Visual Acoustics is an online musical toy built in Flash designed by Alex Lampe (“Ample Interactive”) of the UK. (Via Music Thing.) The motion visuals are beautiful, and the music and interface is very reminiscent of Toshio Iwai’s work (see Nintendo’s ElectroPlankton, for instance). As with Iwai’s designs, just about anything you play will sound good and ambient. Now, there are two schools of thought on that. One suggests that these kind of futuristic interfaces make music accessible to anyone. The other would hold that part of what makes traditional musical instruments lovely is that, while they take a long time to learn, the rewards are much deeper. I’m not sure one is inherently better than the other, but I still wonder if it isn’t possible to build visual interfaces that are harder to master but deeper to play.

If you want some inspiration for moving in either direction, Visual Acoustics certainly shows potential. Now you just need a Wacom tablet-enabled version that, rather than conventional sliders for parameters, adjusts to gesture and pressure.

  • bliss

    A violin or piano are inherently difficult instruments to master. However, each are very easy to play. The technological innovation of the violin and piano brought enormous benefits and economy to the first practitioners of each instrument even though each instrument is a beast to contend with in regards to coaxing out the most desirable sounds and performances. Still the violin, piano, and even the guitar each represent a sort of apex of the design and innovation of acoustic stringed instruments; the piano, of course, also representing percussion instruments. It's arguable whether these inventions have been improved upon, let alone bested.

    As far as gaining deeper rewards from more difficult to play instruments, I think it is a matter that is perceived in the classic Protestant belief that one works very hard to the point of suffering, if necessary, for the benefits one would receive in life. So that when one attains mastery it really is a deeper appreciation for what one has accomplished because one has the sense of having moved mountains. (Metaphorically speaking, perhaps one has.) An understanding and capability of nuance is perhaps the biggest benefit to one who attains mastery over anything.

    As relates to music, I can only attest that in my experience I have generally noticed that great performers tend to deliver great performances. It doesn't matter whether it is classical, jazz, pop, rock, folk, blues, electronica, (Ever listen to Tuvan throat singers?), the deepest and most elusive technical, intellectual, and emotional target can be hit consistently by the greatest performers. Even though the amount of work necessary to attain that ability varies from greatly from performer to performer. Talent, dedication are the common denominators. The degree of passion one has makes an enormous difference when combined with the other two attributes, in my opinion, but whether it is necessary is open to argument as well. There are many performers, great by any standard measure, who merely go about doing their jobs just as a grill man does down at your local McDonald's, professional to the end.

    In spite of all of this we live in a culture where hype is accented with, "The best ever this!", "The best ever that!. All of the time. I do my best to trust my own eyes, ears, thoughts, and judgment. And I don't expect to get out of dub tracks what I get out of Mozart piano sonatas. What it comes down to is the kind of musical trip I want to take; Coltrane is going to take me where Aphex Twin has, up until this point, never been able to but I treasure the works of both. And, again, have you ever listened to the throat singers of Tuva? Only they, to my knowledge, are capable of that unique bit of magic.

    The result of the mastery over a given medium is what I think matters most, and not simply the difficulty of the medium. Can you rock a tabletop? Then I'd love to hear it. It could be a whole lot more beneficial than listening to that guy of world renown on his trumpet.

  • ganjjjj

    this would be a lot cooler to me if it worked the other way around, I like the graphics but all I'm getting out of it is a lame hard to use looper with a limited amount of loops to choose from. Give me a lead 2 and a boss delay station any day over this 😉

  • ganjjjj

    oh, and oil slides, yeahhh old school visuals baby

  • Ever heard of the Oud?

  • Damon

    This thing makes you sound brilliant without even trying!

    I could not use this to create music, with a clean concience, unless i built it myself.

  • warthog

    Oil slides? Like ?

  • This guy, Pitaru,, does something that kind of similar, but he in fact uses a pen to draw the shapes that generate sound compositions.