Making Fun Serious

Royal College of Art Exhibition

A collaboration between Yamaha and students of the Royal College of Art, offering proposals for "serious" performance from players and their tools.

There is a physical beauty in someone playing an instrument, or playing a sport. Could this be because musical instruments and sporting goods offer the perfect opportunity to take something seriously? To an audience, the player’s appearance is an invitation; to the player, the response from an audience is an inspiration to greater performance.
For this exhibition, we asked students at the Royal College of Art to focus on the essential nature of “seriousness," and on the factors that can amplify it.
Here we invite you to view the performances that people and their tools can create.

The project “Making Fun Serious” was set in motion by three parties. Yamaha Design Studio London is run by product designer Kunihiro Takei. Platform 2 Design Products at the Royal College of Art is run by Jurgen Bey and Martino Gamper, both known for their creativity of design in a public context, and for their ability to question and visualize the reality that surrounds us. Finally, project tutor Tomoko Azumi is a furniture and product designer whose work encompasses both European and Japanese design.

Twenty-one students submitted research proposals for “Making Fun Serious,” nine of which received approval. These proposals examine the ways in which equipment can elevate one's abilities and capabilities as a performer, and how Design can facilitate the communication of new dialogues of sound and performance in everyday life. The research takes a variety of directions; one proposal relooks at familiar objects such as books and typewriters, expanding their identities to include a musical aspect. Another enhances the performance quality of digital music players, while yet another is a suggestion for a sound device for public spaces.

This project represents the second collaboration between Yamaha and the Royal College of Art, and follows the success of our first collaborative exhibition in Milano in 2007, titled “HOW CAN DESIGN TURN A MUSIC LISTENER INTO A PLAYER?” Six students featured in this exhibit, offering a wide range of proposals that included a rhythm-making device to transform any object into a unique-sounding drum, and a set of furniture designed to encourage older musicians to reunite with bands from their past.

Physical Sequencer
Giuseppe Guerriero

  • Giuseppe Guerriero

The aim of this project is to give physicality to electronic music by re-establishing visual and gestural references, to let both the audience and the musician experience how electronic music is produced. Using step sequence technology, this instrument allows the player to compose music through his or her body movements. Fifty sensors around its surface detect the player’s motions and transform the way electronic music is played into an embodied practice, like dance and theatre.

Furniture for the Musical Human
Vahakn Matossian

  • Vahakn Matossian

F4MH is a self-contained micro-stage, performance space and sound-system. It is an instrument for anyone to explore their vocal range and is designed for both accomplished vocalists and total musical novices. A microphone, joystick and sound horns are built into a comfortable lounge chair which houses an audio processing ‘brain’. Minute movements of the joystick add vibrant and complex musical effects to the voice, which can be experimented with freely or mastered with delicate precision. The player is encouraged to talk, whisper, breathe, wail and sing into the microphone, exploring their vocal chords in ways they would never attempt in normal vocal communication, producing an immersive and heightened experience.

A Minor Library
Lucia Massari

  • Lucia Massari

"For a book to live, it just has to be possible" Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel, 1941
I'm using books as a vehicle to believe that everything is possible.
You write music into a book, you read music from a book.
My project turns the book directly into an instrument, without any diversion, so that everyone can play it.
By shifting the idea people can have of an ordinary object, I transform its meaning in order to create an extraordinary object.

Benjamin Newland

  • Benjamin Newland

Chromophone is a set of tools that allows people to make music from the colours that they see. Many parallels can be drawn between colour and sound, and using them together can help develop our understanding of both.
The Chromophone kit has a colour sampling tool that can be used in three ways: a camera to make music from views and scenery, a pen for sampling colours from drawings and pictures, and a wand to create and perform music from and within an environment.
The second unit converts the sampled colours into musical notes and plays them through its built in speaker.
Chromophone opens up opportunities to make music from your environment and your view, compose graphically, and combine stories, music and drawing in new ways.

Typing the Sound
Fabien Cappello

  • Fabien Cappello

Typing the Sound is a project where the skills we developed in typing text on a keyboard are turned into a musical ability, and where the narrative of a text is used to create music.
I wish you could read the sound.
I wish you could hear the text.
Written language becomes an interface for the musical performance. From there a lot of possibilities are imaginable...
Sounds leave traces on paper and my music becomes readable.
I wish you could read the sound.
I wish you could hear the text.
The worst text can be turned into the most beautiful music, and words that make sense sound good together.

Faraday Drone
Matthew Plummer-Fernandez

  • Matthew Plummer-Fernandez

In 1831 Michael Faraday demonstrated that electricity could be human-powered by means of an electromagnetic device. The divide between human-powered musical instruments and electrical instruments prompted me to go back to that elementary discovery and apply it to the basic creation of a human-powered electronic instrument. Winding and manipulating an electric motor by hand create electrical and magnetic fields. These equate to drone sounds of controllable pitch, volume and human nuances when transferred to a speaker. The human-generated electrical signal can be further processed by analogue and digital means to create a wider range of textures and timbres.

Ceramic Sound Landscape
Jozephine Duker

  • Jozephine Duker

The Sound Landscape, consisting of porcelain bowls on flexible rubber feet, invites people to play music, using their hands or everyday objects like a pen. A moment of pleasure and musicality is created when walking from one place to another in an office building or school, for example. A single mould is used to cast the ceramic bowls in different thicknesses and sizes. This creates the different tones, which are structured in a grid from low to high. This allows people to explore the surface and to learn to play it.

Daily Tempo
Yiting Cheng and Ting-Chung Cheng

  • Yiting Cheng
  • Ting-Chung Cheng

People have different paces in their daily lives. Through the movements of “putting on clothes” as a basic everyday activity, we want to create a wearable instrument which produces sounds that reflect users’ daily habits, rhythms, emotions and tastes in music. We use clothing elements including buttons, zip fasteners, velcro and pins, each assigned a different function, such as beats, notes, effects and choosing music genres. The users have to practice on the instrument to find sound combinations. And the sounds they make with their body movements will create the visual and audible performance.

Knitting Scanner
Azusa Murakami

  • Azusa Murakami

The Knitting Scanner reads patterns in knitted garments and translates them into music. Knitting was chosen as a way of making music visually tangible as they share many similar qualities: rhythm, pattern, structure, language, and improvement through constant repetition. Initially two aspects of knitting were explored for their potential musical translation, the movement of the needles, and the patterns in the knitting. After parallel investigations with prototypes, the pattern reader was chosen as it had more strength as a project for the possibilities of exploring the cultural and interactive aspects of knitting.