This Thursday’s event at the Music Hackspace will feature Andrew McPherson talking about the results of his EPSRC-funded project Hackable Instruments, summarising the results from both the study of appropriation and the D-Box study, along with a live demo of the D-Box and a discussion of future directions.
The Hackable Instruments project (Victor Zappi and Andrew McPherson, Queen Mary University of London) looks at the ways performers use and misuse technology for creative ends. From the saxophone to the electric guitar to the turntable, musicians have been developing playing techniques for instruments which the designer did not expect. Customisation and modification are also important forces in the adoption of new instruments, with circuit bending being a prominent example in electronic music performance.
The Hackable Instruments project began with the creation of a deliberately constrained instrument to study the phenomenon of appropriation, where a performer develops a personal working relationship with an instrument. One finding of this study was that adding degrees of freedom to an instrument does not necessarily produce richer interactions or more favourable responses from performers.
More recently, the Hackable Instruments team developed the D-Box, an instrument which is designed for modification and circuit bending by the performer. The D-Box is a 15cm battery-powered cube incorporating touch sensors and a BeagleBone Black single-board computer. Inside the box is a breadboard of circuits which can be rewired in arbitrary ways to create new patterns of behaviour. The D-Box was used in an October 2014 performance by 10 musicians, many from London Music Hackspace.
Hackable Instruments was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, EP/K032046/1, 2013-14.