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Revisited: The Dream Turntable

Let's build up on top of the previous iteration of the Dream Turntable.

Premise: Create a robust, tangible and unconventional interface to make music.

Robust means deep and engaging – Different every time and can create unexpected results

Tangible means screen-free – Interact with it with your own hands. Grabbing, lifting and moving things.

Unconventional means never seen before – Provide a unique interface that has familiar elements used in unique ways.

I established this set of principles from the very beginning of this process because I am fascinated by tangible interaction, by how much music can resemble everything in the world, by crossing concepts and by embedded systems.

There is something very unique and inexplicable about using something that feels sturdy in your hand and that it serves as a tool to create magic.

It has been extremely hard for me to land a concept this abstract. The whole process has felt like I'm chasing this elusive ghost.

However, little by little, and through the chats I've had with of both Jeff and Luisa, I've finally taken a step into grounding this whole thing.

Music Elements

At first, I was focusing on the interaction before anything else: how do I want people and myself to interact with this, what does it feel like, what does it produce?

All this led to more confusion. I now understand that I was looking at it from the other way around. That whole sprint led me to understand that defining the musical elements that I want to manipulate first would lay a more solid ground for interactive exploration.

So, the elements are the following:

  1. Rhythm

  2. Harmony

  3. Melody


Rhythm is the foundation of most music we hear. Even if something doesn't have drums or any other percussive instruments, it most likely follows rhythm elements such as time signature or a beat.

I want to provide an easy way of interacting with rhythm. Naturally, sequencers come to mind. However, many sequencers (if not most of them) lack a powerful feature: selecting a time signature.

Most sequencers work in 4/4, meaning 4 hits in a beat. This makes sense for a lot of the pop music out there, but many beautiful songs have a complex time signature (or many within the same song – This one, this one and this one, for example) that it would be a waste not to include some sort of functionality for this.


Harmony is the conductive thread of any song. It provides a story plot, and it helps musicians evoque many different feelings, ebbs and flows inside the listener (and the performer too).

The are many aspects of harmony, such as arpeggios, scales, chords and parallel voicing.

For this interface, the harmonic elements that I am manipulating are chord progressions and scales.


The melody of a song gives the specifics about the story. Melody is defined as the intervals between continuous notes. Great examples melodies from mankind are here, here and here.

Melody is very fast changing. At first, I wanted to provide some sort of physical interface to edit melody in real time such as a paper roll but after concept iterations, it seems very unpractical. Wrapping my head around how to generate melody with few inputs was also tricky, until Luisa showed L-Systems to us in class.

L-Systems allow to generate multiple sequences within a set of elements (alphabet), rules and starting point (axiom), but more on that later.

The Dream Turntable (name pending) will generate melody with simple user inputs.

The final device will basically be a table with a bunch of things going on on it.


Conceptual prototype and layout

Very early and conceptual interface

Layout of blocks inside the table. (Top View)

Character block for inputing the L-System rules and axioms

Example of placing a building block inside the melody block

It's very early in the process, but this is how I imagine the interaction to go down.


Final words

I'm honestly quite scared of how the resulting sound is going to be like. A software prototype is due for sure, and that'll be ready in the coming days.


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