The Dream Turntable

Musicians know, either unconsciously or not, that the interface makes the music.

What I mean by this is that the instrument you use to make music greatly influences the style of the music generated. Of course, you can play many genres on a guitar or piano, however the music played on a piano is always going to be within discrete notes or pitches, while the one on a string instrument like a violin or a cello can be played with a much wider range of frequencies.

This was notoriously apparent to me when, for the Code of Music class, I created this thing.

(Use your mouse to click and drag)

The music that comes out of that thing has a very unique style. If we ignore the sound itself (timbre) we still have a very unique style of music being performed: That grid follows a pentatonic scale and the mouse gestures are going to drive the melody to an ascending or descending progression.

So what happens if you provide an alternative interface for people to play/compose music on?


I want to focus on three different principles in this exploration:

Robustness, Tangibility and Unconventionality

Something is robust when you can approach it in many different ways, and when it has the capacity of being new every single time. It has depth and presents a challenge.

Something is tangible when you use primitive motion and gestures to interact with it, avoiding using a screen or other flat interfaces.

Something is unconventional when it provides an intuitive yet unexpected way of interacting with it.

Those three principles can shape up to multiple different things. As of right now, Im leaning towards creating a turntable station that has a binary grid papel roll to compose and improvise with.

I was inspired by this. Beautifully designed, but very limited in functionality.

The specific mappings are not yet clear to me, but the overall interaction is the following:

  • Use rotating disks, encoded with different punctures to trigger sound.

  • Stack different 'rhythm' disks with 'note disks' to generate a harmonic sequence.

  • Use the roll of paper to encode a 5 bit sequence that maps to the sounds set up by the disks - the grid is relative to what is happening with the disks.

  • Somehow, be able to manipulate the disks without stoping the music.

  • The roll would preserve the score created by all the users.

Further thought has to be done here, but overall idea is to provide break music composition models while maintaining control of your work.