Points of view on contemporary instruments

2014, Till Bovermann

What are important factors of musical instruments? By taking the extreme positions of spectators as well as professionals of related disciplines, a variety of (contradicting) aspects emerge. This list is not meant to be complete, but rather serves as a starting point to which other aspects might be added over time:

  • The player values expressiveness, and musical possibilities.
  • The product designer values aesthetic connotation, the artifact in itself and its affordances.
  • The engineer values the technological challenge and its implementation.
  • The musicologist values the cultural context and the genre specifity.
  • The audience member values authenticity, the possibility for  audience engagement, the musical outcome, entertainmant, the perception of expression, and the genre specifity.
  • The composer values macroscopic structuring, possibilities to express moods and the sonic spectrum.

scopesThe difference in values originates in the different perspectives and approaches. This can be exemplified at hand of the fundamental dichotomy between audience member and musician: The audience member perceives a musical instrument as part of a performance, played by a musician. She interprets the sonic and visual cues and derives her interpretation of how the musician influences the sounds originating from the instrument.This results in an overall image of the “musician-instrument compound” of which she derives opinions on expressiveness, entertainment and expression for both the musician and the instrument. A musician perceives her engagement with an instrument directly, she perceives its reactions to her manipulations, and in turn judges on how the (sonic) reactions correspond to her intentions. Expressiveness here means the possibility space in which the musician is able to operate with the instrument.

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