Reading Response #5

From Chapter 5 and Interlude of Artful Design, I would like to respond to Principle 5.19, which states: INTERFACES SHOULD EXTEND US. Interfaces, especially musical instruments, do not need to be perfect on their own; instead, they should be designed to inspire and empower us to create new forms of aesthetics or even new interfaces. That is to say, on the basis of suggesting unique mechanics, interfaces should give us spaces and freedom to play with.

Start with traditional acoustic instruments: I have never imagined that the guitar alone is able to make so many different textures of sounds until I started to learn how to play it last year. The only restriction from this interface is that players have to engage with the guitar physically to produce sounds. It has no limitations on either how to interact or where to interact with. Accordingly, apart from plucking the strings, which is the most basic and intuitive technique, we can use nails to strike the strings, fingers to slam down onto the fret, and palms to mute the strings partially. Also, strings are not the only component of a guitar. There is another big wooden body that all the strings are attached to. Because of the particular shape of the guitar body, when slapping different parts of it, the resulting percussive sounds are distinct, almost making the guitar itself a complete drum set. More impressively, no one regulates that we must apply our bodies to interact with the guitar. Last year at a music festival, I was initially shocked when I saw the guitarist of a band scratch the guitar strings with a wine glass (Principle I.1: FUNNY IS OFTEN BETTER THAN SERIOUS), but soon amazed by the peculiar sound product. It is a tone I would never be able to simulate on my mind, but the guitar interface realizes this collaboration. Many other acoustic instruments share this attribute as well; for instance, it is possible to directly play with the strings and hammers under the lid of a grand piano in place of its keyboard.

Guitar with Wine Glass

Computer-based instruments, on the other hand, offers another kind of freedom. Since most electronic instruments have the ability to play back recorded segments, it is easy to create loops without physically contacting with the instruments. In this way, musicians can handle multiple instruments and even perform visual arts using their bodies at the same time, which resonates with Principle 5.17, "EMBODY," in a different sense.