avoid electronic music and usually use them just to fill in missing parts," Haken said.

Haken said he is glad that his instrument has been received positively by members of the classical audience.

"Most classical musicians avoid electronic music," he said. "That's why, if you can get them into it...you really got them."