Interface of Sound

David Knop bei Prof. Frank Jacob (Entwurf) und Prof. Dr. Annika Frye (Theorie)

März / March - 2019

Muthesius Kunsthochschule Kiel


The result of my master's thesis is an electronic musical instrument (named R62.5) that can be played dynamically and performatively through the fusion of materiality and digitality. Thus musicians of electronic genres can express themselves individually and the connections between the aritist's actions and the sounds become understandable.

What is the Topic?

The overarching topic of my thesis is the exploration of interface design of electronic musical instruments. A special focus is placed on virtuosity – due to the rigid and always same usage of synthesizers, which result from small input elements such as sliders and buttons, the arts, the connections between machine and sound and the virtuosity of the artist remain hidden. As an alternative, therefore, an instrument has been designed that implements various interface strategies, such as digital data collection of material movement to make those connections visible and to strengthen the authenticity. The special genre claims were always considered.

Why does it look like this?

In my exploration of virtuosity in electronic music, I came to the conclusion that virtuosity should not necessarily come from the gestures of the artist, as is the case with acoustic instruments, but rather abstractly through the "machine", as well as medial means. The background is the desire for anonymity and the enjoyment of technology and abstraction, which has maintained high value since the beginning of subcultures such as 'techno'. In my design, virtuosity is thus conveyed through visible and material movement of the machine and an individual construction through the artist.

What is special?

The special thing about my musical instrument is the fusion of materiality and digitality. The design, which is initially of the format comparable to commercially available devices, contains a special method for sequencing songs. For this, several transparent discs can be placed on the left side of the device, which are structured and segmented differently. Below the discs is a distance sensor and a camera. The discs rotate at a certain speed depending on the setting. By overlaying and individualizing the discs, the distance sensor measures different values ​​that can be linked to sound, beat or music sequences via a touch screen display. The discs can also be painted colorful, so that different colors, which are recognized by the camera, also for arranging beats, etc. can be used. In addition, not only sounds can be played, but in parallel also video or photo sequences for visual projection of the sound.

What is new?

New is the handling of virtuosity in electronic music. From my theoretical exploration, I have defined new forms of virtuosity that fit the electronic genre. As an end result, this is given in three different ways: First, by the material movement on the device and the individual structure - The movement shows the flow of music, the structure of the complexity; Second, through the direct connection of image and sound - images appear parallel to the clock, which visualizes it abstractly; thirdly, through gestures of the artist - The distance sensor can also be used to control music hand gestures.