Musicians have long made pictures to represent musical ideas, share those ideas, and allow others to participate. Before computers, we created scores. Now, we can create interfaces, too. Of course, just because you’re using a digital interface doesn’t mean the pencil as prototyping tool has to go anywhere. It’s the quickest way to sketch out an idea. And if your hand is steady, it just might become a lovely, personal interface.

OtoBlock by Tsubasa Naruse is a hand-drawn music sequencer. The basic interface is nothing new, dropping blocks into sequence to make sounds, but the charm is the rough edges on the pencil-made buttons, and the whimsical hand-drawn characters that live on them.

OtoBlock @ iTunes
Tsubasa Naruse website, in Japanese, but don’t miss the other adorable sketches
Via Matrixsynth, by way of Palm Sounds

Here is a 2009 experiment in “sonic interaction” by the same artist, also exploring
some of these ideas. (link) I’m not sure I could even describe it, but the relationship of minimal electronic sounds to handmade animation is utterly irresistible.

So, with mobile music tools like iPhones and portable amps from the likes of Roland and KORG, can you actually go out and make music in a subway? I recall people mocking an old M-Audio ad in which someone was doing laptop production on the subway platform. But when it comes to mobile busking, the same videographer who shot the hands-on video at top also captures an impromptu TB-303 jam in the Tokyo subway. (Apparently, this young woman did not inspire love from the police. Sadly, the app she’s using is entangled in some sort of contract issues.)

More great iOS videos on perfumepod’s channel; it’s a great way to explore different user interfaces:

And yes, I’ve been tipped off to “Tokyo Techno Girl” before; I have to find out more about her.

  • silentrunner

    <blockquote cite="So, with mobile music tools like iPhones and portable amps from the likes of Roland and KORG, can you actually go out and make music in a subway? "> Based on the last vid, the answer would seem to be a definitive no. Although in the right hands…

  • i love the idea of making music using a handheld device, but i just can't seem do it on such a small screen. nitrotracker for nds is ok, though, but that's a double-screen device.

  • faber

    very nice! i like the UI

  • Peter – the BEST post in the past 3 days (and I appreciate that you've been working so hard!).

    As for the question, can one go out and make music in the subway? A glorious and resounding YES!!!!

    (based, of course, on a perspective that defines any post-Cage activity as potentially 'musical' . . . Justin Bieber's producer is most likely NOT going to mix his next track on the subway with this software. Our loss.)

    (and, yes, I prefer a more stabilised environment, i.e., my home studio or office, which, predictably produces stuff like my string quartet with audio ( – – and, here's a hint if the screen is too small: buy 'reading glasses' (make note of this for when you turn 50!). (and probably use a Q-tip instead of chubby fingers). ) (apologies for the nested parentheses . . . )

    OK, thanks for your tolerance, and I'm out!

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  • Incredible, that girl on the subway!
    And this hand-drawn sequencer is something else too!
    Gadgets, but nice gadgets!

  • I absolutely love the oto box app! So beautifully simple and creative.

  • Michael Coelho

    Wow, just threw Oto Block on my iPad and had a blast. Such a cool little app and free to boot

  • can't seem to see digital bassline on the uk itunes store. i know it was there when i bought rebirth a few weeks back…

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