One Knob To Rule Them All: Reductionist Interfaces for Expansionist Research

Bowers, John and Richards, John and Shaw, Tim and Frieze, Jim and Freeth, Ben and Topley, Sam and Spowage, Neal and Jones, Steve and Patel, Amit and Rui, Li

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This paper describes an instance of what we call ‘curated research’, a concerted thinking, making and performance activity between two research teams with a dedicated interest in the creation of experimental musical instruments and the development of new performance practices. Our work builds theoretically upon critical work in philosophy, anthropology and aesthetics, and practically upon previous explorations of strategies for facilitating rapid, collaborative, publicly-oriented making in artistic settings. We explored an orientation to making which promoted the creation of a family of instruments and performance environments that were responses to the self-consciously provocative theme of ‘One Knob To Rule Them All’. A variety of design issues were explored including: mapping, physicality, the question of control in interface design, reductionist aesthetics and design strategies, and questions of gender and power in musical culture. We discuss not only the technologies which were made but also reflect on the value of such concerted, provocatively thematised, collective making activities for addressing foundational design issues. As such, our work is intended not just as a technical and practical contribution to NIME but also a reflective provocation into how we conduct research itself in a curated critical manner.