Block Jam: A Tangible Interface for Interactive Music

Newton-Dunn, Henry and Nakano, Hiroaki and Gibson, James

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

In this paper, we introduce Block Jam, a Tangible UserInterface that controls a dynamic polyrhythmic sequencerusing 26 physical artifacts. These physical artifacts, that wecall blocks, are a new type of input device for manipulatingan interactive music system. The blocks’ functional andtopological statuses are tightly coupled to an ad hocsequencer, interpreting the user’s arrangement of the blocksas meaningful musical phrases and structures.We demonstrate that we have created both a tangible andvisual language that enables both the novice and musicallytrained users by taking advantage of both their explorativeand intuitive abilities. The tangible nature of the blocks andthe intuitive interface promotes face-to-face collaborationand social interaction within a single system. The principleof collaboration is further extended by linking two BlockJam systems together to create a network.We discuss our project vision, design rational, relatedworks, and the implementation of Block Jam prototypes.Figure 1. A cluster of blocks, note the mother block on thebottom right