Instrumentality, Time and Perseverance

  • Giuseppe TorreEmail author
  • Kristina Andersen


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.


Experimental Phase Musical Instrument Digital Tool Standardisation Phase Data Glove 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Cance, C., Genevois, H., & Dubois, D. (2009). What is instrumentality in new digital musical devices? A Contribution from Cognitive Linguistics and Psychology. Accessed April 15, 2016.
  2. Cook, P. (2001). Principles for designing computer music controllers. In Proceedings of the NIME Workshop at CHI 2001, Seattle, Washington, April 1–2, 2001.Google Scholar
  3. Cook, P. (2004). Remutualizing the musical instrument: Co-design of synthesis algorithms and controllers. Journal for New Music Research, 33(3), 315–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dobrian, C., & Koppelman, D. (2006). The ‘E’ in NIME: Musical expression with new computer interfaces. In N. Schnell, F. Bevilacqua, M. J. Lyons, & A. Tanaka (Eds.), NIME ‘06: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Paris.Google Scholar
  5. Gibson, J. J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R. Shaw & J. Bransford (Eds.), Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing: Toward an Ecological Psychology (p. 127). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Jordá, S. (2004). Digital instruments and players: Part I—Efficiency and apprenticeship. In M. J. Lyons (Ed.), NIME ‘04: Proceedings of the 2004 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan.Google Scholar
  7. Norman, S. J., Waisvisz, M., & Ryan, J. (1998). Touchstone. Catalogue to the first STEIM Touch-Exhibition. Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  8. Ryan, J., & Andersen, K. (2014). 821 Words and 20 Images. In No Patent Pending, Self-Made Performative Media (3 ed., pp. 1–10). MER. Ghent: Paper Kunsthalle, Ghent.Google Scholar
  9. Torre, G., Andersen, K., & Baldé, F. (2016). The Hands: The making of a digital musical instrument. Computer Music Journal, 40(2), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer Science and Information SystemsDigital Media and Arts Research Centre, University of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.STEIM InstituteAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations