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Computational Audio

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Front. ICT | doi: 10.3389/fict.2018.00026

Hackable Instruments: Supporting Appropriation and Modification in Digital Musical Interaction

  • 1Department of Advanced Robotics, Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Technologia, Italy
  • 2School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

This paper investigates the appropriation of digital musical instruments, wherein the performer develops a personal working relationship with an instrument that may differ from the designer's intent. Two studies are presented which explore different facets of appropriation. First, a highly restrictive instrument was designed to assess the effects of constraint on unexpected creative use. Second, a digital instrument was created which initially shared several constraints and interaction modalities with the first instrument, but which could be rewired by the performer to discover sounds not directly anticipated by the designers. Each instrument was studied with 10 musicians working individually to prepare public performances on the instrument. The results suggest that constrained musical interactions can promote the discovery of unusual and idiosyncratic playing techniques, and that tighter constraints may paradoxically lead to a richer performer experience. The diversity of ways in which the rewirable instrument was modified and used indicates that its design is open to interpretation by the performer, who may discover interaction modalities that were not anticipated by the designers.

Keywords: appropriation, affordance, constraint, Digital musical instrument, style, Hacking

Received: 01 Mar 2018; Accepted: 12 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Robin L. Bargar, Columbia College Chicago, United States

Reviewed by:

Mitsunori Ogihara, University of Miami, United States
Roger B. Dannenberg, Carnegie Mellon University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Zappi and McPherson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Victor Zappi, Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Technologia, Department of Advanced Robotics, Genoa, Italy,
Dr. Andrew McPherson, Queen Mary University of London, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, London, United Kingdom,