Taptop, Armtop, Blowtop: Evolving the Physical Laptop Instrument

Cavdir, Doga and Sierra, Juan and Wang, Ge

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This research represents an evolution and evaluation of the embodied physical laptop instruments. Specifically, these are instruments that are physical in that they use bodily interaction, take advantage of the physical affordances of the laptop. They are embodied in the sense that instruments are played in such ways where the sound is embedded to be close to the instrument. Three distinct laptop instruments, Taptop, Armtop, and Blowtop, are introduced in this paper. We discuss the integrity of the design process with composing for laptop instruments and performing with them. In this process, our aim is to blur the boundaries of the composer and designer/engineer roles. How the physicality is achieved by leveraging musical gestures gained through traditional instrument practice is studied, as well as those inspired by body gestures. We aim to explore how using such interaction methods affects the communication between the ensemble and the audience. An aesthetic-first qualitative evaluation of these interfaces is discussed, through works and performances crafted specifically for these instruments and presented in the concert setting of the laptop orchestra. In so doing, we reflect on how such physical, embodied instrument design practices can inform a different kind of expressive and performance mindset.