Design as Strategy and Practice – Transformations

My life as a musician has had me playing instruments for quite a while. I started with the violin at 4, then the piano at 6, the guitar at 10, and the drums at 14. And while playing these instruments, relationships are formed with them. For most of my life I’ve been obsessed with guitars. There was always this gravitational pull towards them. It wasn’t just the sounds they made, or who played them. I was also obsessed with their aesthetic. Their colors. Their shapes. Their compact size, despite how powerful they are.

My favorite guitar company has always been Fender. They are responsible for the iconic Stratocaster guitar, and at this point, it has become almost a generic, albeit, classic design. The first run of them came out in 1954 and they changed the way popular music sounded and LOOKED for the rest of time. It set a standard for every single guitar design made after it. The Fender company came out with upgraded models in 1959, like the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar, which also have their super loyal fanbase. I am part of that fanbase. Although not as versatile as a Stratocaster, their unique shape and sound has earned them “the off-set standards.” The Fender Mustang was introduced in 1964 and also earned its loyal cult following.

Now it was time for me to actually make the instrument I’ve been playing all these years. My guitar design was inspired by all of these models, and thrown into the mix is the triangle, as a shape. In my fabrication class, Piecing it Together, I spent the semester designing and building this guitar.

Stratocaster

 

Jazzmaster

Mustang

Jaguar

 

 

My original sketches of the Triangle Guitar. Functionality was secondary. Shape was priority.  I decided to curb this extremely triangular shape and go for something a bit more pragmatic in the end.

 

My first iteration of the Triangular guitar. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the shape. I was also learning how to use Fusion 360, a 3d modeling program, and ran into various detours throughout the process such as file transfers not transfering properly, having to go through Vectorworks, which was a downfall in my process,  and using the CNC Machine and making a mistake in the programming, disturbing the proper measurements of the guitar.

 

My first 3d sketch on Fusion 360.

 

My second 3d sketch on Fusion 360, which became the final product. I finally worked around my mistakes the first time around. Measurements were more efficient and neat, the guitar became more ergonomic.

 

Foam cut on the CNC Machine.

 

Wood cut on the CNC Machine

 

Foam cut guitar, cardboard pickguard. First semi fully functional Triangle Guitar prototype. It kind of looks like a Mustang, it kind of looks like a Jaguar, it kind of looks like a triangle.

Making a New Material- Design as Strategy and Practice

    

 

 

 

 

This assignment ended up being one of the more challenging ones to tackle. I was blank for a few days before I can think of conceptualizing a NEW MATERIAL. I took a trip to the ITP junk shelf for some inspiration and realized how much techno garbage was there. My first instinct was to work with it.

I also value the properties of glue.  Glue is a metaphor, and that metaphor comes up in many instances, usually in artistic endeavors. It has the power to push two things together into one, cohesive entity. It was then that I decided to mix these two things together, glue and techno scrap. What came out is a glue brick, re enforced with techno scrap.

I added elmer’s glue, wood glue, blue and yellow acrylic paint and cut up pieces of techno scrap.

The glue is still a bit wet after a few days. I’m waiting for it to dry completely before taking it out of the tupperware.

Embodiment- Design as Strategy and Practice

For my Embodiment and Space assignment I decided to make a musical instrument. Instruments of any kind have always made us react to it via our bodies. Without our bodies we cannot play them. The instrument always demands a specific position of the human body in order to interact with it. There are instruments that demand more movement than others. A person playing the piano is sitting down peacefully (relatively speaking) while a drummer has no choice but to engage their whole body in order to execute the beat.

My instrument is a stringed instrument is made of scrap wood, screws, and rubber bands.  I knew I wanted to make something with rubber bands. I’ve always played with them throughout life, stretching them between my fingers, changing the pitch with a changing tension. I constructed it standing up, with the instrument on a table, so naturally, I designed it to be playing standing up.  The instrument is fairly big, about 2 feet from top to bottom and 2 feet long. This is an instrument user test . What I like about this user test is how they try to figure out how to use it and modify the rubber band tension to fit whatever sounds they are trying to convey.  It was interesting to see someone else play the instrument entirely different than me, despite how simple and straightforward the instrument may seem.

In terms of its relationship to space, all instruments have a relationship. This instrument requires you to figure out how to approach it.  That said, it also allows you to come at it from different angles. There are also movements involved to play the instrument that are similar to playing a harp, although it’s eccentric setup involves hand and arm motions that are a bit more action packed than a harp. More arm twisting, more jerking movements when attacking the rubber bands. More leaving it and re-approaching it from a different angle.

Aesthetically, the instrument reminds me of something between a surrealist suspension bridge and a kora. I have also been playing with a “connect the dots” concept in all my work lately, and this is by no means an exception. The rubber bands are all connected by the screws (the dots) while the bands themselves create a sort of inherent web that holds the instrument together.

 

My performance:  marco test

 

 Kora, a West African Stringed Instrument.

 

 

Embodiment

I want to explore the connection we have with the earth, in terms of movement. I want to think that, perhaps, when we dance, we are mimicking the earth’s movements.  Right now I’m in the process of making a musical map of Latin America. The buttons on the map play different rhythms based on their placement on the map. My idea is to make the earth move according to the beat it is playing.

 

Design as Strategy and Practice- Fixing a Social Problem.

A social problem that I find troubling is the topic of smart consumption. What I mean is : I know the overwhelming majority of the things we buy come from lenient, off shore labor law situations, borderline slavery, certainly hyper exploitative. Usually, I abstain from buying something because of my reluctancy to participate in this economic model, but sometimes I try to forget about it all together when I really want something, and I try to wash my guilt with my stronger feeling, which is desire. Of course, I am also aware that this desire is consequence of manipulation, but that is a different topic.

I would like to use the clothing industry as an example. Markets like the clothing industry, where there is a disparate difference between how much things cost to make (how much people are getting paid for the clothing they make) and how much these clothes cost. Sometimes they are ridiculously more expensive because of their supposed status, and sometimes they are super cheap, because they literally cost close to nothing to make.

My solution to this problem would be to create a SOCIAL FOOTPRINT label on products. This means that there would be a label on a product that tells you, along with the carbon footprint of the product, who made it and what their wage is. This would create transparency between a company and its customers. The customer would also have a more meaningful relationship with the people that are making what they are buying. Alongside this concept, it would also be interesting to create an option for the customer to be able to “tip” the people who are making what they are buying.

Root causes: The root cause of this problem is the economic model we live in. I know this is a tricky idea. The people that are in charge of this wouldn’t want this to happen. Maybe it’s an idea that can be introduced via policy.

 

My relationship to Energy- Design as Strategy and Practice

My most obvious relationship to energy is through my relationship with music.  Music encompasses spiritual energy, electrical energy, and physical energy. The ability to receive music requires the ability to receive the nuances of its energy. It requires the ability to translate energy into emotion. When one receives that emotion, it is then translated back into an output energy that comes from the body. This is the birth of dance. The giving back of energy to the source, thus creating a circular relationship between giving and receiving.

As a musician, I don’t create when I’m happy. It has turned into a pattern in my life. When I’m happy I am preoccupied with being happy. When I feel anxious to create, I subconsciously destroy things in order to feel inspired to once again touch the drawing board. The tragedy of destruction turns into my muse. And it is only through the destruction that I can reflect on the happiness I threw away, and through the art, lament over how valuable my loss is.

 

 

  

 

 

My piece, titled Past, Present, Future reflects the path that I take as an artist through the process of creation. The past is written, the present, a jumble of emotions that eventually leads me to a future blank slate.  I take in energy, through experiences and people. I create conflict, and my conflict resolution is a mapping out of events, of looking both forward and backward. I then approach a new drawing board to recycle my emotions into music. On one side there is a tape full of music. It then unravels into the storm of present tense. I then work my way towards a blank cassette.

 

 

 

 

 

Connectors- Design as Strategy and Practice.

It was really interesting to think this week about connectors. My approach to this was to find objects or situations that wouldn’t be able to happen without a connection. I naturally looked toward infrastructure, i.e streets, trains, buildings, etc. Once I started observing these things I started realizing that connectors are what holds our world together. On a macro level, streets and subways seem pretty obvious, but there are even more micro connectors that make these bigger connectors happen. Streets connect to other streets to form neighborhoods, and on a macro level the whole country is actually connected via streets.  On a micro level, however, those streets are held together by blacktop or concrete, which include many connectors, like portland, sand, and water. Below the streets there is a sewage system that runs all the way to the ocean. Next to those pipes are wires that connect every building with electricity. All the components to connect those wires… and the list goes on and on. In fact, after a while it was hard to see anything as anything other than a connection.

 

For my connection project, I took advantage of my thoughts and ideas about music making. In Always On, Always Connected, I am in the process of building a music making app. The work is tricky, as I have been experimenting with different approaches, what works and what doesn’t. What makes sense, giving that our cell phone is a bundle of sensors that can connect a huge variety of other sensors. It isn’t just a screen. It’s a microphone, a flashlight, a gyroscope, etc.

For now I have only been able to connect some elements that would comprise the app. A virtual keyboard, A sequencer, and Volume a control. Nothing is functioning yet, I still have to write the code to connect Tone. j.s and CSS with these interfaces. 

 

 

Module Project- Design as Strategy and Practice

 

For my module creation project I decided to make three loops that are designed to be played either separate or in unison. I have plenty of experience creating loops with real instruments, but I decided to experiment with a new medium I’m learning, Tone j.s. Why I am interested in this approach is because my interest is in building music instruments in both the app world and physical instruments as well. I’m currently working on the design of an app that is ultimately a music maker, but depending on the parameters I set, I still have an underlying control of what could be made and what can’t, i.e, note selection, sound selection, and rhythm selection. There is a fine line between producer, consumer, and collaborator using this method. I am essentially curating the instrument within the instrument.

Tone j.s is the Javascript Library we are learning in Interactive Music, where we not only experiment with making new music, but also in how it is “consumed.” This word is in quotes because I really hate using it, but it seems to represent the current model in music appreciation on the large scale.

My ultimate goal is to create a system where the general audience is both the producer and consumer, and, in these three loops, which are of course, experimental, I’m wondering whether people will be interested in having a loop bank, a la Garageband, or whether their parameters should have more creative control.