Media Technology MSc

Programmable Physics for Electronic Music (2005)

Programmable Physics for Electronic Music

With acoustic instruments there is a relation between the physical properties of an instrument and the sound that it produces: the physical properties of a guitar string determine the sound of the guitar, but also provide a tactile response to the guitar player; the tone of the skin on a drum is not only heard in the sound it creates, but is also felt when the drum is hit.

Within digital musical instruments, this relation does not exist: the physical features of keyboard keys, knobs, and sliders are unrelated tot the sound that synthesizers and such create.

Hidden Complexity

Hidden Complexity is a digital musical instrument that reestablished this relation. The instrument is nothing more that a tiny magnet that is played by holding it between thumb and index finger and moving it vertically above a surface the size of a beer coaster. A variable magnetic field in the space above the surface can adapt the physical properties of the instrument. The space can feel ribbed, sticky, granular, etcetera. This allows the tactile properties of the instrument to be programmable, and for a relation to be made between the physical properties of the instrument and the sound it produces.

Presented at the Sixth International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, June 2006, in Paris.