Friday, 13 January 2012

The Tiny Orchestra: Design and Preparation

Over the past two months I have been running a series of studio tutorials with BA Graphic Design students in their final year at Central St Martins. The aim of the ‘Tiny Orchestra’ brief was to create an ensemble of sound instruments and noise-makers that could perform together in a small composition which would reveal the full extent of each instrument’s range – both in terms of tone, timbre and volume. At what stage does a device become a musical instrument? This is a question for interactive designers. A piano, after all, is just an elaborate machine made up of wires and hammers and keys that allows someone to ‘make’ music. The idea was to create an instrument from everyday objects that would be capable of creating interesting noises. Each student had to be able to explain how they arrived at the solution not just in technical terms but also in the design philosophy behind it – for example, does an instrument necessarily have to be loud? Or tuneful? Might it not also interact with other media: colours, lights, words, movements? And if so, how? I was very impressed by the inventiveness and enthusiasm which the students brought to the Tiny Orchestra – some of their solutions were quite ingenious. The pictures taken above give some flavour of the some of the interim sessions during which the students prepared themselves for a live public performance, which will be documented in a supplementary post. The photographs offer silent testimony to an exuberant and audible experience – which therefore requires no further comment from me.

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