Ongoing experiments in making a frustrating, installation-based digital musical instrument.

MuSA 2017

Scott Hewitt and Oscar Abela


In this paper we report on the early outcomes of the creation of an installation instrument, its aims and early results from its initial deployments. Our instrument explores non traditional musical interfaces while aiming to offer a deeply immersive, yet frustrating, musical experience. It seeks to be a counterintuitive, digital musical instrument for use in an installation context. Consequently, rather than seeking to utilise typical instrument mappings, the instrument proactively seeks to establish and explore counterintuitive, interfaces. The current physical interface, a large physical structure of 32, 2 meter long hanging chains seeks to offer a counterintuitive interface. An interface that offers potentially frustrating behaviours. The interface ignores gentle and subtle interactions, those that are typically celebrated and rewarded by instrumental practice. Rather, the deliberately stubborn interface aims to eventually reward bold, aggressive and violent interactions through sonic outcomes. However the designed interface only occasionally responds, giving the instrument a stubborn and reluctant nature. An interface that seeks to antagonise those that wish to interact with it. Additionally, through the use of a physically large interface our instrument also seeks to remove the audience / performer roles. Rather than creating the typical instrument with performer and audience relationships, the instrument is designed for use within an installation dynamic. Yet we still consider it primarily as an instrument. While the installation currently anticipates no performer score, due to the absence of a performer, we outline the current composer notation model currently in use and consider its suitability for potential ensemble settings. Finally, we question the success of the design of a counterintuitive, frustrating digital musical instrument and theorise about even more frustrating interfaces.


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