Fictional instruments, real values: discovering musical backgrounds with non-functional prototypes

Lepri, Giacomo and McPherson, Andrew P.

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

The emergence of a new technology can be considered as the result of social, cultural and technical process. Instrument designs are particularly influenced by cultural and aesthetic values linked to the specific contexts and communities that produced them. In previous work, we ran a design fiction workshop in which musicians created non-functional instrument mockups. In the current paper, we report on an online survey in which music technologists were asked to speculate on the background of the musicians who designed particular instruments. Our results showed several cues for the interpretation of the artefacts’ origins, including physical features, body-instrument interactions, use of language and references to established music practices and tools. Tacit musical and cultural values were also identified based on intuitive and holistic judgments. Our discussion highlights the importance of cultural awareness and context-dependent values on the design and use of interactive musical systems.