Control – Week 3

Tuesday 10th October 2017

Day 1:

Today was the day of our laser cutting induction. Jen took us down to the workshop in the Reid building and a woman there ran us through the procedure, materials and prices. The materials they offer there are:

  • MDF
  • Plastic
  • Plywood

… all in thicknesses of 2mm, 4mm and 6mm. I’m allowed to source other materials from elsewhere and bring them in for laser cutting provided the size of material fits the machine. I might look online or at shops around Glasgow to see if anything catches my interest or reflects the theme of my project.


Wednesday 11th October 2017

Day 2

My idea is becoming more clear as I progress through the coding stages. I like the idea of a piece of music never being played live the same twice. I have a particular interest in orchestral music because I find it’s structure and composition quite different from other genres of music. My idea is to hopefully recreate some type of music and put the user in the position of the conductor. This will give them the power of controlling the dynamics and tempo within the piece of music I choose – the difficult part being finding music with individual groups/instruments playing that I can control.

The orchestral theme can also be reflected with the aesthetics of the interface too.


I’ve come up with a brief idea to display the potentiometers to represent an orchestra – four of them representing the different families (string, woodwind, brass and percussion) and a fifth representing the conductor. The four ‘family’ potentiometers will simply control volume and the ‘conductor’ potentiometer will control the tempo.

Thursday 12th October 2017

Day 3

I had further ideas with the aesthetics of the interface. I was thinking of materials and what it would look like and it made me think of pre-existing devices that’s used to play/manipulate music:

I really like the fact that they’re created with traditional materials like wood (which also reflects materials used on some orchestral instruments) but they have a modern use.

I think I’d like to create an effect of using a traditional concept with modern technology. Modern technology is now more accessible than a whole orchestra. I’ve previously done some research on Brendan Dawes and I remember a product he’s created called Plastic Player, 2016 that has a similar ideology.


This product uses modern technology including a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino Yun but a traditional concept because in order to select a song from Spotify, you must manually pick up an ‘album’ and place it into the music player.

I feel it’s a way of taking the good parts from the past and mixing them with the convenient technologies of today. Yes, the action of swapping a vinyl on your vinyl player use to bring a sense of satisfaction but there were only so many tracks you could hold, so by Dawes mixing this ideology with modern technology he has created a similar interface but expanded the music library. His commentary on his project is really interesting as he says:

“I’ve found it’s really satisfying choosing what I want to listen to in this way; no need to fire up an interface to Spotify — I just visually pick an album and place it on the device, much like placing vinyl on a turntable.

It’s often easy to romanticise the past, convincing ourselves that things were better back then when really I think that’s just not the case. I’ve discovered way more music since moving to Spotify then I ever did in record shops. What I do like though is the physicality of choosing an album to play and this system is an attempt to blend the good parts of both worlds. The future will continue to be digitised and I embrace that, but I think there’s a space in between the digital and the analog to create interactions that are filled with the inconvenience of what it is to be human.”

I want to carry this ideology through to my project as I think that it is an interesting concept to explore. Can I successfully reanimate a traditional concept by using new technology?

Friday 13th October 2017

Day 4

We were suppose to be laser cutting today but it was moved to next Monday.

This was probably a good thing because it gave me time to think more about the design of my interface. I was originally thinking a simple sheet elevated slightly with the potentiometers facing out the way but now I’m thinking of creating a box so it conceals the Arduino board and wires away.

As for the material, plywood has drawn my attention because of it’s relation to it being a material similar to that used for instruments.

The wood used within a violin could be maple, ebony, rosewood, or boxwood. Unfortunately as a student I don’t have the funds to purchase these types of wood, so I feel that plywood has the most ‘professional’ look out of those that I have accessible to me.


I thought I could go to a local hardware store and buy some varnish to give my box the same glossy, smooth and professional look as a classical instrument has.


I went to a local hardware store and looked at the varnish section. There was a wide variety of choices and I’d decided that I wanted a darker looking wood with a glossy finish, and so I thought the varnish that I picked (below) best met those requirements. I felt that this varnish would give me the finish that I desired.



Previous: Control – Week 2

Next: Control – Week 4


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