Instrumentality, Time and Perseverance
In this article we discuss how the act of perceiving a digital object as a musical instrument can be considered as directly proportional to the amount (and quality) of time invested in its development and refinement to suit individual needs rather than generic ones. In that regard, the purpose-free approach to the design of generic controllers contrasts with a view of personalised tools developed and continuously redefined by the artist to fulfil artistic and musical needs. In doing so, the time invested relates to the artist/designer’s perseverance in a never-ending process of subjectification of the digital instrument identity. The discussion provided in the article is supported by a case study on one of the pioneers and developers of digital musical instruments: Michael Waisvisz (1949–2008) and his work on The Hands (first exhibited in 1984—last performance dated 2008). We argue that this almost 30-year long and engaged process of development and experimentation can be seen as a model, through which we can allow other musical devices to evolve from controllers of digital musical matter to instruments that may provide integrated and embodied possibilities for musical expression.
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