Movement Meets Material—An Improvisational Approach to Design

  • Johanna SchindlerEmail author
  • Amelie Hinrichsen


How can we integrate an embodied musician-instrument relation to musical instrument design? To answer this question, we have proposed a design process where musical instrument prototypes are developed taking a specific improvisation practice from contemporary dance. Over the course of four improvisation sessions, we invited an acoustic musician, an experimental electronic musician and a contemporary dancer to develop a solo performance with given material. Their improvisations inspired the design of three instrument mock-ups, which integrated movement, material and sound. After four subsequent improvisation sessions the process resulted in two refined instrument prototypes. Using improvisation as a performance setting, our developmental process revealed that for live set-ups the instrument benefits from a reliable system, which allows the musician to perform in a spontaneous and flexible manner. To further engage the musician with the instrument, the sound synthesis process should reflect genuine material sound qualities of the object. Emphasizing its identity as an instrument, we refer to this as material authenticity, a notion, which raises questions on the relationship between material, digitality and sound.


Improvisation Design process Electronic musical instruments Materiality Corporeality 



We would like to thank the three artists, Lea Danzeisen, Joshua Rutter and Tobias Purfürst, for their voluntary participation in the four improvisation sessions. Only with the help of their artistic input and feedback we were able to arrive at the above-mentioned insights and results. Also we would like to thank Till Bovermann for taking part in Session #4 with technical support in sound programming.

This paper is based upon work of 3DMIN, an interdisciplinary research project of the University of the Arts Berlin and the Technical University Berlin supported by the Einstein Foundation Berlin.

© All pictures: the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zeppelin UniversityFriedrichshafenGermany
  2. 2.University of the Arts BerlinBerlinGermany

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