Fun Instruments

What makes an instrument fun to play?

It’s important for me that an instrument has meaningful mappings so that it makes me feel that the instrument is controllable. For example, if I pluck a string on the guitar, it produces a sound – this gives me a one-to-one feeling of the action and the result. Apart from plucking, I can also hammer on string or picking it to make a sound, so then it now becomes a three-to-one mapping, which I feel great about for it gives me more freedom in terms of performance and fingering choices. But if whatever movement I make would produce me the same result, that is to say infinity-to-one then apparently there’d be no fun at all. So I think there should be a sweet spot here for the number input-output.

Also I think the interface is important too. I personally prefer tangible interfaces than just waving arms in the air. I guess the thing I’m referring to here is the physical feedback. After the second class, I went to see the talk by the deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie where she described how she “listened” to the sounds through the finger and other body parts although she can’t hear anything from her ears. I was greatly touched and deeply agree with her that we do listen to sounds, aware or unaware of, not just with our ears but also through he vibration on the string, the resonance in the space…. Further more, an instrument with a physical form does provide a clearer reference that allows more fine-tuning and performing details. In this sense, the Ondes Martenot is the most tangible friendly to me although I would prefer the form to be less piano like.

What makes an instrument fun to experience as an audience member?

The performance – the interaction between the performer and the instrument. A new or dramatic that steers the audience away from their traditional understanding of playing an instrument. Xth Sense is a great example that brings in the body drama, and making the concert more visually entertaining to the audience as a show.

The communication – the interaction between the performer and the audience. An instrument that invites all the audience to participate, for instance, Michel invited the audience to make clapping sounds for him to use later as a initial material to develop further for the whole piece. This would certainly arouse the audience’s curiosity of how the piece would become over time.

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