Musical Instruments in the 21st Century: Identities, Configurations, Practices

© Till Bovermann

Image 3 DMIN Speaker

© Till Bovermann

Gina Emerson is research assistant of the project 3DMIN (Design, Development and Dissemination of New Musical Instruments) and conducts research in the fields of Contemporary Music and Sound Art, Audience Development for New Music as well as Empirical Aesthetics. Today she tells us about 3DMIN’s international symposium last week – from a speaker’s and a guest’s point of view at once!

Over the past three years, the interdisciplinary research project, 3DMIN (Design, Development and Dissemination of New Musical Instruments), a collaboration between the TU Berlin and the UdK Berlin, has been working on the development of new digital musical instruments and conducting research around the subject of musical instrument design and identity in the digital age. This work culminated in last week’s international symposium entitled “Musical Instruments in the 21st Century: Identities, Configurations, Practices”, which was held at designtransfer on 13th–16th October 2016.

The program began with the opening of a three-day exhibition of the instrument prototypes developed over the course of the project. As well as including designs by the 3DMIN team at the UdK, the exhibition featured many prototypes that were produced by students that had attended seminars in musical instrument design over the course of the project. As part of the exhibition opening, the creators of four of the exhibited designs gave performances with their instruments, allowing the visitors to experience first-hand how they sound and function. The exhibition visitors were encouraged to freely explore the collection, to ask questions about the design process and to come into conversation with the developers, which many of them did. The informal atmosphere made for a very enjoyable first evening.

A total of 17 speakers from the fields of musicology, music technology, cognitive science and musical performance presented their work at the symposium on Friday and Saturday, inspiring interesting and lively debates on the definition of musical instruments today and the state of current digital musical instrument design. A particular highlight was the panel discussion on definitions of success in musical instrument design, featuring a range of experts from industry, academia and performance. The factors involved in the design and evaluation of musical instruments in these differing contexts were discussed, along with what each context would like to see or expects from the others.  

The event was rounded off by two more opportunities to see and hear new musical instruments in action; a concert by internationally-renowned improvisers and instrument designers on Saturday evening and a final hands-on session at the exhibition on Sunday afternoon. The symposium was well-attended by a diverse audience of students, researchers and interested members of the public and served as a fitting and celebratory end to the 3DMIN project.

– Gina Emerson